Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Not Feeling The Sochi Olympic Boycott Proposal

Sochi 2014 Brand MountainsIn the wake of the draconian anti-LGBT laws that Russia has implemented resulting in persecution for our TBLG cousins living there, their allies and are now being extended to visitors to the country, loud calls have started to emerge for a boycott of the approaching 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi this February.

I have mixed emotions about the idea, but if you pin me down and ask me to make a definitive stance on it, I'd have to say nyet to it. 

While I'm appalled and pissed off about the anti-TBLG crap going on in Russia, I also have the advantage, unlike some of the younglings calling for an Olympic boycott now of seeing what happened the last time somebody suggested we stay home for political or human rights reasons and the effectiveness of it.

Photo: Moscow Olympics opening ceremonyIn December 1979 the then Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, and as one of the responses to the invasion besides a grain embargo, President Carter proposed a boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games scheduled to take place in Moscow that summer from July 19-August 3 if the Soviets didn't withdraw their troops from the country by February 20. 

They didn't and the Carter Administration began the diplomatic work of making the Olympic boycott a reality. 

Eventually 60 nations joined that boycott, some reluctantly.  While it resulted in the smallest Olympics in the last several decades with only 80 nations participating in the Moscow Games, it triggered a retaliatory Soviet bloc boycott of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. 

The Soviet Union also didn't remove their combat units from Afghanistan for another nine years.

The only people the Moscow Olympic boycott hurt were the athletes who spent years training for it and never got another opportunity to compete in an Olympic cycle. 

Those who were younger like 1984 swimming triple gold medalist Tracy Caulkins got their shot in a subsequent Olympiad at the Olympic glory that eluded them in 1980.    But that wasn't the case for many of the folks who were at their competitive peak in 1980 and were knocked off the 1984 team by younger competitors or the 1980 Moscow Games were their last Olympiad after having competed in 1972 or 1976.  They were left with nagging 'what-if' scenarios that have dogged them for much of their lives.

The 1980 Moscow Olympics went on as scheduled without them and the boycott did not remove one Soviet combat unit from Afghan soil.

Actress Tilda Swinton unfurled a rainbow flag in Moscow. (Photo via Twitter)So with the Winter Olympics coming to Sochi, why repeat the mistake?  It's interesting to note that these boycotts are always proposed by people who have never spent one day in their lives training to be the person standing at the top step of an Olympic platform, getting the gold medal and hearing their national anthem played as they watch their flag rise. 

They propose them because it's not their lifelong dream that's being dashed.

The proposed Sochi Olympic boycott is not going to get Russian President Vladimir Putin or their legislature to repeal the anti-LGBT law.   But you can continue to point out for the world to see what the Russian government is doing to their own people.
You can call for people to not attend the Sochi Games, not watch it on television, buy Sochi Olympic themed merchandise and give the athletes the choice of deciding whether or not they will compete there instead of having the decision forced upon them by their governments. 

Olympic boycotts simply do not work as political tools, only hurt the athletes and historically haven't  accomplished the political policy goal they are trying to achieve.

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