Why I'm Not Convinced A Boycott Of The Winter Olympics Is Right
Unless you live under a rock, you've heard all about the incredible homophobic views and stories coming out of Russia. Like many, my initial gut reaction was to boycott. I was, and am, shocked and disgusted at the daily stories (which are nothing new) coming out from the country, and at the incredibly backward political views we're hearing about. But the more I think about it, the more I'm not convinced that a boycott is the right thing to do.
Today, I read Stephen Fry's open letter to David Cameron and the IOC, a super letter, as can really only be expected from the genius that he is. In it, he says, ""All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing," so wrote Edmund Burke. Are you, the men and women of the IOC going to be those “good” who allow evil to triumph?" I can't help but think that boycotting is doing nothing. I can't help but think there is a far better way to act, to show that we won't sit still and let a few pigheaded people decide where we can go and what we can do.
I'm just not convinced. There are two main reasons why, and I'll try to put them as plainly as possible here.
The Berlin Summer Olympics in 1936 took place under Nazi oppression. Hitler was persecuting Jews, gays, blacks - we all know the story. He saw the event as an ideal opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy, and as a result of this and the horrific crimes going on, many countries sought to boycott the games. Some athletes did boycott it, but no countries did entirely. But how wonderful, how very wonderful must it have been to see Jesse Owens stand on the podium, not once, but four times - all gold - in the heart of Nazi Germany? Black people, while not as persecuted as Jews, were hardly Hitler's favourites, and they suffered mindless persecution and execution as an 'inferior race'. I get goosebumps when I think of how proud and strong he must have felt. How immensely satisfying it must have been to watch knowing that right at that moment, hundreds and thousands of Nazis must have been speechless, and hundreds and thousands of black people - anyone other than the Nazis - must have had hearts that soared. The pride must have been overwhelming.
The other reason is, or rather are, all the LGTB people in Russia. If the shoe was on the other foot, I know that I'd be desperate for the games to go ahead. I'd be desperate for other countries to come and show that they care, that they haven't deserted me, that the disgusting ideals of some idiotic politicians won't stop other nations showing how strong we are, how defiant we are, and how proud we are. I would be hoping and praying that the rest of the world marched proudly in to Russia and participated as, and in support of, the out and proud LGTB community that we are so proud to say we are.
I don't mean to imply that athletes will be coming out of the closet by the dozen and storming the podium, it's just that I can't help but think how wonderful it would be to see hundreds of athletes, no matter what their sexual orientation, from the moment they arrive in Russia to the moment they leave, wear a rainbow flag on their clothes, painted on their faces, waving in their hands. How powerful it would be to see them stride into Sochi Stadium, waving their country's flag, and a flag - rainbow or other - that represented their support of the LGTB community. I can't imagine anything - even a boycott - that would send such a powerful and supportive message.
Why are we talking about walking away? Why aren't we standing and fighting? Why let these archaic, petty people twist how we act? If I were an athlete, I would gay it up. Really gay it up. I would go. I would be the proudest I'd ever been for being myself. I would do my best and maybe even win, and when I did, I would stand on that podium and know that those idiot people would be boiling inside. And maybe, hopefully, I would let someone in Russia know that not only is it OK to be gay, but that we will always stand together against abuse and hatred.
By boycotting are we walking away? Are we turning our backs? What effect would it really have on the country? Would they actually have won?
I'm wide open for discussion.