Out Actor Ian McKellen Echoes Johnny Weir: Olympic Boycott Would Be “Cruel” To Athletes

It’s interesting to watch the reaction Gay Majority has whenever Johnny Weir speaks out against a boycott of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Despite being only one of many LGBT athletes speaking in support of the Olympic Games, he’s arguably the most criticized for doing so.

With that, it’ll be even more interesting to watch Gay Majority react to out actor Ian McKellen’s thoughts on the “dreadful” treatment of LGBTs in Russia and why he believes the Sochi Olympics must go on. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal this week, McKellan essentially echoes Weir in saying that to an olympian, the Games are a “climax of their lives,” and the opportunity to compete should not be taken away from them.

“It’s a dreadful situation and it’s the worst thing to have come out of Russia for a very, very long time,” he said, showing his disapproval of the new laws threatening to jail or punish anyone promoting “gay propaganda” at the Olympics in Sochi next year. “As a gay man, it’s absolutely appalling to me.”

But more importantly, McKellan is most concerned with the “spirit of the Games.” He continues to say that taking away an athlete’s opportunity to compete “would be cruel,” and a boycott would mean that “discrimination would win.”

Furthermore, he proposes that athletes band together in solidarity this year to show unanimous disapproval of the new anti-gay laws. “I think what would be wonderful if all the athletes, gay and straight, and the Olympic authorities, were to make clear that they absolutely disapprove of it and they’re going to ignore it,” he said, “not because they don’t care, but because in the moment, the spirit of the Olympics must take precedent.”

What do you think?

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  • andy_d

    Once again, I am forced to ask, why concentrate on a boycott? WHAT ABOUT MOVING THE GAMES TO AN ALTERNATE VENUE?!?!?!?

  • ted72

    @andy_d: BEST idea I’ve heard since the tragedy came to light. Thank you andy_d

  • MK Ultra

    I agree with McKellen. What he and Weir said was essentially the same but with one very important difference. Johnny rationalized his as, “OMG, like, New Jersey is just as bad as Russia, guys”, while wearing Soviet regalia.
    If we get enough countries on board, we can make these Olympics historic. We can pull off a demonstration of human rights and equality like the world has never seen.
    Putin and the extreme Right in Russia are hoping the Olympics will their debutante ball. Let’s deny them of that. Let’s make them accountable in front of an international audience.
    But most important, let’s get the world’s attention to the the plight of Russians. Russian LGBT, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, political dissidents…Show the world the real Russia. Russia the terrorist. Russia the dictatorship. Russia the next Fascist threat to the world.

  • jfabz

    @andy_d: It would be a logistical nightmare to move the games. Host cities are given 7 years to prepare. At this point the new city will have 3-4 months to prepare. Many people are throwing in that Vancouver could “easily” host. What they fail to realize is that a good portion of the venues used in Vancouver were temporary or are already used for something else.

    The Olympic Village in Vancouver is now a condo complex, the half pipes removed, and many of alpine venues were changed for general public use. Not to mention where to put the tourists that will be visiting the games. Pyeonchang would be the next logical choice, but they have just begun construction on they sites…

  • Ottoman

    Of course as we all remember, the Olympics barred South African athletes from competing, I wonder if Weir and Mckellan agree with that.

    I say the only solution is to boycott the sponsors and let them know why.

  • jfabz

    @Ottoman: South African athletes during the apartheid era weren’t barred from competing in the Olympics. The nation was banned from sending a delegation, going to IOC events, or bidding for the games. Individual athletes can go to the Olympics as individuals playing under the Olympic flag.

    The UK technically boycotted the 1980 Olympics UK athletes went to Moscow under the Olympic banner.

  • 2eo

    Has anyone else noticed that those who resent or are against a boycott are those who are completely insulated from the real world?

  • Thomathy

    Ugh. Yeah, it’s so cruel to deny someone their basic human rights the chance to show off in an ice-skating competition. Just think of the poor athletes! This is their only chance ever to show off! It’s just too cruel not to let them. Their plight, should there be a boycott or, forfend, more talk of a boycott, would be so much worse than that of LGBTQ Russians; worse than it has been or ever will be for them. How mistaken I’ve been! How cruel!

  • litper

    IOC chief just said he’s fully satisfied with torture of gay people in Russia! How can we ignore it? Both IOC and it’s sponsors are anti-gay!!!

  • jwrappaport

    First of all, it’s “precedence,” and second of all, I am sad to say I disagree with the Right and Honourable Gandalf the White.

    I want him to explain how a boycott would mean that “discrimination would win.” It seems fairly obvious that allowing the games to go on under Putin’s tyranny would unquestionably allow discrimination to win: it does nothing but legitimize Russia’s anti-gay laws, unless I’m mistaken that the athletes are somehow not subject to them while there.

    I wonder what would have been more important: Jesse Owens’s win at Berlin 1936, or the civilized world saying no to the Nuremberg laws?

  • jwrappaport

    @MK Ultra: Good luck with that. I await with bated breath this mass human rights demonstration you’re hoping for.

  • 2eo

    @jwrappaport: Don’t be silly Jesse Owens is all these idiotic cretins who are against a boycott have left, considering their flimsy arguments have being destroyed about 500,000 times now. Noticed Lefty [the “left wing” neo religious apologist [email protected]] and that other tit have stopped posting after their latest round of losing.

    But but.

    Jesse Owens stopped the holocaust if you listen to Lefty and his cohorts.

  • Cam

    People like McKellen and Weir are so out of touch it is frightening.

    1. McKellen said “Furthermore, he proposes that athletes band together in solidarity this year to show unanimous disapproval of the new anti-gay laws.

    Answer: Well gee, maybe because the IOC said that ANY Athlete who made ANY kind of political action or statement against Russia’s laws INCLUDING holding hands or wearing rainbow’s would be immediately disqualified and sent home. Guess he forgot that part.

    2. It would be upsetting for the Athletes? Wow, nice to know that what the Russians are going through means nothing to him.

    3. It would not be a logistical nightmare to move the games. When Athens Greece was possibly not going to make the deadline Sydney Australia was asked if they could have the games there if Athens blew it. Sydney said yes they could handle it with almost no prep. There are multiple European cities that have recently hosted the games and have the infrastructure in place.

    4. Lastly, The IOC still has a major black eye for legitimizing the Nazi Regime in the 1930’s by holding the games there. But I guess, you know…it’s ok, because it was good for the athletes.

  • Polaro

    While I appreciate the passion expressed by everyone calling for a boycott, i do not agree. I fully agree with McKellen. We need to learn to pick our battles. This is not the right one. Boycott Visa, as a sponsor, if you want change. It is all about the money, not fucking over the athletes. The IOC could care less about us. They have made that clear. What they would be afraid of is making their brand poison so they can no longer mint money from the sponsors. Seriously, where is the organizing around boycotting the sponsors?

  • AlessandraDM

    Hmm interesting comparison to Weir. It will indeed be interesting to see if McKellan is raked over the coals as Weir has been given that they are essentially making the same argument. Weir was a bit subtler about it (love that he wore the Russian military uniform IN DRAG and I think a lot of people missed the significance of that) — while McKellan just said it outright. I do think each should have prefaced their views about the boycott with far more disclaimers about how serious the situation is, but what can you do; neither is a professional spokesperson or activist nor seems interested in that role. Gay ? activist by default and *that’s fair*. Someone else will take up the reins.

    I think the point of the boycott was never to actually boycott it but to keep the Russia’s treatment of LGBTs in the public eye. Logistically I don’t think it’s out of the question to switch locations — many of the former Olympic sites are kept in use and in excellent condition; yes it would be a logistical nightmare but I do think it’s still logistically possible. Unfortunately I really don’t think it’s *politically* possible because the IOC are continually proving themselves to be, to say it politely, a bunch of soulless asshats:/

  • AlessandraDM

    *The question mark was between “Gay” and “activist” towards the end of the first paragraph of my comment was supposed to be a “does not equal” symbol; sorry about that, I didn’t realize it would show up like that. Sentence should read:

    “‘Gay’ does not equal ‘activist’ by default and *that’s fair*.”

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