Clare Balding & Russia: Don’t boycott, condemn

BBC commentator urged to speak out

Russia has banned Gay House & (probably) gay athletes

London – 2 December 2013


Openly lesbian BCC sports commentator Clare Balding is being urged to condemn Russia’s anti-gay laws. She is also being asked to question Russian and IOC officials over Russia’s ban on a social venue at Sochi to support gay athletes and spectators, similar to the LGBT Pride House venues that have been permitted at previous Olympics.

“She should press the Russians over whether the elastic interpretation of the country’s new anti-gay law will mean that gay Russian athletes will be banned from competing at the Sochi Winter Olympics,” said Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

The appeal for Balding to take a stand comes after it was revealed that she refused to be a commentator at the Open golf championship at Muirfield because of the host club’s male-only membership rules.

“Given that Clare refused to host the coverage of the Open golf tournament because of sexist discrimination, some people might wonder why she isn’t boycotting anti-gay Russia and its Sochi Winter Olympics. My own view is that Clare should go to Sochi, wear a rainbow ribbon and publicly voice her concerns. This would be more effective than staying away,” added Mr Tatchell.

“It would be very wrong for her to do the BBC commentary in Sochi without publicly expressing her support for the country’s persecuted gay minority. She has a duty to remind viewers that in the current homophobic atmosphere an openly gay Russian athlete would almost certainly be refused selection for the country’s Winter Olympic team.

“Already, with the connivance of the IOC, Russia has banned the hosting of a Gay House social venue for gay athletes and spectators at Sochi. This is outrageous discrimination and Clare should say so. It is also against IOC rules.

“I hope that during her broadcasts at Sochi Clare will criticise Russia’s anti-gay laws and the Gay House ban. She should also question Russian and IOC officials on the issue of homophobic discrimination in the selection of athletes for the Russian Olympic squad,” he said.