January 15 - Vancouver Deputy Mayor Tim Stevenson, who is openly gay, has been granted a visa to travel to Russia for the Sochi 2014 Winter Games where he is said to press International Olympic Committee (IOC) members to support gay athletes following the introduction of the nation's controversial anti-homosexual propaganda law.
Stevenson will represent Vancouver, host of the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics, in the Black Sea resort and will lobby for a number of changes, including the introduction of a rule that makes Pride Houses a requirement for Games host bidding cities.
Since Vancouver 2010 Pride Houses have proved popular at sporting mega-events, having appeared at London 2012 and with plans in place for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, the Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games and Rio 2016, however Russia rejected the idea for Sochi 2014 as a judge described it as "extremist".
"Sports is one of the last bastions of homophobia and many LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning] athletes are very fearful and receive discrimination on a regular basis," Stevenson said.
The high profile, Council-funded trip will also see him speaking to IOC members about updating the Olympic Charter to explicitly include a non-discrimination clause relating to the LGBTQ community, and sexual and gender identity, similar to the Paralympic Charter which includes sexual orientation.
"We are saying, 'Look, this is really no big deal, the Paralympics have already got it'," he added.
Stevenson is scheduled to stay to Russia from February 1 to 9, leaving two days after the Sochi 2014 Olympic Opening Ceremony on February 7.
As well as Vancouver, the United States is also sending a delegation led by high profile, openly gay figures, namely former tennis player Billie Jean King, two-time Olympic ice hockey medallist Caitlin Cahow and Olympic champion ice skater Brian Boitano as tensions over Russia's bill banning "gay propaganda" - which was signed by President Vladimir Putin last year - continue to grow.
Earlier this week, Sweden's Sports Minister Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth revealed she will not attend the Sochi Olympic Opening Ceremony for political reasons, adding her name to the growing list of international figures who will be absent in Russia, including United States President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, German President Joachim Gauck, French leader François Hollande and the heads of Canada, Belgium, Lithuania, Moldova and Georgia.
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