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What to do about Sochi 2014

I've been reading a lot about calls for action regarding the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia because of Russia's recently passed anti-gay laws and very well publicized abuses of gay people and their supporters both officially and by private citizens.

The first word on everyone's lips is "boycott".

This is an easy one.


Not because "the athletes have trained hard" or because of any of the other reasons apologists (and some not so apologetic people) have floated.

Don't boycott because they don't work. The boycotts of 1980 and 1984 were absolute disasters on every level. Russia continued their offensive in Afghanistan for five years following the 1980 boycott. In fact, Afghanistan was so Soviet controlled that it participated in the 1984 Olympic boycott. Nothing was gained, and the West just looked bad. As for the 1984 boycott, well what was that supposed to do again? Not only that, but that left a twelve year hole in the Olympic record. None of the contests in either of those Olympic games are even remotely relevant in historical sport since the contenders who should have been competing were not able to face each other in any sport.

All boycotts do is make the Olympics irrelevant, and an irrelevant Olympics certainly isn't going to advance the interests of anyone.

Now there are growing calls to move the Olympics.

Yeah, not going to happen. There are 184 days until the games begin. I met a woman in Vegas on one of my trips there. She was in town for an academic conference. It was supposed to have been held in Chicago on August 8 of that year. January 1 of that year, the organizers decided to pull out because of an unsatisfactory response to a labor dispute, giving them 220 days to find a new venue and get it set up. The only place that could handle that many people (~10,000) in that short a time was Vegas. There is no place in the world, not even Vancouver that just hosted the Winter Olympics four years ago, that can be ready to host a Winter Olympics in 184 days. No where. The choices are Sochi or no Olympics at all. It's that simple.

And finally it has been suggested that Russia be banned from Olympic competition as have been South Africa, Rhodesia, Afghanistan and India (though India's was very short and was the result of contested NOC elections and not national civil rights violations).

Of the options, I like this one the most, but don't see it as feasible for this Olympics, not because you can't ban the host country, but because you can't put a ban in place this shortly before an Olympic Games. However, I would say if things don't change, and certainly if any athlete, coach, official, journalist, spectator, and, most importantly, Russian citizen is in the merest way inconvenienced in the name of enforcing this anti-gay law during the Olympic fortnight, then the hammer of a ban should come down hard and heavy and keep Russia out of Rio in 2016.

Ultimately, my preference for this Olympic games is that everyone go. Everyone compete. And everyone be just as gay as it is possible to be without violating evenly enforced public indecency laws. Open the Pride House. Wear and wave whatever rainbow gear you've got. Make it a gay old time on the Black Sea.


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Aug. 9th, 2013 03:14 am (UTC)
Else webs, I saw and tentatively endorse the suggestion that the appropriate targets for a boycott are the major sponsors - Coke, McDonald's, Samsung, etc. I'm not convinced that consumer boycotts ever work, but if we assume that they do, this seems like a good way to use them; if holding the Olympics in a country with an aggressively anti human rights stance is obviously less profitable than otherwise, the IOC will notice.
Aug. 9th, 2013 04:56 am (UTC)
I'm not a fan of organized consumer boycotts, but I also have a list of corporations I won't give my business and a shorter list of entities I won't work for (I once told a potential client I'll work for either side of the political aisle, but one side I won't offer a discount).

I'd like to see the corporate sponsors make pro-equality statements while in Sochi. I think the impact on the sponsors should happen in the aftermath rather than during the Olympics themselves. Any attention on the sponsors during the Olympics, I think, takes too much attention away from the athletes.

If the sponsors sit by silently while Russia stomps on the civil rights of citizens and visitors, then there will be plenty of time to shame them after the games.
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