I love the Olympics. There’s something about the purity and competitiveness of sports that is universal to all cultures and countries and transcends barriers like economics, race, religion, gender and politics. This unique quality of sport allows the Olympics to be not just one of the largest global events in the world, but one of the most powerful. Sadly though the power of the Olympics has yet to be really harnessed other than through companies paying outrageous amount to sponsor and advertise with the Olympics.
In case you haven’t heard Russia will be hosting the Olympics in 2014 and has announced that they have banned public discussion and propaganda on non traditional relationships. There has been a wide range of views taken over what to do about this with some of the more popular suggestions being to move the Olympics to another city or to boycott the Olympics http://www.cbc.ca/strombo/social-issues/stephen-frys-open-letter-an-absolute-ban-on-the-russian-winter-olympics-is-simply-essential.html. While I love the Olympics, I am an even bigger fan of human rights and I am a huge supporter of equal rights for LGBT. That being said I don’t feel that moving or boycotting the Olympics will further LGBT rights or the Olympic movement.
There have been a few Olympic boycotts in the past and none of them have been very effective. The Games have gone on and the boycott just results in diluting the wins of athletes that do go and ruining dreams for the athletes that don’t. Boycotts of the Olympics don’t send a message of the need for social or political change they send a message of animosity between countries.
Moving the Olympics to a different country is a slightly better move. It still presents a logistical nightmare though as tickets, sponsors, volunteers and schedules have already been planned and would have to be completely redone with a location change. While this may send a message to Russia that the country wouldn’t tolerate it’s discriminatory laws, picking a country without any human rights and social justice infractions would be impossible. Almost 80 other countries have laws which make homosexuality or expressions of homosexuality illegal. China hosted the Olympics in 2008 and is another country home to many human rights violations, if we move the Sochi Olympics people will question why we didn’t move China’s and every Olympics hereafter. If we start boycotting, moving or picking countries based on human rights and social justice it would make the Olympics elitist as only a select few countries would get to host, taking away from the global aspect of the event.
What I do think people should do is that anybody attending the Olympics as an athlete, coach, official, broadcaster or spectator should do is display their support for LGBT. While government officials have said that people will get arrested for the expression of non traditional relationships, the Olympics is too much of a media event for this to happen. I think all the Olympic uniforms should have rainbows, the opening ceremonies should resemble a gay pride parade and openly gay athletes should be flag bearers. Maybe Russia will realize that if the world accepts LGBT that they should too.
For people not attending the Olympics, there is still much to be done in terms of equality for LGBT. There have been suicides all over the world because of the social stigma and alienation that people that are LGBT have. I hear derogatory comments towards LGBT all the time. In Canada Canadian Blood Services still discriminates against people that have been in homosexual relationships. For those not going to the Olympics there is still many options to support LGBT rights locally.
While people will fault the Olympics for their lack of action on social justice and human rights issues, the Olympics brings these issues to the forefront in a way that no other event could. No one except for LGBT activists would be paying much attention to Russia’s laws against homosexual relationships if the Olympics weren’t being hosted there. The global attention from hosting the Olympics does a lot more than a documentary, book, webpage, petition or other campaign would.