Winter Olympic boycott not the answer to Russian gay rights abuse, says PM

David Cameron tells Stephen Fry the Sochi Games provide a chance to challenge Vladimir Putin

The Prime Minister has rejected a plea from the broadcaster Stephen Fry to boycott the Winter Olympics in Russia in protest over its treatment of gay people, claiming that "we can better challenge prejudice" by attending the event.

David Cameron responded to Fry's Twitter appeal for the Games to be moved from Sochi yesterday morning. The TV star had previously told him "an absolute ban" on the Games was "essential".

In a return tweet, Mr Cameron said: "I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia. However, I believe we can better challenge prejudice as we attend, rather than boycotting the Winter Olympics."

His comments follow mounting pressure to strip Russia of its right to hold the Games, as it is feared that openly gay sportspeople, onlookers, journalists and visiting campaigners could be arrested under new legislation.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister and the International Olympic Committee earlier this week, Fry compared holding the Games in President Vladimir Putin's Russia with the decision to hold the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. He criticised Mr Putin for "making scapegoats of gay people" and said he "cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world".

Fry responded to Mr Cameron's tweet yesterday afternoon. He wrote: "PM, you may be right. Would that have been true in 1936? But is there nothing we can DO? Putin grows and grows in confidence."

The TV star joined more than 1,000 protesters in Whitehall, central London, yesterday afternoon to demonstrate against Russia's new anti-gay laws. He told onlookers it was a "grim" time to be gay in Russia, drawing particular attention to "the number of people committing suicide" and "the corrective rape of teenage girls that goes completely unchallenged by the police".

He added: "Putin and his toxic mixture of shaven-headed neo-Nazis" and the "newly powerful Orthodox church" have decided that gay people are "uncitizens".

Stephen Fry at yesterday's protest Stephen Fry at yesterday's protest (Jason Alden)  

Campaigners, including gay Russian exiles, blasted Mr Cameron for being a "coward" and refusing to boycott the Games, saying it was "the only leverage" they had left.

Many were also sceptical about Mr Cameron's plan to lobby from within Russia. "If all GB athletes wore rainbow flags and Cameron turned up to the Kremlin with a rainbow tie, then that would be great," said Anna Grigoryeva, 24, a Cambridge student from Moscow. "But they're not going to."

The organiser of the demonstration, Eddie Jardine, 42, said the Prime Minister did not seem to understand what gay people are saying. He added: "Unless Cameron has a plan on how he will lobby on the inside, this could just give credence to other countries with poor human rights for gay people."

But the sports commentator Clare Balding, one of Britain's best-known gay figures, will present up to 100 hours of programming from Russia during the Olympics. She said she would not be boycotting because "the best way of enlightening societies that are not as open-minded as our own is not to be cowed into submission".

She added: "I intend to stand proud, do my homework and do my job as well as I possibly can – as I would for any other sporting event."

Lord Coe, the British Olympic Association's chairman, who as an athlete ignored a government request not to attend the 1980 Moscow summer Games, still disapproves of boycotts. "International sport is not an inhibitor of social change. It has strong catalytic effects. It is an issue that needs to be addressed but the issue is not one of a boycott," he said.

The head of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, said he was awaiting further clarification from the Russian government about whether its laws – which criminalise the promotion of non-heterosexual relationships, would apply to those taking part in Sochi next year. "The Olympic charter is clear," he said. "A sport is a human right and it should be available to all, regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation."

Suggested Topics
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker