To boycott or not to boycott; that is the question

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.

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 of 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 the boycott. Circumstances could change that. And perhaps I can be persuaded. Lessee, Arthur’s ambivalent, too…