Sunday, August 18, 2013

losing faith in the Olympics one nutty move at a time

For the first time since I started watching the Olympics in '98 (Nagano), I will be completely ignoring the Games come February.

Russia recently passed a law that makes "promoting" homosexuality (e.g., waving a Pride flag) illegal, which in turn makes it dangerous for gay and lesbian athletes. For a while it looked like the athletes and spectators would be exempt from that law, but then the Kremlin backtracked: just because you're a guest who's competing here or watching the Games doesn't mean that you can wave that Pride flag. What makes it worse is that the IOC intends to do nothing.

Looking back through the history of the Games, though, I'm not surprised. My favourite example is the 1936 Berlin Games. While Berlin won the bid two years before Hitler came to power, the IOC did nothing--the Games went ahead as planned and Hitler tried to use them as a way to showcase the supposed superiority of white-skinned, blue-eyed, blonde-haired people, though that didn't quite work out. By still letting Sochi host the Games, the IOC is giving Russia (which doesn't exactly have a great human rights record) the go-ahead to validate the country's beliefs.

What also drives me nuts is Team USA's reaction: "While we strongly support equal rights for all, our mission is sustained competitive excellence and our focus will be to deliver a well prepared team and to put our athletes in a position to be the best they can be." In other words, winning is more important than equal rights and the safety of gay team members.

As mentioned earlier, the IOC's current plan is to do nothing--but by doing nothing they are complacent in Russia's actions. They're saying it's okay to beat people to a pulp just because of who they love and to deny them the right to said love. These are not just gay rights--they're human rights.

Over the years, I've become more aware of the issues surrounding the Games: who the sponsors are behind their glitzy façades, what actually happens to make the Games happen (people being told to move--which, sadly, seems to happen a lot when the Olympics come to town, and naturally the poor are the ones who are affected the most--spending money on the Games that would be better spent eradicating things like poverty, etc.). I fully support the ideals of the Games--but I don't support what actually happens and who benefits (the corporations, even more than the athletes). It's enough to drive me up the wall. does Russia's anti-gay propaganda law. We all deserve to be allowed to love who we love and to say, "hey, I'm proud of who I am" without the fear that we'll be thrown in jail for displaying that pride or kissing or holding hands with our partner, regardless of the partner's sex. I've never wanted to go to Russia, but I want to go even less since this law came into effect. As someone who is definitely not straight (I currently identify as an asexual lesbian, though I'm living proof that sexual orientation is fluid), I would not feel safe in that country, even if I wasn't wearing anything with the gay pride colours on it (as a matter of fact, I bought my first gay and asexual pride pins this summer, and am in the process of designing an anti-Sochi '14 pin with--you guessed it--the gay pride colours).

I know that Russia isn't the only country with anti-gay laws: almost a hundred countries have laws that make it illegal to be gay--but those other countries won't be hosting the Olympics (and the world) next year.

By the way, I don't hate the country itself: Russia is home to two of the greatest ballet companies in the world (the Bolshoi and Mariinsky Ballet Companies--there are others in Russia, but those are the top two. From 1909 to 1929 there was also the the Ballets Russes, which is still highly-regarded in the ballet world.) and some of the greatest dancers ever--including my favourite, Rudolf Nureyev, who was gay. Tchaikovsky, who composed my favourite ballet (The Nutcracker) and other awesome gems was also Russian (and gay). And I support the ideals that the IOC supposedly stands for (their actions speak louder than words, unfortunately).

36 Photos from Russia that Everyone Needs to See (heartbreaking)
Gay Tourists in Russia Face Jail Time, Deportation
IOC Prohibits Athletes from Challenging anti-gay Russian law at Olympics
Russia and the IOC Agree: Athletes and Spectators shouldn't be openly gay at the Olympics

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