Vancouver is using its influence as the last Winter Olympics host by sending an official city delegation to Sochi to advocate for gay rights with the International Olympic Committee and the Paralympic Committee.
The city delegation will be headed by openly gay deputy mayor Tim Stevenson and is expected to arrive in Sochi at the beginning of February 2014.
Vancouver city council passed a motion Wednesday morning confirming that deputy mayor Stevenson will represent the city in place of Mayor Gregor Robertson.
The Canadian federal government has not yet announced its formal delegation and has only confirmed that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be attending.
The Vancouver delegation is urging the IOC to demonstrate their full support for human rights by directing all future host cities to endorse community-led Pride Houses as part of their bids, as well as updating its Olympic charter to explicitly include a non-discrimination clause with regards to LGBTQ persons and sexual and gender identity.
The Paralympic Committee has already included that provision in its constitution, which states that part of its mission is to “promote sports for athletes with disabilities without discrimination for political, religious, economic, disability, racial, gender or sexual orientation reasons.”
Stevenson doesn’t think it’s a huge problem to align the two charters.
“It’s pretty straightforward,” he told Evan Solomon on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics. “Just look over there and bring them over to your charter and you’ve got it.”
The Vancouver delegation also wants the IOC and IPC to protect LGBTQ athletes, coaches, officials, spectators and their allies during the 2014 Olympic Games.
The Canadian Olympic Committee is not explicitly commenting on Vancouver’s lobbying efforts, instead merely repeating earlier statements that it opposes discrimination of any kind.
In a statement sent to CBC News, the COC said its main focus is the preparation and performance of its athletes.
“The IOC has stated it continues to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media and it has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”
Deputy mayor has apprehensions about safety
Stevenson admitted he has had apprehensions about his own safety while in Sochi.
“I would be lying if I said any different. I am concerned.”
However, Stevenson said that as an official delegate and deputy mayor of the last host city, he expects Russia to afford him the same security as any other official representative.
Stevenson said his partner will not be accompanying him on the trip. Even if he was, Stevenson said it would be very provocative for them to have public displays of affection.
“My role here is to have a positive role,” said Stevenson. “I want to convince the IOC that they need to make some changes. I’m not going to have a confrontation with Russia.”
When pressed by Evan Solomon on what the Olympic spirit means when LGBTQ persons aren’t able to express themselves fully, Stevenson said it’s unfortunate that Russia chose to pass its anti-gay law right before the Olympics.
He then alluded to words Brian Mulroney apparently said recently in South Africa.
“If Canada isn’t standing up for human rights, then who are we as a country?”