By: Lindy Zeng
All across the nation, Americans have gathered to protest Russia’s slew of recent anti-gay laws. One allows foreigners “propagandizing” homosexuality to be arrested and detained, while another passed in July precludes any person living in a country where same-sex marriage is legal from adopting Russian children. The proposed solution protest the legislation? Boycott the Winter Olympic Games that will take place in February 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
While these “homosexual propaganda” laws oppose fundamental human rights, boycotting the Russian Olympics is not the right method for “making a point.” Russia is deeply divided over the issue of gay-rights, and surveys have shown that 85 percent of the population oppose same-sex marriage. The laws were passed unanimously by the Russian government. Blatantly calling for a boycott will not improve the lives of homosexuals in Russia, a country run by conservatives with an anti-Western outlook. Boycotting without understanding the delicate cultural history in Russia will not improve its human rights issues and may even lead to stricter enforcement of its laws.
According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter, the IOC has the duty “to act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement.” Until the IOC announces a firm decision regarding the Sochi Olympics, it should be the athletes’ decision to attend the Games.
Furthermore, the call for boycott is highly unfair for the participating Olympic athletes. The Olympics is a celebration of the feats of human strength, agility, and skill. It is unfair to call for decisions that may end once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and dreams. Playing and performing at the Olympics is also an opportunity for the US and other countries to showcase the feats of its homosexual athletes. This should make a point to the almost 50 percent of Russians, who, according to a survey by Levada Center, believe that homosexuals should not have the same rights as heterosexuals. “One of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which would, I think, go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there,” said President Obama, who rejected calls for the boycott.
Sochi 2014 is not the first Olympics to face worldwide criticism and calls for boycott. It has happened before, and it will happen again. Ultimately, it is up to the discretion and opinions of the individual athletes to make the decision. Two-time Olympian and openly gay figure skater Johnny Weir has stated that he will attend the Sochi 2014 Games. “If it takes me getting arrested for people to pay attention, and for people to lobby against this law, then I’m willing to take it.” Weir’s spirit is the message Americans should support as the athletes head to Russia to fight for not only Olympic medals, but also human rights.