Editorís note: This letter was taken from the Whistler council agenda for its Jan. 28 meeting.
As a fellow Olympic Games host city, I am writing to ask for your support and endorsement of an initiative underway by the City of Vancouver.
As the prior Olympic Winter Games host city in 2010, Vancouver is deeply concerned about the impact that new Russian anti-gay legislation is having on the Russian LGBTQ community and on athletes and spectators who wish to attend the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. Both the IOC's and Russia's assurances of safety are inadequate, leaving an entire segment of the population feeling alienated and vulnerable.
This situation inspired a new initiative by the City of Vancouver to ensure future Olympic and Paralympic Games are safe and inclusive for all participants ó the Host City Pride House Mission, a motion passed by Vancouver City Council on Dec. 18. Vancouver is proud to have been the first host of a Pride House at the Olympic Games, which created a safe, welcoming space for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBTQ) people and their friends and families to celebrate the Games. This positive addition to the Games was carried on successfully by London 2012 but a Pride House for Sochi 2014 was denied by the Russian Federation.
We are proposing that the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee require future Olympic cities to facilitate and endorse the creation of a community-led Pride House at future Games. With such a gesture, the IOC would be demonstrating its commitment to affirm and expand human rights in a practical and immediate way and efforts already under way to create a Pride Houses at Rio 2016. We will also ask the IOC to specifically enshrine the rights of LGBTQ athletes into Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter. The LGBTQ community is currently not specifically protected, resulting in a situation such as the one in Sochi.
To that end, Vancouver City Councillor Tim Stevenson ó an openly gay ordained United Church minister, four-term Councillor and Deputy Mayor for Vancouver for February 2014 ó will lead a delegation of two to Sochi as official representatives for Vancouver. They will be on-site for a few days prior to the start of the Sochi 2014 Games to advocate for this proposal with IOC members and Olympic influencers.
Our objective is not to provoke an incident at Sochi nor to directly challenge Russian policy, but to channel the support for LGBTQ rights in a positive direction with the IOC and IPC that helps future Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
As Olympic Games host cities, we all agree to engage in efforts after our games that work to improve the Olympic movement. I am asking you to engage in such an effort now by offering your support and endorsement of the Host City Pride House mission. As an Olympic Games host city, your influence and support of our initiative will help us ensure that inclusion, fairness and equality applies to everyone involved in the Games, regardless of sexual orientation.
With thanks and appreciation,
Gregor Robertson, Vancouver Mayor