Coun. Tim Stevenson says trip to Sochi exceeded his expectations in advancing LGBT rights
Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson says he's extremely pleased by the reception he received from the International Olympic Committee during his recent trip to Sochi.
"It exceeded all expectations," Stevenson told the Straight by phone after his return.
Stevenson said that the Vancouver delegation, which included former Vanoc community relations and communications director Maureen Douglas, met IOC president Thomas Bach's chief of staff and another IOC official for nearly an hour and a half.
"There is a huge amount of discrimination in the sport world and within the Olympic world," Stevenson stated. "That was our first and main point."
He emphasized their goal was to try to convince IOC delegates to amend the Olympic Charter to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
"They said that this new president has decided that the IOC needs to go in a new direction," the Vancouver councillor revealed. "There are a whole number of issues that had to be looked at. He's going to have a comprehensive review."
According to Stevenson, this will include input from the public over the IOC's website and is expected to be completed by December.
He suggested that because Vancouver was the last host city of the Winter Games, it has legitimacy in bringing this issue forward.
Stevenson noted that after he met IOC officials, the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, gave a speech to IOC delegates condemning Russia's persecution of the LGBT community.
Russia has passed legislation fining people the equivalent of $160 for "promoting homosexualism".
Russian president Vladimir Putin has defended the law as a necessary measure to protect children in his country, somehow conflating homosexuality with pedophilia.
"I think the reasons the changes are happening is because of pressure from our community around the world—getting at the sponsors and so on," Stevenson said.
He also stated that the new Russian law has helped to legitimize homophobia in that country.
"Now it's okay to beat up a gay wherreas before, it was held down and suppressed," Stevenson said. "This has allowed this ugliness."
Stevenson was not given a chance to meet the mayor of Sochi, Anatoly Pakhomov, who has claimed in the past that there are no gay people living in his city.