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IOC to make sweeping self-review in coming year after meeting

Olympic organizers meet with gay rights delegates



Maureen "Mo" Douglas could have passed on her Olympic torch of knowledge to Russia, as host of the next winter Games, with a smile and a "good luck."

Instead, she fanned its flames.

Leveraging Vancouver and Whistler's position as past host Olympic city, Douglas and Vancouver councillor Tim Stevenson went to Sochi on the eve of the Winter Games to stand up for recognition of gay rights, travelling to a city that refused to host a "pride house" during the Games, and speaking out in a country that passed a law banning "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations."

No mean feat.

"They've gone to the next host city and defended an Olympic legacy that we thought was really important," said Dean Nelson, the driving force and creator of the first Olympic Pride House in Whistler during the 2010 Olympics, replicated at in London in 2012, with another planned in 2016 in Rio.

He called their work "vitally important" and was excited about what they accomplished in their whirlwind mission to Sochi.

The defining moment of their mission, said Douglas, was the face-to-face 90-minute meeting with members of the International Olympic Committee, specifically Jochen Farber, IOC chief of staff and Mark Adams, IOC director of communications.

"The one advantage that we had over any other organization was that we were the prior host city, and they do have a lot of respect for Vancouver and Whistler, and the job that we did in Vancouver 2010," said Douglas. "They also recognize that Vancouver and this region is so inclusive, and does have such a diverse society that I think they felt that they should give these folks some time."

What ensued was a surprisingly frank and honest conversation.

Douglas and Stevenson pressed the issue of including "sexual orientation" in Section 6 of the Olympic Charter and the need for host cities to be able to host pride houses, should they so desire. And they learned that the IOC is very much aware that it's time to review itself, and its Charter, with a goal to evolving with changing times.

It's Olympic Agenda 2020 was part of the IOC Session just before the Sochi Games began. Douglas called the work that is set to take place over the next year "radical."

"You could have knocked me over with a feather," she said. "Hearing them recognize their own challenges was very refreshing, and for somebody like me, it absolutely renewed my faith in the Olympic Games and the IOC trying to get to a place that allows the Olympic Games to live up to the potential they always have.

"The Olympic Games is all about potential, how you use the opportunity, how you use the world stage, the opportunities you bring to the athletes, the environment you give them to learn about each other in openness, in sport, in fair competition."

Douglas hopes that the Sochi Winter Games will be an anomaly on the road to strengthening pride houses at international sporting events. And in the coming year she hopes that review of the Charter will include two words — "sexual orientation."