News & Politics

5 Reasons I Am Watching The Olympics

PHOTO CREDIT: THE NEWS TRIBE

PHOTO CREDIT: THE NEWS TRIBE

I am not one to separate politics from…well…anything. From attending protests, to considering where and how I spend my money, to voting in every single election, to writing to my representatives about issues that matter to me – I am vocal and active about my beliefs and how I incorporate them into my everyday life. I do not take the human rights abuses happening in Russia lightly. The Russian anti-LGBT law that has gotten so much press lately is horrific.  The law itself is bad enough, but its socio-political implications are even harsher, tacitly encouraging a culture of hate and even violence. Because of this, some LGBT advocates have called for a boycott of the Olympic Games taking place in Sochi, Russia this month.  Still, I will be tuning in to the games and here are the reasons why.

  1. Spirit of the Games: Ultimately, the Olympics is a celebration of global community and the strength and capabilities of the human body.  Many athletes have trained their whole lives for his moment and many countries put their sometimes scarce financial resources towards their representation in the games. Despite the obvious competitive nature of the games, there is an underlying quality of human cooperation and solidarity.  This isn’t just Russia’s moment – it’s the world’s moment. Because of this, it is a good opportunity to examine how each of our nations fit in as citizens of the world.

  2. Historical Context: From 1936 Berlin to 2008 Beijing, Sochi is not the first Olympic locale to be marred with moral objections. Our own country has some pretty heinous laws on the books.  The Olympic games have persevered in times of war, genocide and depression. I’m not arguing that they should go on at all costs, but I understand why this isn’t where the line has been drawn in the sand.

  3. Effectiveness of Boycotts: It seems like calls for boycotts have become both more frequent and less powerful. While the internet can often amplify these calls, there hasn’t really been a history-making boycott in decades. So, while we very often hear groups or leaders encouraging people to abstain from supporting a company or product, it’s not likely that a change will come as a direct result. I also haven’t seen a clear strategic plan for targeting and goals. What would be the terms of the boycott? At whom would the boycott be directed? Russia’s national government? The Russian Orthodox Church? The International Olympic Committee? Nations/individuals who have not boycotted? The Olympics’ corporate sponsors? The competing athletes? Would it be focused only on the anti-LGBT law, or many of the other laws contributing to the nation’s growing and dangerous divide between President Putin’s supporters and detractors?

  4. Dialogue: Sochi has provided an international stage to host a conversation about international human and civil rights. The attention to and often fierce opposition to Russia’s anti-LGBT stances has dominated much of the conversation leading up the the Games, and will no doubt remain a topic through the competition. From journalists covering both the games and the political climate to my barista asking me how I felt about the games going on, discussions large and small are taking place.

  5. Activism: It has been inspiring to witness the LGBT community and our allies speak out and stand up for equality and justice for the global LGBT community. I’ve been grateful for quiet protests that have taken a visual or symbolic form. I’ve laughed along with funny shows of solidarity.  I’ve financially supported groups allocating resources to this cause.  And I support the activists mounting protests on the ground in Russia and hope for their safety.

I’m not thrilled with the backdrop to the Olympic games but now that they are happening in Sochi, I’m not refusing to watch. I’m choosing instead to engage in the global conversation about LGBT rights. The Olympics have created an opportunity to shine a light on injustice and I have hope that it will result in some good.

without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play – Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter

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4 Comments

  1. All of these are great reasons. I haven’t watched because I haven’t had time! First time I’ve missed watching the winter Olympics in a long time.

  2. I’m watching mostly highlights the next day with my three year old, so it’s not quite as exciting as in past years.

  3. I am following a handful of journalists on twitter (you know, people really like hockey!) and we watched a few nights. I do love the speed skating and the skiing.

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