Labour’s Shadow Minister for Welfare Reform, Chris Bryant, has condemned the government for failing to include any LGBT people in the Olympic delegation, and jokes President Putin should “stop wandering around” with his shirt off as he risks arrest.
Speaking yesterday to crowds outside Downing Street at a protest organised by AllOut and the Peter Tatchell Foundation, the Rhondda MP said the government was letting people down by not including any LGBT people in the delegation for the Winter Olympics in Russia.
He said: “I’m a bit embarrassed by our government on this, because to be honest, President Obama has shown the way.
“He’s sent as part of the American delegation not himself, but Billie Jean King – and tennis, incidentally, is not a Winter Olympic sport.
“I’m glad of course that Clare Balding is going to be going as part of the BBC team to comment on everything, that’s great – but why isn’t the British Government sending people who are lesbian and gay from this country?”
The MP continued: “Whether you’re talking about Tom Daley or Gareth Thomas or Nicola Adams… any one of the many people who have come out in this country, and are proud of their sexuality,” Mr Bryant said their potential inclusion would, “show to the people of Russia and the people of the world that Britain will not stand with the homophobes, Britain will stand with those who know what it is to live in a land of freedom.”
Lesbian former tennis champion Billie Jean King was due to attend the Sochi Games as part of the US delegation, but will now miss the opening ceremony as her mother is ill. She will be replaced by gay former hockey player Caitlin Cahow.
Mr Bryant said: “Do you remember Sting used to sing a song about if the Russians love their children too? Well what about if the Russians love their boyfriends too? Or their girlfriends? Because I just have this sneaking suspicion that when the mayor of Sochi says that there are no homosexuals in Sochi, he’s wrong – utterly and completely wrong.
“And I say to President Putin that when he supports a law which is remarkably similar to a law which Peter (Tatchell) and others fought against in this country called Section 28 which says that you should not be allowed to promote homosexuality, a bizarre concept in itself. I think President Putin, you should stop wandering around with your shirt off, because you’ll be the first that gets arrested.
“And isn’t it the oldest story in the book that when you want to pretend that you’re soft and nice and you’re not really prejudiced, you say some of your best friends are?”
“So when the racists wanted to suggest that they weren’t really racist [they] said some of my best friends are black. That sexists, when they wanted to say that they weren’t really sexist said some of my best friends are women, and the homophobes today when they want to pretend that they’re not really full of hatred [they] say some of my best friends are gay. It’s a lie and we should call them out on it.”
Commenting on yesterday’s protest, a Downing Street spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk: “We have strong concerns about the changes in Russian law prohibiting the promotion of ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ among minors. The law has the potential to prevent LGBT people from fully enjoying the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
“We do not support a boycott of the Games. As the Prime Minister has said, we have a better chance of influencing Russia by engaging and challenging prejudices than by boycotting. We regularly set out our concerns on human rights to the Russian Government, and will continue to do so.”
PinkNews.co.uk is awaiting a response from the Department of Culture Media and Sport regarding Mr Bryant’s comments.