Aaron Schachter: Obama also said today that it's not true that he and Russian President Putin don't get along, even though Putin's posture, like a slouching kid, might suggest otherwise. And Obama said he doesn't favor a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi over Russia's new law banning so-called gay propaganda. There are plenty of people, though, who are calling for a boycott, but George Takei says there's a better option. He wants the Winter Games moved to Vancouver, Canada. Takei is a gay rights activist and actor best known for his role as Mr. Sulu in the original Star Trek series. George Takei, no boycott. You would move the games. Why?
George Takei: Well, a boycott would not work, because it would be grossly unfair to the athletes. They've been training for years, planning to reach their peak of performance during the Olympics. So the only other solution to ensure the safety, first of all, of the athletes who may be gay or lesbian and their supporters who will be following them to the Winter Olympics, is to pull it out of Russia. Because the draconian laws that have been passed by Russia has given license to the hooligans and the thugs who have been attacking gays and lesbians, beating them up, humiliating them, and in some very tragic cases murdering them. We think the best solution is to take it out of Russia and ensure the safety of the athletes and their supporters and put it in Vancouver, which is the most feasible of all the various venues. The sponsors will follow the Olympics to where it is.
Schachter: Speaking of Olympic underwriters, you've written, and this is a quote, "Trust me, if you are a corporate brand, you do not want to be associated with the Sochi Olympics." Are you suggesting that you might boycott Olympic sponsors if they go ahead with the games?
Takei: No, no, no. Their name is going to be associated with the horrors that are going to be happening there. It is not a wise thing. And the other aspect of this is, we have to learn from history. In 1936, the Summer Olympics were held in Berlin. Three years before that Olympics, Hitler began his campaign of horror against the Jews, and the homosexuals as well. Providing him with that international platform, it raised his status, increased his power amongst the German people, and we know what happened. We can prevent that.
Schachter: Now, to be fair, sir, as you say in 1936 it was pretty apparent what Hitler was doing. I have not seen a single Russian official condone violence against homosexuals, and in fact they have said that this law does not say what people like you think it says. No one will be harassed, no one will be jailed during the Olympics.
Takei: Well, there was a lawmaker from St. Petersburg who reiterated what the sports minister said, that the law will be enforced. It is the law of the land and anyone disrespecting that law will be arrested and tried.
Schachter: The comment from Russian officials that I see is that athletes and their supporters and fans will not face persecution.
Takei: That's what the government says, but can they control the hooligans and the thugs? There is the foreshadowing of some horrible events happening at the Olympics, and this is an opportune moment to make these adjustments to what the handwriting on the wall is for Sochi.
Schachter: George Takei, a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you.
Takei: Thank you very much for this opportunity.
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