Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Thinking About The Olympics

The Sochi games starts on Friday - amid heightened security, controversy, and bad fashion sense. The last is pretty normal for the Olympics. (The US team looks like they're going to an ugly sweater contest, the Norwegian curlers are either a barbershop quartet or circus clowns, and the volunteer uniform makes me suspect the designer is going to end up in Siberia or smuggled out in somebody's ski bag).

The controversy: A draconian law against "promoting homosexuality to minors" which has criminalized gay pride events.

Some activists are boycotting Olympic sponsors such as McDonald's and Coca-Cola - to which I would point out that the games were sent to Sochi well before the law was passed. The IOC has also spoken out against the law.

Athletes are in a difficult situation - the IOC has asked the Russian government to suspend the part of the law that would deport foreigners, but it's unclear whether it will be enforced or not. The Olympic charter also bans athletes from making any form of political, racial, or religious statement - and rightly so. Johnny Weir, who is now retired from competitive skating and will be commentating, has already said people should shut up and worry about winning medals.

The law specifically says that they can arrest and detail any foreign national suspected of being gay or "pro-gay." The laws also equate homosexuality and pedophilia - an inaccurate and irresponsible viewpoint. There has been violence.

It's unlikely that the Russian authorities would dare arrest athletes, members of delegations, commentators, etc. Spectators, however, may have no such protection.

I'm interested to see what might happen. The Olympics are the very center of the world stage, and perhaps this controversy will start to bring some real change in countries that are still in the Middle Ages where sexual freedom and gay rights are concerned.

But. None of this is going to stop me watching the games.