Boycotting the Olympics

By: Joanna Domson

Sentry Staff Reporter

Every four years nearly every country in the world comes together to celebrate competition and athletics in the Winter Olympics.  This year the Olympic Games are being hosted in Sochi, Russia; a resort town on the northeastern coast of the Black Sea.  Unfortunately, this year the attention is being taken away from the games, and the spotlight is being turned towards Vladimir Putin and his country, Russia.  Some of the decisions that Putin has made are being questioned by world leaders, putting the idea of boycotting the Olympics in question.

Putin has passed a law that is controversial towards homosexuals.  The law prohibits anyone from talking about homosexuals in the presence of minors or giving underage children homosexual propaganda.  This same law also prohibits holding rallies for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) communities.  Russian officials say that the law is in place in order to preserve Russian traditions, but many world leaders recognize it as discriminating against homosexuals and find it offensive.

Putin’s actions have prompted President Obama, the German President and Chancellor and the French President to announce their absence from the Olympic Games.  There has been a debate about whether or not more leaders should join the boycott and if the boycott will even make a difference.  Because of the fact that President Obama has not been to the Olympics yet, I believe him boycotting the Winter Games will have very little effect.  However, the fact that the issue has gotten this much press is promising for the LGBT community.

Not only are world leaders boycotting the Olympic Games, but some have called for civilians to boycott as well.  Not only do they suggest civilians not attend the Games, but they ask us to refrain from watching the Games on television as well.  I find this offensive.  Of course we need to support homosexuals, but we also need to support our athletes who have gone through many years of training and qualification in order to reach this high level of competition.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently added sexual orientation to their anti-discrimination policy in response to the controversy in Russia.  The IOC insures that homosexuals will be treated fairly during the Games.  However, Russia requires all visitors during the Olympic Games to comply with Russian laws and policies, including the newly passed legislation.  This creates a problem for the LGBT advocates planning on attending the 2014 Games.

Putin must have consequences for his actions, but the Olympics are a time of unity for the entire world, even in times of war.  It is hard to choose between supporting your country and supporting a group of people that have been oppressed for years.  However, I believe there is a solution.  I say that all who are attending the Olympic Games should do so in honor of gay rights.  They should wear a pin or scarf or anything to show the LGBT community that we are here to support them, but also to support our athletes.  This type of protest could reach all corners of the globe; not only do audiences hear about protests against Putin’s law, but they can also physically see the amount of people who support gay rights.  This plan also shows no violence whatsoever and is protected by IOC policies.  In addition, if Russia officials act out, their actions will be broadcasted to the entire world.

Nonviolence is definitely the answer to this problem, but inaction is not.  We can simultaneously show our support for the LGBT community and our athletes, who have worked so hard for their spot in the Olympic Games.  Boycotting the Olympics will not have an effect on the law instituted by Putin, but showing our support will.