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Petition: Russian Winter Olympics Should Be Moved From Sochi To Vancouver To Protect Gay Rights

08/08/2013 14:22 BST | Updated 09/08/2013 10:08 BST

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An online petition to move Russia’s upcoming Winter Olympics to Vancouver has been signed by more than 80,000 supporters.

Entitled Sochi: Winter of Hate, it is addressed to Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympics Committee (IOC) and urges him to relocate the Games.

It comes amid uproar over the prospect of gay athletes and supporters facing arrest at the 2014 event under Russia’s newly approved anti-gay legislation.

gay rights russia

Gay rights activists shout slogans during a rally in St Petersburg on 29 June

It also calls on supporters to register their voice in "telling Russia that inequality and persecution is abhorrent and won't be tolerated."

The petition was posted on Change.org by Equality for All and reads in full:

Please relocate the 2014 Winter Games to Vancouver

In 2010 they successfully held the games. The facilities are already in place and can be made, with support, ready in the limited time period to host another games.

We appreciate your efforts in requesting Russia allow gay athletes to compete at the games, but this is not enough. The very nature of the original Olympics was to settle conflict through sport and not violence. You are now presented to adopt this stance as an organisation by removing the Games away from Russia, telling them we, the world, will not tolerate the abhorrent persecution of minority groups.

Despite claims from the IOC that the Russian government has given assurances as to the safety of athletes and supporters, regardless of their sexual orientation, Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov says the law cannot be selectively enforced nor suspended.

In an interview with Interfax news agency, Milonov said: “I haven’t heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation, but I know that it is acting in accordance with Russian law.

“And if a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.”

Gay Rights In Russia

Milonov, who co-sponsored the bill against “non-traditional relationships”, added he had “spoken with many American politicians” and that they “support the stance I’ve taken on this issue.”

The “gay propaganda” ban was enacted in June and essentially bans displays of homosexuality. It is also “illegal to spread information about non-traditional sexual behaviour” to minors (under 18s).

Signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, the legislation gives the Russian government the right to detail gay or “pro-gay” foreigners up to 14 days before facing expulsion from the country.

The law has caused outrage in the LGBT community, with sex blogger Dan Savage responding by calling for a boycott of two premium Russian vodka brands.

Savage had reasoned there would be no impact in announcing a boycott of the Sochi Games.

"Most of us weren't planning to go to the Olympic games in Russia this winter, of course, so we wouldn't be able to participate in a boycott if one got off the ground," he wrote.

Disturbingly, a human rights organisation has alleged local authorities in Russia have harassed activists and journalists critical of the Games.

Human Rights Watch also cites incidences where criminal charges have been brought against journalists, apparently in retaliation for their work.

Gay rights in Russia have come in for constant criticism. Gay pride participants were badly beaten during clashes with anti-gay demonstrators in St Petersburg in June, with Russian police arresting dozens of people.

Just last month, four Dutch tourists were arrested for breaching the new ban, though later released.

Despite the growing support, it seems unlikely the Games will be moved at this stage.

The Russian government has estimated $51billion will be spend on the games and lucrative sponsorship deals have been in place for years, Global News points out.