Clare Balding urged to join campaign to strip Russia of Winter Olympics in row over homophobic laws - Europe - World - The Independent

Clare Balding urged to join campaign to strip Russia of Winter Olympics in row over homophobic laws

TV sports presenter will anchor up to 100 hours of programming from Sochi next February

Television presenter Clare Balding is being urged to speak out against the rising tide of homophobic persecution in Russia ahead of hosting the BBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics there.

Ms Balding, who is in a civil partnership and is one of the most prominent and admired LGBT figures in the UK media, will anchor up to 100 hours of programming from Sochi next February.

A coalition of international figures including sports stars, actors and politicians have urged the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to strip Russia of the right to hold the Games amid a wave of attacks on gay young men across the country and repressive legislation.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said it was right that Ms Balding attend but urged her to speak out against the worsening situation in the host country.

 “The best way that Clare Balding can show solidarity with gay Russians is by presenting the BBC coverage as an openly lesbian woman and by publicly stating her opposition to the escalating homophobic repression and violence. Her presence will be a direct challenge to the Russian Government which is far more effective than staying away,” he said.

The BBC confirmed that Ms Balding would be presenting from Russia.

This will be the broadcaster’s fourth Winter Olympics having already fronted coverage from Salt Lake City, Turin and Vancouver. The 42-year-old presenter was awarded a Bafta for her presentation of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic coverage.

She and her partner, fellow broadcaster Alice Arnold, last month attended a Downing Street reception to celebrate the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. Ms Balding’s management did not respond when asked to comment on the controversy surrounding the Games.

As well as being a judge on the Independent on Sunday’s Pink List of prominent gay people Ms Balding recently spoke up against the “invisibility” of women’s sport in the media.

In 2010 she was at the centre of controversy when the Press Complaints Commission upheld her complaint against the critic AA Gill who referred to her in a “demeaning and gratuitous way” by calling her a “dyke on a bike” in a television review. The BBC apologised in June for an item on Colin Murray’s Radio 5 show in which comedian Bob Mills was asked to “turn around” Ms Balding.

Stephen Fry has spoken out against Russia hosting the Games Stephen Fry has spoken out against Russia hosting the Games

Mounting international fury at the Russian hosting of this winter’s sporting bonanza was further fuelled this week when actor Stephen Fry wrote to the head of the IOC Jacques Rogge and Prime Minister David Cameron demanding they back a ban on the Games.

Mr Fry compared the event to the 1936 Berlin Olympics which took place amid the rise of anti-Semitism in Germany.

His intervention followed the passage of a law in Russia’s lower house of Parliament, the Duma, imposing fines for those who spread information about homosexuality and comments by sports minister Vitaly Mutk who said that those who spread gay “propaganda” would be punished.

This contravened assurances received by the IOC that openly gay athletes, coaches or fans would not be targeted. Since then 50,000 people have signed an online petition through Change.org demanding the Games be relocated to 2010 host Vancouver in Canada.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits the Adler-Arena Skating Center Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits the Adler-Arena Skating Center

Actor and Gay rights advocate George Takei who played Sulu in the original Star Trek, added his name to the growing list of opponents. “I personally will be beating this particular drum loudly, as will many other LGBT actors, activists and allies. Trust me, if you are a corporate brand, you do not want to be associated with the Sochi Olympics,” he said.

Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Human Rights, Kerry McCarthy, said the UK should raise the issue of Russia’s hosting the games at next month’s G20 meeting in St Petersburg. Labour MP Chris Bryant has called on gay and lesbian bars to boycott Russian vodka and urged the Archbishop of Canterbury to Russian Patriarch condemning anti-gay violence and repression.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
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

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week