Thursday, August 15, 2013

Time to show some courage...

Earlier this month, I wrote about the recent anti-gay propaganda laws in Russia and how it might affect the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, particularly the safety of LGBT athletes and their supporters, as well as those individuals whose work it is to cover the games.

At the time, I said that I didn't really think a boycott of the Games would do any good; in fact, more visibility could come from those athletes like U.S. figure skater Johnny Weir and New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup visibly competing and speaking out. And the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had said that it previously secured assurances from "the highest level" of Russian government that LGBT athletes and vistors would be able to attend the Sochi games unmolested.

The other day, the IOC proved that its mind is only on its wallet, not basic human rights. A recent report announced the IOC will equate any displays of LGBT rights advocacy or solidarity in Sochi with a "demonstration of political, religious or racial propaganda," which is prohibited by Rule 50 if the organization's charter. Those found in violation of Rule 50 can be subject to "disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned," without any sort of appeal.

Meaning, quite simply, that LGBT athletes should stay in the closet, stay quiet, and not be allowed to be who they are during the Olympics. LGBT athletes will not be able to hug their spouses, partners, or friends, because under Russia's laws—which the IOC is essentially supporting—that would be equated with "propaganda" prohibited by this legislation. It is fine, of course, for heterosexual athletes to hug or kiss their spouses or partners or significant others.

Again, I don't think a boycott of the Olympic Games is the answer. But the IOC showing some courage in refusing to be bullied by Putin and discriminatory, dangerous legislation is the answer. Although the IOC has a long history of sacrificing human rights in the face of the highest bidder, as demonstrated by the IOC's reaction to human rights advocates protesting the 1936 Games held in Berlin as "based on lies," because Hitler agreed to take down anti-Jewish signs for the two weeks when the Games were held.

Clearly, I'm not equating the two just yet, but without the IOC's willingness to protect each and every athlete's right to be treated equally during every Olympic Games, it is continuing to prove itself as antiquated, bloated, and incapable of administering an event supposedly dedicated to finding the best in all of us.

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