The Price of Principle in Sochi

Kent Wilson
August 25 2013 10:38AM

 

 

(This article is by long-time Flames/Oilers blogger Sapp McIntosh. He doesn't have his own place anymore, so I agreed to publish it here on FN)

By: Sapp MacIntosh

The Russian government has recently made it perfectly clear they are not fans of people who love those who share like chromosomes (and/or genitalia). Russia has said any signs of support for human rights (and let’s be clear, this is not a gender/sexual orientation issue, it is a human rights issue) will not be tolerated.

At the world track and field championships, recently held in Moscow, at least two Swedish competitors painted their nails in rainbow colours, and one posted a picture of her nails on instagram with hashtags like #pride and #moscow2013. Emma Green Tregaro was told by Swedish officials the rainbow gesture could be a violation of the competition's code of conduct. The next day, to avoid further controversy, she simply painted her nails red.

To what degree, if any, do athletes qualifying for or participating in Sochi in 2014, owe a duty of action towards the LGBTQ population of Russia? Specifically, what, if anything, should the very wealthy and powerful (comparatively to other athletes attending the games and to the average person) NHLers attending Sochi do to support the persecuted LGBTQ?

Tyler Dellow was the first person I read to suggest a boycott of the Sochi Olympics by hockey players, particularly due of their relationship to Patrick Burke’s humanitarian organization, ‘You Can Play.’ You Can Play is partnered with the NHL, and has spread the message of tolerance and respect regardless of sexual orientation, and it overall seems like a great organization. Here is You Can Play’s mission statement:

You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation.

You Can Play works to guarantee that athletes are given a fair opportunity to compete, judged by other athletes and fans alike, only by what they contribute to the sport or their team’s success.

You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.

It seems obvious to me, given the mission statement, You Can Play is strongly at odds with what is currently happening in Russia. It does not seem like there is ‘equality, respect, and safety for all athletes.’ It does not seem like there is any ‘guarantee’ to athletes that they will be given a ‘fair opportunity to compete.’ It seems to me that if there is any venue to ‘challenge’ the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas, it will be Sochi 2014.

Burke has already declared that You Can Play will in no way be supporting/encouraging a boycott of Sochi 2014, which gives me a perfect opportunity to discuss my favourite topic: incentives.

You Can Play’s partnership with the NHL provides a friendly, if not loose, tie with NHLers. It appears from my vantage point that all an NHLer has to do to support You Can Play is to not be a homophobic dick, and if an NHLer doesn’t use homophobic slurs, and if an NHLer isn’t openly harassing anyone regarding LGBTQ issues, they’re supporting You Can Play. Besides maybe an occasional PSA, there appears to be no active duty required by an NHLers to be considered partnered with You Can Play.

Now don’t get me wrong – these are tremendously important goals. It’s a sad state of affairs in the world where this is even necessary. There are cases where Burke et al. have stepped in simply for the purposes of educating players about LGBTQ issues, (#nohomo Seguin) where insensitivity reigned simply out of ignorance and not malice - Also a laudable task.

But it’s important to keep in mind that NHLers do not seem to be required to really ‘do’ anything. So how committed is the NHL to actually improving the plight of LGBTQ athletes who are persecuted? When given the opportunity to become activists for the cause via a Sochi boycott, You Can Play obviously did not want to test NHLers’ commitment level. “If you can play, you can play – unless someone makes a law that says you can’t play, then you’re shit out of luck I guess.”

This attitude is not limited to You Can Play athletes either. Recently, the media has taken to interviewing various athletes as to whether a boycott of Sochi should happen. Unsurprisingly, not a single athlete that I have heard about has supported the idea, lamenting the ‘years of training’ that have gone into the competition. Recently, various Swedish NHLers likely to make the Olympic team were asked two questions (translated by an individual via Reddit):

1) Homosexuals can get arrested if they do "gay propaganda" during the Olympics and even get arrested if they kiss each other. What's your stance on the Russian anti-gay laws?

2) Do you think Sweden or the Swedish Olympic committee should do something to mark against Russia before the Olympics?

The interviewees included notable names like Erik Karlsson, Henrik Lundqvist, Gabriel Landeskog, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Patric Hörnqvist, Loui Eriksson, and Erik Gustafsson.

The responses ranged from absolutely no interest in doing anything...

“I won't take a stance on this question.”
“I'm going there to represent Sweden.”
“I have opinions. of course. But Olympics is such a great event and we should focus on the sport.”
“No, we should go there and focus on hockey.”
“It's not my job to discuss this here, I'm a hockey player, not a politician.”
“We're gonna go to Russia to play hockey, not negotiate on politics. It's not our job to change a government.”

...to various legal issues:

“We have sign something that says that we can't do an propaganda. We can't take any political stance.”
“Not something that I've been thinking about, but I personally treat every one the same.”
“I can't answer to that.”
“I don't know, that's something for we as a group and the Swedish Olympic committee to decide.”

And finally, a few said they were adamantly against Russia’s current stance:

“Yes, the Olympics is there for a reason and every one should be allowed to be how you want to be. Every one should stand behnd the rights of the gay community.”
"I think this is something we should discuss and we'll see what we can do.”

Of course, much like a commitment to You Can Play, talk is really cheap. If one is not in any way forced to back up their talk with actions, it is meaningless. It is somewhat encouraging to see some athletes (Zetterberg!) are obviously uncomfortable with what is happening in Russia and are even willing to speak up against it pre-tournament. Of course, comments from others (Datsyuk’s ‘orthodox’ remark) show that some players remain as homophobic as ever (are you reading this You Can Play?).

This interview really begs the question: why do we care what the athletes think? Their incentives are explicitly made clear in their interviews: it’s all about the competition. That’s their payoff, and hell, that’s OUR payoff too. A gay person being persecuted in Russia is a pretty far away abstract wrong for a person living a life of high level athletics. For the most part it is a life of simplicity – eat/sleep/train. Not a lot of time to make money or focus on a business career. But it is also a life of esteem and pride and for the most part, winter Olympic athletes live and train in very nice first world countries which are safe.

Where’s the benefit for a guy who trains speedskating at the Olympic Oval in Calgary to sacrifice 4+ years of his life for a boycott to help some theoretical person he’s never met?

Moreover, would a boycott even help this faceless, nameless LGBTQ person in Russia?

I certainly don’t blame any athletes for asking this very relevant question. I’m personally skeptical that a boycott would really affect anything at all for those LGBTQ folks living in Russia, wasting away in the gallows somewhere. And if we talk about the LGBTQ people in Russia, where were we in regards to boycotting the Olympics in Beijing? There’s no question China is culpable for some of the worst human rights violations in the world, but the Beijing Olympics came and went without a hitch.

That said, I am uncomfortable with being uncritical of anyone who believes that the thing that maximizes their happiness in life without any significant negative consequence to them personally is coincidentally also the ‘right thing to do.’ It’s disheartening to hear Swedish NHLers say something like ‘I’m not a politician, it’s not my job’ when this is a completely nonsensical approach to demanding change. Many of the great leaders of change in history were not politicians – Rosa Parks, for instance, was not a politician and neither were most of the people that were inspired by her civil disobedience. Though, to be clear, she was the one who was actually being persecuted, so the problem was much more personal and relevant to her.

Another point Dellow has brought forward; regardless of whether a boycott would be successful in persuading/shaming Russia to become more tolerant, it may be an important symbolic gesture. Even if one is not actively causing change, is it ok to be complicit in another’s crimes? Does it sit well to know one is idly aiding the goals of the Russian government by simply competing and participating in their global party? Is there no value in saying ‘I refuse to be a part of this mob?’ It was pointed out to me via Twitter from @jrmarlow that it is pretty damn easy for a gasbag on twitter to demand athletes sacrifice their life’s goal for the good of the faceless persecuted people in Russia. I couldn’t agree more. It is easy – and I would never demand it. But it would certainly be laudable for any athlete anywhere to sacrifice in this regard to show their level of support for a cause they believe in.

That’s why principles suck. They demand consistency and sacrifice. But that’s also what gives principles value. Burke has said that just because You Can Play is not advocating a boycott doesn’t mean they’re going to be invisible. I am skeptical, but I hope that’s true. I also hope they use the substantial goodwill leverage of NHLers to do something important for the cause - whether it materially impacts thins in Russia in the short term or not I think is beside the point.

 (Thanks again to Sapp MacIntosh for submitting his thoughts. Follow him on twitter here .)

39d8109299a9795cb3b41a4e9b49d501
Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
Avatar
#1 please cancel acct
August 25 2013, 07:06PM
Trash it!
9
trashes
Props
11
props

Pushing and trying to force your agenda on people ,is IMO asinine.

I was in a restaurant dining a few weeks ago with approximately 50 other patrons when a gay couple decided to make a statement and let us all know that they were loud and proud.

Just to let you know NO ONE CARES what your sexual preference/Religious preference is all about. I don't try to force my personal political or religious agenda's on you.

Not sure why you feel the need to force yours on me.

They were asked to leave the restaurant and most patrons applauded .

You,ve become the zealot knocking on the door ,dismissing the respect that the people on the other side of the door deserve.

Avatar
#2 BurningSensation
August 26 2013, 09:40AM
Trash it!
7
trashes
Props
6
props
please cancel acct wrote:

Pushing and trying to force your agenda on people ,is IMO asinine.

I was in a restaurant dining a few weeks ago with approximately 50 other patrons when a gay couple decided to make a statement and let us all know that they were loud and proud.

Just to let you know NO ONE CARES what your sexual preference/Religious preference is all about. I don't try to force my personal political or religious agenda's on you.

Not sure why you feel the need to force yours on me.

They were asked to leave the restaurant and most patrons applauded .

You,ve become the zealot knocking on the door ,dismissing the respect that the people on the other side of the door deserve.

I have ZERO sympathy with this position.

The vast majority of people who publicly engage in 'straight' behaviour (holding hands, kissing in public, etc') go unremarked upon because they are part of the majority.

But if a gay couple has a public display of affection this is somehow being 'forced upon you'.

Please. Grow up. Nobody is 'forcing' anything on you, and if you find public displays of affection from gay couples disconcerting the problem does not lie with them - it lies with you.

Avatar
#3 the forgotten man
August 25 2013, 11:44PM
Trash it!
5
trashes
Props
4
props
Mac Sapintosh wrote:

@Baalzamon

I'm not sure if you were a gay person living in Russia you would feel the same way.

How about this...move.

Last time I looked it wasn't the USSR anymore...someone in Russia is free to pickup sticks and go wherever they want on this worldly planet. On both sides of my family they left their homelands in Germany and Ukraine for fiscal and religious reasons. They didn't like where they were, so hey they moved. Humans vote with their feet unless you live in a repressive totalitarian state...wow, just like China...where we had the 2008 Olympics. If I hear one more word about boycotting Sochi because of gay rights, I think my head will explode...if their life in Russia is that bad...leave , but save the rest of us the melodrama and woe is me tripe.

Avatar
#4 Alt
August 26 2013, 12:43PM
Trash it!
5
trashes
Props
3
props
BurningSensation wrote:

I have ZERO sympathy with this position.

The vast majority of people who publicly engage in 'straight' behaviour (holding hands, kissing in public, etc') go unremarked upon because they are part of the majority.

But if a gay couple has a public display of affection this is somehow being 'forced upon you'.

Please. Grow up. Nobody is 'forcing' anything on you, and if you find public displays of affection from gay couples disconcerting the problem does not lie with them - it lies with you.

Where in blog did i say that the couple i was referring too were showing affection in public?

You need to grow up and stop reading things that are,nt there,you presumptuous ass.

Avatar
#5 FlameInAtl
August 26 2013, 03:28PM
Trash it!
5
trashes
Props
2
props

Haha...Burning Sensation wants to equate ChiCom, Russian and South African Olympics with having them in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Some people truly are delusional.

All of you effete liberals have no idea what real suffering and oppression look like.

And, god forbid if you did, you would be crying like a baby for the US military to "do something" upon your behalf.

But, continue to take yourselves soooo, so very seriously as you "debate" this "issue."

Avatar
#6 Baalzamon
August 26 2013, 08:00AM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Props
5
props
Mac Sapintosh wrote:

@Baalzamon

I'm not sure if you were a gay person living in Russia you would feel the same way.

what about you? How would you feel about this if you were a Chinese child working for three cents a week? Beijing didn't see anywhere near this kind of outcry, and they employ child labour.

Is it for us to decide whose rights to "protect" and whose aren't worth it? Oh, child labour is fine, but anti-LGBT laws are going too far?

Avatar
#7 Baalzamon
August 26 2013, 09:29AM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Props
4
props

@Where's Your Towel

"Failure to do the right thing in the past does not preclude doing the right thing in the future."

We haven't established that it IS the right thing to do. And, in fact, it isn't.

Regardless of whether you believe foreign policy is about bullying other nations into "doing the right thing" because "we know better" (which is called imperialism as long as, apparently, it isn't perpetrated by "us") boycotting the Olympics is neither an appropriate nor effective medium for doing so.

I fully believe that we have a better chance of striking a positive blow for human rights if foreign relations are good than if they are bad. Does boycotting Russia's Olympic games improve relations? No. Completely and irrefutably no. It does the opposite.

Again, if Israel and Palestine can set aside their differences to go against each other in friendly competition...

Avatar
#8 FlameInAtl
August 27 2013, 06:04PM
Trash it!
4
trashes
Props
0
props

Burning Sensation,

While I greatly respect and admire my Canadian brothers-in-arms, if you think that killing the enemy equates to "losing wars" you truly are delusional. At least that is what we do until the libs begin crying about all the death and destruction we rain down upon our enemies.

And Captain Ron you are quite right....Western Canada is not full of the libs. But, I have a sneaking suspicion that perhaps people have forgotten, at least here in the West, what real oppression consists of.

So, you all continue to bleat about "human rights" all you want. Just remember that the most basic human right of all, the right to life and to live, is being deprived to many here in the West and right before your eyes all over the world, especially in the sewers that comprise Arab/Muslim countries.

But of course, we won't talk about such things because they might actually involve doing something or at least standing for something.

So I just laugh at self-righteous folks who preen about "human rights" while their fellow citizens are slaughtered in clinics in the West or gassed in the Middle East.

But, perhaps I should defer to the moral superiority evident in this post and messages.

Perhaps.

Avatar
#9 BurningSensation
August 25 2013, 01:54PM
Trash it!
3
trashes
Props
15
props

I've always thought boycotts failed to understand what the Olympics is really about (other than money - which is what it is really about).

The Olympics makes a point of staging its games anywhere on the planet (presuming they grease the right palms sufficiently) regardless of the countries' politics

Going to the Olympics in China, or Russia or South Africa or even Salt Lake City Utah creates a situation where you are not always going to be happy with the political climate. The Olympics has always made it a point of honour that it itself is not a political event, or place for political grandstanding. If your athletes go to an event it is expected that like it or lump it they will not be making political statements or protests during the competition.

This then is the crux of the matter, the Olympics will be held sooner or later in a place or culture we don't like for whatever reason. As a nation do we want a policy of boycotting the games when this is the case? What criteria will we use? Is China Ok, but Russia not? Is the policy issue specific, like Apartheid is really bad, but Communism and it's attendant illiberties and emmiseration of the population we can live with?

Or do we make going to the Olympics and sending our best athletes regardless of the political climate the point? At least athletes who devote their time and efforts to get to the Olympics would know that a political decision isn't going to negate their opportunity of a life-time.

As for Sochi, I have no problem with athletes going and not making a big deal of Russia's idiotic laws and degraded culture.

We didn't have a problem with China, so why now?

Avatar
#10 BurningSensation
August 25 2013, 02:11PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Props
9
props

A second though related discussion should be around the actual politics in question.

Putin's anti-gay laws are very very popular, and are transparently part of his populist political strategy.

Perversely then, the more other nations protest his policy, the more popular he becomes for being brave enough to defy foreign opposition, opposition that is seen as not just attacking Russia's politics, but also it's Church (which works close with Putin, see: Pussy Riot being arrested), and consequently, the less likely the policy is going to be overturned.

Athletes are being closed mouth about this because they are in a no-win situation. Protest the political climate, and they might not be allowed to compete. Don't protest the political climate, and they appear to be sacrificing principle for personal gain.

Avatar
#11 Mac Sapintosh
August 25 2013, 11:05PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Props
4
props

@Baalzamon

I'm not sure if you were a gay person living in Russia you would feel the same way.

Avatar
#12 BurningSensation
August 26 2013, 06:49PM
Trash it!
2
trashes
Props
2
props
Alt wrote:

Where in blog did i say that the couple i was referring too were showing affection in public?

You need to grow up and stop reading things that are,nt there,you presumptuous ass.

By all means then, please explain how they were 'forcing' the gay on poor straight little you.

Avatar
#13 Where's Your Towel
August 26 2013, 12:51PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Props
1
props

@Baalzamon

"From the Dictionary of Human Geography: Imperialism is 'an unequal human and territorial relationship... involving the extension of authority and control of one state or people over another.'"

I disagree that having a formal position or even going as far as a boycott fits this definition. No one is proposing that Russian citizens be required to comply with or more importantly be prosecuted according to a foreign countries laws or fall under their authority. I do not consider anything being batted around in the media to be this kind of empire building. Certainly any actions by individuals to make their view known cannot be considered as Imperialism.

"Here's the thing: you're stomping on the rights of one set of people to demand that they protect the rights of another set of people. and why? because you think you know better. Do we? Obviously. That isn't the point."

Basic human rights by their nature trump the rights of individuals and governments to discriminatory actions and laws.

"We're not arguing over whether something should be done about equal rights--because the answer is obviously yes--we're arguing over whether boycotting the Olympics is the thing that should be done. It's not. And you, apparently, have no opinion on the matter. So who are you actually arguing with?"

I have read the China-argument over and over. My original comment was to address why I did not consider this a reasonable argument against the current outcry. As I have read it more than once in the comments following this article, I would not consider my comments out of place.

"But I appreciate the implied personal attack on my moral standards. Really. That was something."

You're quite right. I crossed a line. Please accept my sincere apology.

Avatar
#14 Captain Ron
August 26 2013, 12:53PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Props
0
props
BurningSensation wrote:

I've always thought boycotts failed to understand what the Olympics is really about (other than money - which is what it is really about).

The Olympics makes a point of staging its games anywhere on the planet (presuming they grease the right palms sufficiently) regardless of the countries' politics

Going to the Olympics in China, or Russia or South Africa or even Salt Lake City Utah creates a situation where you are not always going to be happy with the political climate. The Olympics has always made it a point of honour that it itself is not a political event, or place for political grandstanding. If your athletes go to an event it is expected that like it or lump it they will not be making political statements or protests during the competition.

This then is the crux of the matter, the Olympics will be held sooner or later in a place or culture we don't like for whatever reason. As a nation do we want a policy of boycotting the games when this is the case? What criteria will we use? Is China Ok, but Russia not? Is the policy issue specific, like Apartheid is really bad, but Communism and it's attendant illiberties and emmiseration of the population we can live with?

Or do we make going to the Olympics and sending our best athletes regardless of the political climate the point? At least athletes who devote their time and efforts to get to the Olympics would know that a political decision isn't going to negate their opportunity of a life-time.

As for Sochi, I have no problem with athletes going and not making a big deal of Russia's idiotic laws and degraded culture.

We didn't have a problem with China, so why now?

Great comment. FN should approach you to consider being a writer for them. You could replace Lambert.

Avatar
#15 Baalzamon
August 26 2013, 01:22PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Props
1
props

@Where's Your Towel

"I disagree that having a formal position or even going as far as a boycott fits this definition."

A fair point. I suppose the argument over the definition is largely semantic. The real question being:

"Basic human rights by their nature trump the rights of individuals and governments to discriminatory actions and laws."

Absolutely true. In a perfect world, this would be how everything is run. However politics (and humanity's inherent imperfection) muddy the waters quite a bit. Do we have the right to march into another country and tell them how they should be running things? It didn't work all that well in Afghanistan. I just think there must be a better solution... though I'm having tremendous difficulty coming up with one.

"My original comment was to address why I did not consider this [the anti-China thing] a reasonable argument against the current outcry."

Indeed it was. And you raised a good point. I must have lost sight of that somehow.

"You're quite right. I crossed a line. Please accept my sincere apology."

Happily accepted.

Avatar
#16 BurningSensation
August 26 2013, 07:01PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Props
4
props
FlameInAtl wrote:

Haha...Burning Sensation wants to equate ChiCom, Russian and South African Olympics with having them in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Some people truly are delusional.

All of you effete liberals have no idea what real suffering and oppression look like.

And, god forbid if you did, you would be crying like a baby for the US military to "do something" upon your behalf.

But, continue to take yourselves soooo, so very seriously as you "debate" this "issue."

You completely missed the point. I was not saying Salt Lake City was the same as communist China.

No Olympics has taken place without political opportunists who look to use the media attention those events garner as a platform for their own agenda. In Vancouver the angle was 'Native Rights', in Calgary it was 'why are we spending this money on bread and circuses rather than on those in need'. and so on.

As for the 'US military doing something on our behalf', thanks but no thanks. Over the last decade the US has shown just how effective their military machine is by losing two wars at the same time. Good Job Brownie.

Avatar
#17 FlameInAtl
August 28 2013, 11:22AM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Props
1
props

So show the world how truly brave and principled you are!

Turn off our TV! Boycott an athletic event!

That will show them! And you can then tell yourself the you....did something.

If you think the fact that two men cannot lawfully make love or get married in Russia is the height of "human rights", and if you think Russia and Putin and the people care what you think just because you are oh-so enlightened, you have another thing coming.

At some point, this generation or the next, the people of the West are going to have to put the video games down, lose 80 lbs., and rediscover their warrior pasts.

For their survival.

Your enemies (and yes, you still have those) do not care one bit how trendy and enlightened you think you are.

Avatar
#18 FlameInAtl
August 28 2013, 02:18PM
Trash it!
1
trashes
Props
1
props

Captain Ron,

I salute you. And I salute the Canadian armed services and remember the fallen of Juno beach and many other campaigns.

However, your assertion may, in my mind, be amended to read....Always have been, may next time.

In both your country and mine.

Times have changed for us Captain. We are now soft and stupid. Not individually perhaps, but as a society we are. Just turn on the television and ask yourself, "Can a culture and society so stupid, survive? Should it survive?"

Our nature has changed, or perhaps we wish it had. The nature of our enemies has not. They are emboldened by our weakness and our sense of moral superiority.

And this is not your "same old same old" Muslim enemy Captain, although we will wish they were when all is said and done if we do not wake up.

So, again, let us pat each other on the back and tell each other how brave and enlightened we truly are.

For we stand up for the rights of men to make love to men and women to make love to women in Russia. And we do this by not watching television and not buying products.

Such warriors are we.

Avatar
#19 beloch
August 25 2013, 03:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
5
props

I still hope at least one Olympic team incorporates a rainbow color scheme into their sweaters. Russia won't be able to prosecute players for wearing their official team sweater. They will likely threaten to ban the team doing this as soon as the design is revealed and force them to change their design, but the whole process would be an embarrassment for Russia. This is a great way to protest before the Olympics even start.

Avatar
#20 KingQuong
August 25 2013, 05:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
beloch wrote:

I still hope at least one Olympic team incorporates a rainbow color scheme into their sweaters. Russia won't be able to prosecute players for wearing their official team sweater. They will likely threaten to ban the team doing this as soon as the design is revealed and force them to change their design, but the whole process would be an embarrassment for Russia. This is a great way to protest before the Olympics even start.

Was thinking of something similar wouldn't that be awesome if as Team Canada players are accepting the gold they make a statement. Russia said they would arrest anyone who does anything like that good luck arresting Sidney Crosby. To bad Brian Burke isn't involved with Team Usa this year ( atleast i don't think he is ).

Avatar
#21 Baalzamon
August 25 2013, 07:09PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
7
props

So much for free speech. This is the fourth time I've attempted to comment on this thread.

My point, I suppose, was this:

The point of the Olympics (and international sports in general) is to bring the world together, in one place, for one purpose. Watching athletes from around the world compete in friendly contest is one of the few times where I actually feel like humanity is something other than a [something offensive] on the face of the earth.

The Olympics isn't about politics, it's not about the host nation, it's not about the competing nations, human rights, or even the competing athletes. It's about making the world a little smaller, and bringing people together. Setting aside our differences and really getting closer to the world around us.

Isn't that worth a little chafing? If Palestine and Israel can set their differences aside for the sake of the Olympics, what does that say about us first world nations that we threaten to boycott because the host nation happens to be in its liberal adolescence?

Avatar
#22 chillout
August 25 2013, 08:54PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
1
props

@Baalzamon

Thankfully it's only the media types that have said the boycott thing.

Avatar
#23 FTO
August 26 2013, 03:06AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
7
props
the forgotten man wrote:

How about this...move.

Last time I looked it wasn't the USSR anymore...someone in Russia is free to pickup sticks and go wherever they want on this worldly planet. On both sides of my family they left their homelands in Germany and Ukraine for fiscal and religious reasons. They didn't like where they were, so hey they moved. Humans vote with their feet unless you live in a repressive totalitarian state...wow, just like China...where we had the 2008 Olympics. If I hear one more word about boycotting Sochi because of gay rights, I think my head will explode...if their life in Russia is that bad...leave , but save the rest of us the melodrama and woe is me tripe.

I'm sure some gay people may be leaving Russia, however why should they be subjected to the unfair laws of their homeland in the first place? Why shouldn't people concerned about human rights be fighting it, without worrying about offending your delicate sensibilities?

Should all of the blacks in America have moved away in the 60s if they didn't agree with the laws of their government instead of being uppity and offending the majority with the civil rights movement? After all America was a free country back then too.

Avatar
#24 FTO
August 26 2013, 03:19AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
5
props

Which is to say I find it pretty unreasonable that you should be expected to move away from your home and everyone you know and love just because of something about yourself that you were born with and cannot change, when your government makes it harder and harder to live as yourself and pursue love and happiness.

Avatar
#25 Where's Your Towel
August 26 2013, 08:52AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
6
props

I don't buy the "No one complained about China" argument for a minute.

Failure to do the right thing in the past does not preclude doing the right thing in the future.

Growing indignation over human rights abuses is not necessarily indication of one situation being deemed more serious or worthy of scorn than another. We should be happy that as time goes by, more people feel compelled to speak out.

The hypocrisy of North America when it comes to China is longstanding and well-understood. Many people in the West have houses full of doo-dads and gizmos they bought without regard to who was victimized in their manufacture. I have to think that may have muted some every day folks opposition.

YOU may not have had a problem with China, but please refrain from speaking for the rest of us.

I find it very concerning that Russia is not simply lagging behind other first world countries socially, they appear to be regressing at an alarming rate.

Avatar
#26 Wheresyourtowel
August 26 2013, 11:43AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
1
props
Baalzamon wrote:

"Failure to do the right thing in the past does not preclude doing the right thing in the future."

We haven't established that it IS the right thing to do. And, in fact, it isn't.

Regardless of whether you believe foreign policy is about bullying other nations into "doing the right thing" because "we know better" (which is called imperialism as long as, apparently, it isn't perpetrated by "us") boycotting the Olympics is neither an appropriate nor effective medium for doing so.

I fully believe that we have a better chance of striking a positive blow for human rights if foreign relations are good than if they are bad. Does boycotting Russia's Olympic games improve relations? No. Completely and irrefutably no. It does the opposite.

Again, if Israel and Palestine can set aside their differences to go against each other in friendly competition...

I hope that most people consider basic human rights non-negotiable. If you do not consider them as such I sincerely hope you will reconsider this in the future. It's not Imperialism to respond to flagrant, public discrimination in like terms.

I do not necessarily think a boycott is the right response. I also do not think that those who feel strongly about this issue should be dissuaded from action because of what they did or did not do when China hosted.

My position is not that a boycott would improve relations with Russia. I never mentioned a boycott at all.

Avatar
#27 Baalzamon
August 26 2013, 12:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
2
props

@Wheresyourtowel

"It's not Imperialism to respond to flagrant, public discrimination in like terms. "

It is if that discrimination happens in another country. From the Dictionary of Human Geography: Imperialism is "an unequal human and territorial relationship... involving the extension of authority and control of one state or people over another." Exerting influence over another nation in that way is, by definition, imperialism. Full stop.

Here's the thing: you're stomping on the rights of one set of people to demand that they protect the rights of another set of people. and why? because you think you know better. Do we? Obviously. That isn't the point.

We're not arguing over whether something should be done about equal rights--because the answer is obviously yes--we're arguing over whether boycotting the Olympics is the thing that should be done. It's not. And you, apparently, have no opinion on the matter. So who are you actually arguing with?

But I appreciate the implied personal attack on my moral standards. Really. That was something.

Avatar
#28 SVENSANITY
August 26 2013, 12:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
3
props

I think it's important to separate LGBQT from being a political issue to being a basic rights issue. I mean yes that is somewhat of a blanket statement and I realize this, and of course any time you try to affect change there's going to be politics behind it!

The point though is that this is a HUMAN RIGHTS issue not a political issue. The fact is people of other countries that respect the rights of their citizens to identify as any orientation should not be denied those rights just because they are participating in a sport in another country. That country can keep it's prejudiced views but what right do they have to deny everyone those views and to suggest that anyone cannot display their pride as part of who they are as an athlete? The Olympics is indeed about a politics free coming together of people from all walks of life. But if that was truly the case then it wouldn't matter what a persons orientation was. It wouldn't matter whether they're a liberal or a democrat. It wouldn't matter whether they like Bologna or Ham. It wouldn't matter if they wear Nike or Addidas...

Avatar
#29 Mac Sapintosh
August 26 2013, 01:47PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

@Baalzamon

Think I broached the china subject, but my real point with this article is either the gay rights thing is a point of principle for these guys, or it isn't.

If it's a point of principle, they must do something.

If it's not a point of principle, just go and play.

My bet is that it's not really a point of principle, which kind of undermines YCP's entire organization. Although, i think there's something to be said for a 'soft sell' approach.

Avatar
#30 Captain Ron
August 26 2013, 05:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
1
props
FlameInAtl wrote:

Haha...Burning Sensation wants to equate ChiCom, Russian and South African Olympics with having them in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Some people truly are delusional.

All of you effete liberals have no idea what real suffering and oppression look like.

And, god forbid if you did, you would be crying like a baby for the US military to "do something" upon your behalf.

But, continue to take yourselves soooo, so very seriously as you "debate" this "issue."

I have to agree with you that the Salt Lake City reference was out of place in that statement.

FYI the Liberals are greatly outnumbered in this part of Canada. Not that we should expect you to know that from where you are in the land of the free.

Avatar
#31 Victoria Flames Fan
August 26 2013, 11:53PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
4
props

There are some thoughtful and some less thoughtful comments here. I just want to make one point. Whatever else the Olympics are - they are certainly political. States pour millions of dollars into their athletes to make statements. The Games have been used in legitimating or delegitimating political regimes / states. They have also been places of where dominant political discourses may be subcerted, as when in 1936 Jesse Owens' victory upset the racial propaganda of Hitler. Perhaps similarly the Games will have some unintended consequences for Putin. Either way, for better or worse, the Olympics are ineluctably political. Don't kid yourself.

Avatar
#32 SuntanOil
August 27 2013, 12:08AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
1
props

I wasn't going to weigh in until I read those last three words bt Burning Sensation. Not quite sure what BS is trying to say, and I hope I am wrong as to what I think it is.

Thanks to Sap for tackling this tough topic and Kent for publishing it. I was a pretty good swimmer in 79 and although I was very young I competed in many meets with (older) swimmers who were supposed to head to (ironically) Moscow when politics got in the way and the swimmers were told that they would be staying home. These young athletes were utterly devastated, and a ripple effect could be felt through the whole community. Most never got to the Olympics and many others seemed to lose their drive and love of the sport, knowing from that point on that even if they became the very best they may never get a chance to prove it.

Now, I know what the Russian government is doing is wrong, but do you know what else is wrong? - Telling some bright eyed kid that through no fault of their own they will not be able to pursue the dream that they had worked so hard for - the one within their grasp - so that a political point (one that will likely never be heard) can be made about a law which didn't exist when as they worked their way to their goal.

As my Grampa always used to say: "Two wrongs don't make a right."

You'd think that would be all I have to say on the matter, but there is more. The law in question is garbage. It is an ugly Draconian measure that has no place in a modern, democratic country. On the other hand, Russia hasn't really proved itself to be modern nor completely democratic and whether you are ready to accept reality or not, it IS currently a law there. Moreover, if you break this law they WILL throw you in jail. Furthermore, this is still one of those places on the planet where people simply disappear without a trace so a certain amount of self preservation is wise there.

So to the point that if it is a matter of principle to these athletes that they must do SOMETHING and NOW, I say simply: No. They don't. There are some fights you can win and some you cannot. This fight cannot be won by Olympic athletes, and we should not demand that they try. It's not a matter of principle, it is a matter of reality.

Therefore, if I am the parent, spouse, or family member of an athlete headed to Sochi I would ask them to stay away from any demonstrations. The GLBT community in Russia is important but the obligations after the Olympics to one's family are more important, and anyone telling the athlete any different are operating on a different agenda.

Furthermore, if I am a team owner, a friend, a teammate, a coach, GM, or agent of an athlete, I would wish them the best of Luck in Sochi, and remind them that they are needed back here after the Olympics. To guarantee this, they need to stay out of any demonstrations.

I came to this opinion because I was enraged by the media's treatment of Henrik Lundqvist the other day when they trashed the guy for not speaking out against the Russian government at the moment they wanted him to, and in the way they wanted him to. It wasn't fair to King Henry and I wouldn't blame him if he told the GLBT community where to go next time they ask for his help (he won't).

My advice to all those who trash people like Henrik Lundqvist - a Swede playing in America - for not taking on the Russian government over a law which (at the end of the day) really has no effect on him personally (and for an action which will have no effect on the Russian government) is simply this:

You do it. You do it, or paint yourself a hypocrite and never say another word. Just get on the next plane, go to Moscow or St Petersburg or even Sochi and demonstrate in the streets, because isn't that what is being asked of these athletes in January? Yes, you will likely get arrested and will spend time in a Russian prison, but if you are not prepared to do so, then you are being a hypocrite. If you are not prepared to take the stand against the Russian government that you DEMAND of your athletes, then you are by definition a hypocrite and by action both a bully and coward.

Looking forward to a great Olympic tournament.

Avatar
#33 piscera.infada
August 27 2013, 09:22AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
2
props
Victoria Flames Fan wrote:

There are some thoughtful and some less thoughtful comments here. I just want to make one point. Whatever else the Olympics are - they are certainly political. States pour millions of dollars into their athletes to make statements. The Games have been used in legitimating or delegitimating political regimes / states. They have also been places of where dominant political discourses may be subcerted, as when in 1936 Jesse Owens' victory upset the racial propaganda of Hitler. Perhaps similarly the Games will have some unintended consequences for Putin. Either way, for better or worse, the Olympics are ineluctably political. Don't kid yourself.

Thank-you.

The Olympics - with all the history and rhetoric associated with them - cannot be looked at in a vacuum.

I don't buy the "it's just sport" argument. Sport (more generally than just the Olympic games) has been used to manufacture consent for a plethora of politicized issues whether it be military personnel repelling from the rafter at the ACC in Toronto's home-opener, or images of the unknown soldier super-imposed on the field at a Yankees playoff game just days before the invasion of Iraq (leading to a deafening "USA, USA" chant).

Sport carries so much national and local pride inextricably linked to a rhetoric of competition (that is often based on militaristic language - as a simple example, the "blitz" in football), that one needs to seriously think about what they are actually be spoon-fed during pregame and intermissions.

Avatar
#34 kittensandcookies
August 27 2013, 05:26PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
Victoria Flames Fan wrote:

There are some thoughtful and some less thoughtful comments here. I just want to make one point. Whatever else the Olympics are - they are certainly political. States pour millions of dollars into their athletes to make statements. The Games have been used in legitimating or delegitimating political regimes / states. They have also been places of where dominant political discourses may be subcerted, as when in 1936 Jesse Owens' victory upset the racial propaganda of Hitler. Perhaps similarly the Games will have some unintended consequences for Putin. Either way, for better or worse, the Olympics are ineluctably political. Don't kid yourself.

Owens' win in Germany has been misconstrued so much that Cracked had to write about it:

http://www.cracked.com/article_19738_5-iconic-scenes-from-history-everyone-pictures-incorrectly_p2.html

Avatar
#35 Captain Ron
August 28 2013, 01:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props
FlameInAtl wrote:

So show the world how truly brave and principled you are!

Turn off our TV! Boycott an athletic event!

That will show them! And you can then tell yourself the you....did something.

If you think the fact that two men cannot lawfully make love or get married in Russia is the height of "human rights", and if you think Russia and Putin and the people care what you think just because you are oh-so enlightened, you have another thing coming.

At some point, this generation or the next, the people of the West are going to have to put the video games down, lose 80 lbs., and rediscover their warrior pasts.

For their survival.

Your enemies (and yes, you still have those) do not care one bit how trendy and enlightened you think you are.

Well I can say that personally I am quite aware of what is going on in other parts of the world. I also suspect that other commentors are too. I don't think our population is nearly as fragile as you make it sound. The daily bombardment on the news is a constant reminder. We know what is going on but we are not all paranoid about it either.

Muslim / Arab countries? Same old same old.

I don't disagree with your assertion that sooner or later there will be a generation that will have to discover there warrior pasts in order to protect their future, freedom, and the lifestyle they have become accustomed to.

As Canadians we don't always feel the need to get on a soapbox in the same way our American neighbors do. Rest assured though that we are aware of world events and will be there for duty if necessary. Always have been, always will be.

Too bad this discussion is on the second page now.

Avatar
#36 FlameInAtl
August 28 2013, 02:57PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Props
0
props

Captain Ron (and others),

What I mean by our nature changing is playing out in front of our eyes.

Our enemies are killing each other and the West is wringing its hands over the humanitarian issues at stake.

While I understand the need for tactical and strategic considerations, I say let them kill each other.

But we will not.

So, in a nutshell...If I am wrong about all this, well that is just crazy old FlameInAtl. No one listened to him anyway.

But, if you are wrong and all the trendy young of today are wrong and are faced with conflicts and issues they are entirely unprepared to deal with (because in part they have lashed themselves to other "causes" of dubious nature in the past) well, I for one will be glad I am not so "trendy" and "enlightened."

Comments are closed for this article.