As we all know, the 2014 Olympic Games will be held in Sochi, Russia. Sochi lies about 1,000 miles south of Moscow on the shores of the Black Sea. While the city remains a vacation destination known for its great beaches and swaying palm trees, for two weeks it will become the epicenter of world class athletes competing for gold. The controversy lies, not in the games itself, but in the country that will play host.
Recently Russia, with Vladimir Putin at the helm, has passed a series of anti-LGBT legislation. The legislation, among other things, has sparked worldwide outrage. Spotlight hasn’t just been put on Putin, who signed the legislation. Russian citizens have been criticized the world over. Time and again peaceful pro-LGBT protests have been broken up by Russian citizens. The protests often end with violent consequences. When the new laws came into effect, citizens became craftier in “outing” homosexuals. Reports have shown that they go online soliciting homosexuals who are afraid to be in public. From there they meet up and publicly “out” and humiliate them.
Such action has thrust the Olympics Games into an unwanted limelight. All over the world activists are calling for boycotts. We should boycott the Olympics and Russia-made vodka among other things. Some have even called for the Olympic Games to be taken out of Russia entirely. Conversely, others have vowed to attend the games. Gay athletes have been coming forward and denouncing the calls for a boycott. They preach the message that they should not turn their back on the issue but face it head on. This week it was made clear by Russian officials that the new laws will be enforced throughout the games. That means that anyone displaying homosexual propaganda can be detained and deported from the country. This may pose an issue.
I will not be watching the Games in Sochi next year, granted, I don’t watch very often anyways. This year, however, I will be consciously not watching. I believe in human rights and equality for all and I believe that what Russia is doing infringes upon that. While I may not be watching, however, I encourage those in attendance at the games, whether spectator or athlete, to show support for the LGBT community. The Games can set an example. If thousands of people are flooding the Russian prisons and jails, or Olympic athletes are getting incarcerated, Russia will have to do something. It will also set a precedent for future world stage games. Let us remember that Russia will also take part in hosting the World Cup, as will Qatar. Keep in mind that while Russia has imposed sanctions against outward acts of homosexuality, Qatar outlaws it entirely. When 2014 comes around we will see how the world responds and most importantly how Russia will respond.