Stephen Fry, the British writer and broadcaster, has called for Russia to be stripped of next year’s Winter Olympics because of a law banning the promotion of homosexuality, adding his voice to a growing campaign on the issue.
Mr Fry wrote an open letter to David Cameron, the UK prime minister, and the International Olympic Committee warning that Russian president Vladimir Putin was “making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews”.
The letter, also circulated to Mr Fry’s 2m Twitter followers, came less than 24 hours after US President Barack Obama said on NBC he had “no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them”.
Mr Obama on Wednesday cancelled summit talks due next month with Mr Putin.
Calls for a boycott of next February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, southern Russia, have been growing in the US in recent weeks amid concerns that the anti-gay activism law could lead to mistreatment of gay or lesbian athletes or spectators.
Independent Russian media have also carried disturbing reports of violence against gays by vigilante groups apparently emboldened by the law, passed by Russia’s parliament this year.
Mr Fry’s intervention could help the boycott campaign spread to the UK and elsewhere.
“Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law,” Mr Fry wrote.
“An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillehammer, anywhere you like. At all costs, Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.”
The British broadcaster’s letter was criticised by RT, an English-language TV channel funded by the Russian state, as being full of inaccuracies.
But the growing controversy surrounding the Sochi games is likely to cause alarm in the Kremlin. Russia has spent a record $51bn, several times the original budget, on preparations for the games, making them the most expensive in Olympic history.
The IOC said last month it had received assurances from Russia that the law would not affect anyone attending or participating in the games.