The Olympic Committee Just Took a Major Step to Stamp Out Discrimination

Getty Images

The news: Attention future host countries: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) isn't going to put up with your discrimination.

In what is seen as a direct response to Russia's "gay propaganda" law that dampened the spirit of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, the IOC announced Wednesday that the governing body will add an anti-discrimination clause to host-city contracts.

The IOC sent a letter Wednesday to the three cities hoping to land the 2022 Winter Olympics, saying it won't tolerate any kind of discrimination. In order to serve as hosts, cities must pledge to adhere to a principle of the Olympic Charter that prohibits discrimination

What's different? The IOC revamped the wording of Principle 6 in the charter by adding in the words "any form of discrimination" to it. The full clause now reads that the IOC won't accept "any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise."

Source: David Goldman/AP
Source: David Goldman/AP

The three cities in contention for the 2022 Winter Games — Oslo, Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan — must sign off on the revamped contract if selected. (The host city will be announced next July in Malaysia, for those keeping score at home.)

Why now. The IOC's refreshed attitude toward discrimination comes after a contentious showdown between human-rights activists in Sochi and the Russian government. Gay-rights activists flooded the streets of 19 cities around the world prior to the games to voice their displeasure about Russia's outrageous anti-gay law.

Global Post explains the vagueness of the law:

The law's vagueness, activists note, could prohibit almost any pro-gay expression, such as public statements, rallies, rainbow flags, rainbow nesting dolls, or same-sex hand-holding. Violators can be fined or jailed up to 14 days. Foreigners can be expelled.

The Russian government said that laws wouldn't be enforced on spectators and athletes, and some participants openly showed their support for gay rights. Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas waved her mitts covered in rainbows and unicorns during an event shown on national television. 

All Out, a gay-rights group, pushed the IOC to add the new language. Not surprisingly, they were thrilled about its adoption: 

"This ... sends a clear message to future host cities that human rights violations, including those against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, will not be tolerated," said Andre Banks, co-founder and executive director of All Out. "We will continue working to make sure this change is powerfully enforced. These new rules must prevent a replay of Sochi."

Sending a message of compassion, equality, and human dignity from one of the largest international stages in the world is a big step for the committee. Now let's see the IOC  figure out how to prevent the games' facilities in past host cities from becoming vast wastelands.