Obama Criticism Increases Pressure on Sochi 2014

August 8, 2013

The criticism of Sochi 2014’s hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics grew after United States President Barack Obama voiced his disapproval over Russia’s controversial new anti-gay laws.

Russia passed a law in June that would impose heavy fines to anyone providing information about homosexuality to anyone under the age of 18.

Obama said on The Tonight Show: “When it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country.

“I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.

“I think [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently.

“They’re athletes.

“They’re there to compete.

“If Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam.

“People’s sexual orientations shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

Another prominent critic of the Games taking place in Sochi is British actor and television presenter Stephen Fry. Fry wrote an open letter on his website to British Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urging them to move the Games away from Russia as a result of the new policies. In his letter, he raised a parallel to the IOC’s decision to hold the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany.

The letter read: An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like…He is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews. He cannot be allowed to get away with it.”

It continued: “The Summer Olympics of 2012 were one of the most glorious moments of my life and the life of my country. For there to be a Russian Winter Olympics would stain the movement forever and wipe away any of that glory. The Five Rings would finally be forever smeared, besmirched and ruined in the eyes of the civilised world.”

An IOC statement said:”The IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”