For the first time since 1994, I will not be watching the Winter Olympics.
For most people, that’s not such a big deal. The American network affiliate, NBC, is lame and airs the footage late at night, and most people are busy with school/work/stuff. NBD, right? For most people, yes. I am, as my mother loves to remind me, not like most people. In 1994, I was 6 years old, and Oksana Baiul’s performance of “Swan Lake” moved me to tears and inspired in me a lifelong love of two things: figure skating and Tchaikovsky.
I swore to one day be just like Oksana, and although my dream of figure skating was crushed by a 16-hand horse (yes, literally), I have never, ever, missed watching one figure skating competition since. I am certain that I drive my roommates to near madness with my constant DVRing of competitions and exclamations like, “Oh he did not just two-foot that double axel!” At the gay nightclub near my home, a couple oh-so-fabulous boys and I practice double loops on the dance floor (they’ve dubbed themselves my ‘figure-skating fairies.’)
And so it damn near breaks my heart to miss the Olympic games, but, as it turns out, there is one thing closer to my heart than skating, and that is human rights. Now, I realize that some people will say, “refusing to watch an American broadcasting network won’t affect Russia one way or the other.” And they’re right. It won’t. However, it was the decision of the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to give Russia the opportunity to host this year’s Games, and if I, and others who feel as I do, do not watch, they will notice and perhaps they will not make the same mistake in the future. Forgive me, dear Collectors, if I rant; this is a topic that I cannot and will not stay quiet about, no matter who it places me at odds with.
To begin with, the Sochi Olympics have a price tag of $51 billion, or 31.2 billion pounds, making them more expensive than every other Winter Olympics combined, and even more expensive than Beijing’s 2008 Olympics. The games were originally estimated at $12 billion, so what the fuck happened? The Russian government thought it was a fan-fucking-tastic idea to build a Winter Olympics sports venue in a sub-tropic city by the Black Sea, making it necessary to provide enormous quantities of artificial snow. This is the same country in which fucking Siberia is located. This $51 billion price tag comes with an unhealthy dose of corruption too; there have reports that President Putin handed out engineering contracts to close friends, and that millions of dollars were lost to corrupt officials. The Russian economy isn’t exactly strong, and economists have predicted a possible recession for the country. According to the Sochi Project, on just the other side of the Caucasus mountains is Russia’s poorest region, with unemployment as high as 50% in some places.
How can I support a country so wasteful with its financial and natural resources, when they have citizens in desperate need of financial support?
Yesterday, CNN reported that thousands of stray dogs are being rounded up in the Olympic city and poisoned. The poisoning, according to Sochi residents, is a slow death, and agonizing for the animals.
How can I support this?
Unless you’ve been living in a hobbit hole in Mordor, you’ve heard about the Russian LGBT anti-gay laws. For months, I’ve followed the news, signed petitions, and financially supported the Russian Freedom Fund. After all these months, and the LGBT is still being target, oppressed, and imprisoned in Russia.
The Russian legislation essentially states that it is illegal to promote “gay propaganda” to children. in plain speak: it is illegal to provide information to LGBT minors about their community or to hold gay pride rallies. It is also illegal for same-sex couples to adopt children. Violators of the law are fined, and potentially imprisoned. These anti-gay laws have sparked countrywide homophobia and discrimination over the past few months, and the world news has been inundated with tales (and in several cases, videos) of psychological and physical abuse of LGBT people.
I have read of brutalities so awful that my hands shake as I type this sentence.
How can I support a county that has forgotten what humanity means?
President Putin is happy to point out that being gay is not illegal in Russia, and that gay and lesbian athletes from abroad should not fear discrimination. Norway is sending its health minister, an openly gay man, as a member of its delegation. The United States is sending openly gay athletes. Many members of the LGBT community around the world hope to use Sochi as a platform to speak out against discrimination and homophobia.
This does not mean, however, that I do not support the athletes. I wholeheartedly support and wish luck to all Olympic teams, and I hope that those in Sochi will use the opportunity to speak out against injustice. I applaud those who have already done so, such as the Canadian PSA that was released earlier today.
There are many in the LGBT community in America who recognize this, and have come up with a way to both watch the Olympics and support human rights. Uprising of Love is promoting Pride Houses, venues where we can watch the Games and donate to the cause for LGBT Russians. Most of us cannot travel to Sochi and protest for change, but that does not mean we cannot support. If there is such a Pride House in your city, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to help the cause. If I lived closer to one of these venues, I would go with an open wallet to support. Watch this video for more info.
I will be not be watching the Olympics this year because I believe that Russia and IOC (International Olympic Committee) have forgotten some of the Fundamental Principles of Olympism, as laid down in the Olympic Charter.
Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
In what way is a government who values the extravagance of a “new Russia” over social responsibility an example of ethical principles?
The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.
Considering that Sochi was the capital of the Circassian people–a group that suffered genocide at the hands of Russia in the mid-nineteenth century–the location itself lacks preservation of human dignity. The current terrorist threats do nothing to promote a peaceful society either.
Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.
Many have brought up this Olympic principle in response to Russia’s homophobic legislation, and even if the other reasons were not present, I would abstain from watching the Olympics for this reason alone. President Putin has stated that visiting Olympians need not fear discrimination, and yet allows his own countrymen to live in fear of discrimination and violence everyday.
Yes, an opportunity is present at Sochi to address serious political issues. However, what happens when the Olympics are over? Will we forget about the LGBT community that will remain–persecuted and oppressed–in Russia?
I cannot, in good conscience, support a country that is so grossly disrespectful of what it means to be human. I am a supporter of love and I don’t believe that it must be substantiated by orientation.
To the Olympians: Best of luck to you in these Games, and remember that your voice can be heard when others’ cannot.
P.S. Channel 4 wishes everyone in Sochi good luck.