Diving champion Greg Louganis urged the International Olympic Committee to “wake up” to Russia’s anti-gay laws and enforce its own rules against discrimination.
“You think that that the IOC would learn its lesson,” Louganis told msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell. He joined The Last Word to discuss Russia’s new anti-gay laws and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. “It’s a very important issue especially for athletes, for American citizens, for citizens all over the world.”
Despite growing calls from the international community and human rights organizations, Russia’s interior ministry confirmed this week that the draconian measures targeting gays will be enforced during the upcoming games.
Failing to get the “reassurance” it was seeking from the Russian government, the International Olympic Committee appeared to switch its focus to the athletes behavior. A statement read, “The IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter, which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration. This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary.”
Louganis, who won medals including four golds in the 1976, 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games, did not compete in the 1980 Moscow Olympics; the U.S. boycotted over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
“What we’re saying is you have to follow your own charter and it does state very clearly to not discriminate,” he said. “These new laws do. they single out LGBTQ individuals in our youth. And the thing that I’m concerned about is there are gay kids born in Russia every day and if we have don’t have a presence there, what kind of message is that sending those gay kids?”
Louganis pointed to U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir and New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup as being openly gay athletes and activists. But in the eyes of Russia, he said they are “walking propaganda.” He asked, “Where is the IOC going to stand up and stand up for them?”
He urged the IOC to “take the Olympics to where the Olympic ideals and the Olympic movement can thrive” in the future. “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had the Olympics where, you know, we were in Beijing, they don’t have the greatest human rights history. And here, it’s so blatantly staring us in the face, the violence that’s happening to LGBTQ kids in Russia,” he said, adding “it’s just disturbing.”