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Out Actor Stephen Fry Doesn’t Want Olympics to be Held in Russia

Thursday Aug 8, 2013

British actor and writer Stephen Fry has called for the 2014 Winter Olympics to be taken away from Sochi in a protest against Russia's new anti-gay laws.

The openly gay activist released a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron and International Olympic Committee executives on Wednesday in which he asks them not to give Russian President Vladimir Putin "the approval of the civilized world."

"For there to be a Russian Winter Olympics would stain the movement forever ... the Five Rings would finally be forever smeared, besmirched and ruined in the eyes of the civilized world."

Russia introduced a law that bans so-called "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and imposes fines on those holding gay pride rallies.

With Russia's sports minister saying last week that the law would be enforced during the Sochi Games, Fry wrote that "an absolute ban" on the Olympics being staged in Russia is "simply essential."

"The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma," Fry wrote. "Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions.

"Let us realize that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don't connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong."

The letter was delivered to the IOC on Wednesday by the All Out advocacy group along with a petition. The letter was also published on Fry's personal website and a link was sent out to his 6 million Twitter followers.

Fry likened staging the Winter Games in Russia with the 1936 Olympics taking place in Berlin "under the exultant aegis of a tyrant" - Adolf Hitler - after anti-Jewish laws had been approved in Nazi Germany.

"(Putin) is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews," Fry wrote. "He cannot be allowed to get away with it ... I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler's anti-Semitism.

"Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian 'correctively' raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself."

The British government stopped short of backing Fry's campaign to strip Russia of hosting rights. Instead, Cameron's office said it was working with the IOC to ensure "the games take place in the spirit of the Olympic Charter and are free from discrimination."

"We remain greatly concerned about the growing restrictions on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) freedoms in Russia and have repeatedly raised our concerns, including at the 2013 UK-Russia Human Rights dialogue in May," Cameron's office said in a statement. "The Prime Minister outlined our concerns with President Putin during a meeting in Downing Street in June ahead of the G8 Summit."

Cassandra Vinograd contributed to this report.

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