Winter Olympics Russia 2014, Homophobia, Human Rights Abuse, What Can We Do!

5 Aug

So here we are in 2014, another Olympics to be staged in Russia and more controversy and calls for a boycott.  Thirty three years on from the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the thorny topic of should sport be kept out of politics is back on the agenda.

On the Olympic Games Organisation’s Facebook page they have these words under the Olympic rings symbol “Excellence Friendship Respect, excellence amitié respect.”  This is the organisation that decided to grant Russia and the city of Sochi the Winter Olympic games when the country has an appalling record on human rights.  An incredibly dodgy history of protecting women’s rights and is increasingly moving to the right and actively discriminating against homosexuals.

On June 11th the Russian parliament overwhelmingly voted in a law which “outlaws propaganda for non-traditional sexual relationships” among minors making it illegal to teach children anything about homosexuality.  This was followed on July 3rd with Putin signing a law which banned the adoption of children by same sex parents.

There have been appalling attacks on gay, lesbian and transgenders in the country.  It seems we are now reading about these vile attacks and arrests of protesters on a daily basis.  Even the pride marches are now ending in bloodshed.  These laws that Putin has brought in have just fueled the already vocal vicious and bullying percentage of the population which it seems is a worryingly large percentage.  People either seem to bully or stay quiet for fear of any form of reprisals.

Russia is increasingly reminding me of the early, formative and pre-war days of Nazi Germany.  The Berlin Olympics of 1936 will forever be viewed as the most shameful of Olympics.  The Sochi Winter Olympics certainly could be in the future viewed with the same disgust.

Of course people standing by in silence and doing nothing if not commendable is painfully understandable for anyone living under that regime.  But where does that leave the rest of the world.  We are not in fear of Putin so we must surely make a stand.

Brave little Iceland so far has been the only country to mute the idea of boycotting the Olympics; “Reykjavik mayor says he does not want to share political and cultural ties with Moscow, a capital that disregards the rights of LGBT people.”

So if Iceland can contemplate this, why cannot the UK?  Wasn’t David Cameron the leader who only a few weeks ago was patting himself on the back about granting gay marriage in England and Wales and wanting to bring his vision of sexuality equality to the rest of the world in his Downing Street press conference.  So why not start with Sochi 2014?

I am not naive enough to think Cameron will ever take on Putin.  It seems so far only Iceland is brave enough to take on the mighty bear.  Human rights can be pushed aside when the country is as powerful as Russia I think we are all too aware of that.

So what can be done? This of course comes back to that thorny question, do we keep politics out of sport.  Also why should athletes who have trained and trained for their chance to represent their country in the Olympics suffer because of the IOC’s bad decision to choose Sochi as their host city?

Surely there is some form of middle ground that can protest against Russia’s stance but not spoil people’s dreams.  What if athletes that disagree with the abuses of tcivil liberties that are currently taking place in Russia wear a rainbow flag badge, or some form of pro-gay item be it a wristband or even a flag on the podium.  Just a small gesture of support for the oppressed minority.

One of the most powerful acts of civil protest and disobedience was on 1st December 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to stand on that bus in Montgomery Alabama.  A peaceful and dignified refusal that changed the world and overturned decades of dreadful ingrained racism .

My hope for Sochi is those quiet, dignified and powerful protests will be made and that men and women at the peak of their physical prowess can also show a greatness of humanity and soul.

The age of protest is not dead, perhaps we in the western world have grown a little complacent as we have gained all our rights.  Surely we owe it now to those in lesser enlightened parts of the world who are still fighting to stand beside them.

Let’s turn a whisper into a chant, into a cry into a deafening roar for human rights and equality in Russia, let’s do it for them and do it with dignity and determination!  Just like Tilda Swinton.


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