Thursday, January 23, 2014

A Personal Boycott Of The Sochi Games

With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games about to start in a few weeks, I think it's high time that I put forward my reasons for why I refuse to support the games - I will not be spending money with the sponsors, watching the games or otherwise granting them any validity.

First, and perhaps the most obvious is Russia's "anti-gay propaganda" law.  Passed in the summer of 2013, this law and its cousin laws passed at other levels of Russia's governments, these laws do not make homosexuality illegal per se, but they make "propagandizing" homosexuality illegal.  Of course the term "homosexual propaganda" is not particularly clearly defined in those laws, so it effectively makes any expression of being homosexual illegal - from advocacy for equal rights and treatment under the law to holding hands in public.  Putin has repeatedly tried to reassure the world that it's perfectly safe for gays to come to Sochi ... just so long as they don't show off in front of the children.

Russia's laws on homosexuality wouldn't necessarily be an issue if they weren't so draconian and poorly defined.  While the likes of Scott Lively are no doubt rubbing their hands with glee, I cannot sanction any country which passes laws that arbitrarily oppress a part of their population for no better reason than who they love.

The second part of my objections is aimed quite firmly at the IOC who seems to have lost sight of the wording of their own charter.  The IOC's lack of response to Russia's laws which were passed at the last minute told me that the Olympics is not about the principles set out so nobly in the IOC Charter, as it is about money - and lots of it.  Before 2013, Russia had been a country which appeared to be on a forward track with respect to human rights for all of its citizens.  The IOC has a moral responsibility to insist that host countries act in a reasonable manner, and they have not done so in the case of Russia.

The third part of my concerns is the situation in Ukraine.  The situation in the Ukraine has strong echoes of the old Soviet Union, with the Kremlin acting as puppet master.  While I can appreciate that Russia might have misgivings about the EU politically.  However, the situation in the Ukraine is as appalling as that in Syria.  My suspicion is that Putin is putting in place the pieces to renew the old "Iron Curtain" that he was familiar with prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It may be slightly different, but politically will serve a similar purpose.

While what is happening in the Ukraine is not directly related to the Sochi games, it has the feel of being a part of a larger picture that is profoundly worrisome.  The Sochi games themselves have become a symbol of an Olympic movement that is no longer about celebrating athletics - it is an unfortunate reality of timing that Russia's second run at the Olympic games in my lifetime happens to be the games which proves the point.

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