Thursday, July 18, 2013
Boycott Russian Winter Oympics? A Resounding NO...
I am seeing an increasing number of people calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. Some come from the Neoconservative Right, because they're pissed off at Russia's non-cooperation on Snowden. Others are gay activists, horrified at Russia's new draconian anti-gay laws.
I'll be the odd man out, and say this is a really bad idea folks.
First, NO ONE calling for a boycott will be personally hurt by it. They have nothing to lose, so its easy to yell, "Yeah, let's boycott!" On the other hand, hundreds of American young people who have been training and working and devoting their lives to these games, would have to bear the burden of this action. It's easy to call for action when *others* have to bear the cost. I'm not willing to have American athletes suffer (or athlete's from any nation, quite frankly) to make a political statement.
Second, the message is mixed. If we want Russia to "do" something, what is it? Turn over Snowden? Or Repeal Anti-gay statutes? It's a mixed, muddled - and conflicting message. In other words, in return for destroying innocent people's dreams - nothing will be accomplished and no laws will change.
Third, it's hypocritical. If you wanted to protest governments that engage in civil liberties violations and espionage activities, you should have boycotted Beijing a few years ago. If you want to punish countries with anti-gay laws...where was your voice when 30 athletes came from Nigeria (a nation where homosexuality is punishable by death in the northern states) arrived in Atlanta in 1996?
Lastly, it's just poor policy to use Sports as a political weapon. Sports is one of the few human activities that actually has the ability to take human conflict and channel it into constructive competitiveness somewhere other than on the battlefield. The statement that was made in the summer of 1936 when African-American athletes (like Jesse Owens) trounced the Germans in track and field in Berlin helped topple the myth of Aryan Supremacy in a bloodless way that no bullet ever did. The Olympics need to be kept out of political intrigue and maintained as a sporting event. The original, ancient Greek Olympics allowed warring city-states to compete with each other, and allowed its populations to override the war-mongering idiocy of their governments by coming together in spite of political differences.
And that's the way it should stay.
Gay brothers and allies...you want to do something that will really hurt them where it hurts? Stop drinking Stoli. Demand that your local liquor stores and favorite bars cease carrying Russian-made vodka. Hit them where it hurts. But to do so requires you to get off your keyboard, and bear the burden of this protest yourself...will you do it?