Boycott Sochi

I, like any sane person alive, love the Olympics. Every four years the world comes together for a fantastic celebration of sport filled with heartwarming moments and inspiring heroes. Last year’s London games still prompt a smile from me and were a marvelous example of how sport can unite people and raise the spirits.

The Olympics have always been a wonderfully idealistic notion- bringing people together, mutual respect, dedication and the best of human nature are what they’re all about. It’s why I’m already looking forward to the Rio games in 3 years time.

What I’m not looking forward to are the 2014 Winter Olympics. The winter games are always a little bit harder to get psyched about because less countries take part and there is less variety in the sports taking place, but they’re usually still extremely entertaining and worth watching.

The reason I’m not looking forward to them is because a dark shadow looms over the games already. The event is being held in Sochi, Russia and therein lies the problem.

sochi

Russia has recently seen a massive crackdown on the gay community, with the police standing by as LGBT rights marches are attacked by anti-gay thugs. Gay people are routinely victims of violence, harassment and humiliation, all of which the government allows to happen.

This is sanctioned bigotry, the government has recently passed an “anti-gay Propaganda” law which makes it impossible for any legitimate discussion of homosexuality to take place as the law states that even trying to argue that homosexual couples should be regarded as equal is “propaganda”.

Gay rights activists have been arrested, fined and attacked in the streets. You can see some of the pictures from the country here.

The Olympic spirit of acceptance, tolerance and respect can not exist in Russia. And gay athletes and supporters have already been warned that they may face arrest if they travel to the games.

The time has come for action, and a boycott of the games seems to be the only way forward. Of the 38 countries who look set to compete at the games 10 allow same sex marriage, and several of the others should be progressive and reasonable enough to understand that Russia’s actions are entirely reprehensible.

If those 10 countries (Belgium, Canada, Denmak, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the UK) were to pull out of the games it would be a clear message that Russia’s actions will not be tolerated, and should some of the others agree, particularly the US it would lend the boycott wait.

Boycotting the games seems the right thing to do, not merely to voice objection but to stop the Olympics from aligning itself with a country which flouts so many of it’s core beliefs. The IOC issued a statement last month stating:

The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation… The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardise this principle.

And surely they must hold to these beliefs. A petition has begun to call for the boycott and the excellent Stephen Fry has written an open letter to our Prime Minister David Cameron and the IOC to call on them to stop the games. In a wonderfully written piece, Fry discusses the horror of the situation in Russia as well as raising the issue of how history will view these games and the actions of those who attended.

Comparing the villain of the day to Hitler has sadly become an over used and simplistic cliche, but Fry draws parallels between Hitler’s treatment of the Jews and Putin’s anti-gay stance. He talks of how the 1936 games held in Berlin gave Hitler a stage and increased his standing and popularity, and to do the same for Putin would be a mistake.

It’s a compelling and well reasoned open letter, and I urge you all to read it.

You can sign a petition against the games here.

I know for those who have trained for the games it will be a blow, but if it was me I would rather take a stand for what is right and the human rights of others and let my chance of Olympic glory slip away than triumph in a games which allows a discriminatory regime to continue.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO

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