Russia's Anti-Gay Policy will make the Sochi Olympics Intolerable for Many Athletes



I always looked forward to the Olympics when I was growing up. It was a time for me to realize how high some humans could jump, how fast they could run and how much weight they could lift. Two of my favorite Olympic athletes were Carl Lewis and Nadia Comaneci. I haven't been as impressed with the NBA pro players participating but they had to level the playing field for our college students. I also used to like Olympic boxing. Teofilo Stevenson was memorable to me because he was Cuban and was unbeatable over a number of games. I liked Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya also. They represented the USA well and went on to respectable pro careers.

The U.S.S.R. decided to boycott the 1984 Olympics held in Los Angeles as retaliation for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics. They were the largest of almost 13 countries that decided to not participate in that summer's games. The other countries included Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary and Cuba. I would surmise that the communist bloc had to maintain a strong front for the U.S. One of the reasons announced for the boycott, listed on Wikipedia, follows:

Announcing its intentions on May 8, 1984, the Soviet Union cited security concerns and stated that "chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria [were] being whipped up in the United States.

I don't think the United States citizens expressed anti-Soviet feelings leading up to the boycott. I was still excited to see the best athletes perform on the world stage. Mary Lou Retton became a household name after scoring a perfect 10 during one of her performances. Evelyn Ashford turned in memorable performances. Carl Lewis shined during his performances in the games. The Russians might have been scared of the competition that they would have faced.

The Sochi Olympics will be held in Russia from February 7th until February 23rd, 2013. One of the controversies leading up to the games involves the strident anti-gay stance adopted by the Russian government:

A bill that stigmatizes Russia's gay community and bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to children was overwhelmingly approved by the lower house of parliament Tuesday.
More than two dozen protesters were attacked by anti-gay activists and then detained by police, hours before the State Duma approved the Kremlin-backed legislation in a 436-0 vote.
The bill banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" still needs to be passed by the appointed upper house and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, but neither step is in doubt.

Any athletes that appear to be gay or even speak favorably of their gay friends can be arrested and charged. Many gay individuals have been attacked and are targets of vicious hate crimes. An actor in Russia recently said that gay people should be placed in ovens and burned. I totally disagree with the policy and I think it might warrant the United States to look into how to safely protect its gay Olympic athletes.  Working to attain the elite level of athletic prowess to become an Olympian is hard enough.  Having to worry about being locked up because of one's sexuality is just wrong.

It seems that President Obama has already indicated that he won't be attending the Olympics.  Michelle Obama attended the London Olympics and I wonder if she will go.  Another excerpt from Wikipedia illustrates the hate that currently exists for Russian citizens who are gay:

Public opinion in Russia tends to be among the most hostile toward homosexuality in the world—outside predominantly Muslim countries and some parts of Asia—and the level of intolerance has been rising.[15] A 2013 survey found that 74% of Russians said homosexuality should not be accepted by society (up from 60% in 2002), compared to 16% who said that homosexuality should be accepted by society.[16] In a 2007 survey, 68% of Russians said homosexuality is always wrong (54%) or almost always wrong (14%).[17] In a 2005 poll, 44% of Russians were in favor of making homosexual acts between consenting adults a criminal act;[18] at the same time, 43% of Russians supported a legal ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.[18] In 2013, 16% of Russians surveyed said that gay people should be isolated from society, 22% said they should be forced to undergo treatment, and 5% said homosexuals should be "liquidated".[19]

I feel that more pressure should be exerted on the Russian government to repeal these restrictive laws.  I am not gay but I understand the trials and tribulations of discrimination.  I feel that the U.S. should look into the possibility of boycotting these games.  I know it would shortchange the athletes who worked all of their lives for the chance to compete against the best athletes in the world.  I just feel that it will be a dangerous situation for many athletes who will not be able to express themselves freely.

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