Boycotting Sochi: The Best way to get Through to the Russian Government and the IOC?
By: Caitlin McGee
It’s no secret that Russian President Vladimir Putin has passed several anti-gay policies into law over the last several months. It’s also no secret that the International Olympic Committee recently came forward stating that they are fine with these policies and proving that they have chosen to side with the enemy. That there are a growing number of individuals making the decision to Boycott the coming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia is also no secret. But the call to boycott the Olympics seems like it might turn out to be less of a solution than some would like it to be and may not be the best way to get through to the Russian government and the IOC.
The Olympics are all about the athletes and their ability to perform in their respective sport and a number of athletes, including U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir, Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup, and four time Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, have come forward stating that they are against a boycott for this very reason. Weir, Skjellerup, and Louganis have all stated that a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics would have more of a negative impact on the Olympic athletes than it would the Russian government or even the IOC. Weir told the Huffington Post that not only would a boycott negatively impact the athletes but their families who have given up time and money to help their sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, etc. achieve this potentially once in a life time chance to shine. Weir was quoted saying, “the Olympics are not a political statement, they are a place to let the world shine in peace and let them marvel at their youthful talent.” We shouldn’t be punishing the athletes by turning our backs on them and boycotting the Olympics when it’s the Russian government and the IOC that needs to be punished, especially when an Olympic boycott is doomed to fail. It didn’t work during the 1936 “Nazi” Olympics; it’s not going to work now.
Fact is, the Russian government couldn’t care less whether or not you or I or anyone else watch the Olympics or take any part in the Olympics, and the IOC has recently gone out of their way to prove that they are on the side of the enemy and don’t care whether we chose to turn our attention to the Olympics or boycott them. Of course we also shouldn’t just let it slide and pretend we don’t care about the atrocities happening in Russia. A boycott just isn’t the right way to go about getting our point across. Greg Louganis states in his article that a better way to get through to Putin and his regime would be to speak out and call Putin’s “bigotry for exactly what it is,” and says that he plans to use the event as a “teachable moment for the world.” Blake Skjellerup suggested to the Huffington Post that the “greatest way to bring about change is to have a presence.” So maybe instead of staying home, turning off our TVs, and turning our backs in an attempt to “stand in solidarity,” we should do the exact opposite. Go out and watch the Olympics, make sure they’re on your TV, even go to the Olympics if you can. Wherever you are, watch the Olympics and instead of staying quiet, get loud. That’s the key to getting our message loud and clear to Putin and his regime and the IOC. We’ve got to show up, stand up, and speak out!