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Canadians do not support Olympics boycott: poll

Almost 60 percent of Canadians polled think athletes should be allowed to protest Russia's anti-gay laws

A new poll has found that Canada isn't ready to give up on the Sochi Olympics in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin's anti-gay laws.

Forum Research asked Canadians if they agreed with the idea of boycotting Sochi to protest the Duma's homophobic legislation. Less than a third of Canadians said they think boycotting is a good idea, with the rest disagreeing.

But when asked whether athletes should be allowed to carry Pride flags and wear rainbow pins, the response was the opposite — nearly 60 percent are in favour of the idea, with about half that number saying they feel strongly about it. Approximately a third opposed letting athletes protest the laws.

Canadians are pretty well in consensus on the matter. While Conservatives, Albertans, men and those 55 years and older tended to be less supportive, only a couple of percentage points separated them from youth, Quebecers, women and New Democrats, who tended to be slightly more supportive on the matter.

But protest may not be so easy. Putin has ramped up security measures for the Olympics and has moved to restrict freedom of expression before, during and after the Games, though Moscow says it will not be enforcing the anti-gay law in Sochi during the Olympics.

While a movement to boycott the Games picked up momentum since Putin passed laws criminalizing the distribution of “gay propaganda” to children and putting a moratorium on gay adoptions, a consensus has grown in recent weeks that a boycott would be ineffective and unfair to the athletes.

Great Britain made clear on Wednesday that it would not be boycotting the games.  The head of its Olympic mission, a former silver medallist, told media, "We are better off being there. Why should we penalize the athletes?"

An American poll shows that those south of the border are pretty much on the same page as Canada. Only a third support the boycott, and the vast majority say that the situation in Russia will make them no less likely to watch the Games. But that poll also shows that Americans are wholesale against the idea of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) forcing players to keep their homosexuality under wraps during the games.

The IOC has said that there would be no tolerance of discrimination based on sexual orientation during the Games, but it has remained cagey on how much Russia can get away with. The Olympic charter prohibits activism or protest at the events, and the IOC has essentially defended Russia's legislation.

Seemingly no one on the prospective Canadian Olympic team has come out in favour of a boycott thus far. Gay athletes — like American Johnny Weir and New Zealander Blake Skjellerup — say they will be attending the Games, even if it means getting arrested.