There is a movement to have the United States and other nations boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in 2014, and I’m a bit conflicted about it.

One group wants to boycott because of the country’s highly repressive new law banning any speech that equates the social status same-sex relationships with heterosexual ones. I agree with the intent of the boycott in this case. But we’ve had Olympics in repressive regimes before; the dissidents in Beijing were just locked away for the Summer Olympics in 2008, and let’s not even talk about Tibet.

Another group wants to boycott because Russia has given sanctuary to Edward Snowden, the leaker of all that NSA classified information that showed the United States has all this “metadata” on its own citizens. I heard Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) float that one while Snowden was still living in the Moscow airport, which was reason enough for me to be inclined to oppose it.

I’m also reminded that there was a boycott by African nations at the Summer Olympic games in Montreal in 1976, having to do with New Zealand competing athletically with South Africa, which had been banned from the Olympics since 1964 because of its apartheid policies.

Then the United States and some of its allies boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because of the USSR invasion of Afghanistan; the irony still resonates. In response, many of the Soviet bloc nations stayed away from the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

On the fourth hand, I think we’re at here, the traditional idea that international sports events should be a place to create cooperation through competition is damaged by boycotts, as are the athletes that have trained for years for the opportunity to participate. All the Games were diminished, even if the boycott rationales were worthy.

Right now, I’m leaning against boycott. Circumstances could change that. And perhaps I can be persuaded. Lessee, Arthur’s ambivalent, too…

7 Responses to “To boycott or not to boycott; that is the question”

  • lisa says:

    I’m not in favor of boycotting the Olympics simply because why should the athletes be punished because of political disagreements? These magnificent men and women train for years for their shot at the gold. Governments will always be in disagreement about something. If we boycotted every Olympics based on that, we’d have to check off many countries that violate much of our way of thinking. The Olympics should be like Switzerland. Neutral ground.

  • This is an interestng posting and gives us food for thought…I can see both sides, but I lean toward excluding Russia somehow but still having the Olympics for the athletes, the athletes do not deserve to be punished for a country that cannot move forward to the future.

  • CGHill says:

    Yes, that’s a terrible law the Russians have come up with. But I’m with Lisa on this one: we need to have something that’s more important than politics, and pending the development of something universally lovable — I’m not holding my breath — the Olympics are that something.

  • steve says:

    I feel like the Olympics should be a time to set aside differences for healthy competition. I’d be against a boycott. As Lisa said, the only people hurt by a boycott would be the athletes.

    As far as moving them go, if the games were still held in Berlin in ’36 after what Hitler tried to do, I doubt relocation will ever happen.

  • Thanks for the mention, Roger. I’ve now made up my mind: The Sochi Olympics must be moved, cancelled or boycotted. There is no acceptable alternative that’s even possible any more.

  • Uthaclena says:

    I think that everyone who attends the Olympics in Russia should come wearing gay rights propaganda. The numbers might be too overwhelming to dismiss, and they’re not going to arrest paying customers.

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