Boycotting the Russian Olympics: Who Would be the Real Losers?

by Stephanie.Audet on September 5, 2013 - 3:30pm

            Should we boycott the Russian Olympics after the Russian government has announced its anti-gay propaganda law? This controversial law bans Russian citizens and visitors from influencing 'the practice of' same-sex orientation to minors. Since the law has been passed, Russians have been beaten and imprisoned because of their (suspected) sexual orientation. Now, with the upcoming Winter Olympics being held in Russia; state leaders are scrambling to make a decision on whether or not boycotting the Russian Olympics would be both a reasonable and a fair decision to take. This is also an issue CBC news reporter, Joe Schlesinger attempt to answer in his article: “Don't boycott Russia's Olympics: Joe Schlesinger”. Although his opinion on the matter is made quite clear throughout his article (as well as in his title), Schlesinger also takes into consideration the safety of gay (or susceptibly gay) athletes and tourists and the moral issues that comes with banning gay rights, he argues that boycotting the Olympics would simply be punishing the athletes that have been training for years by either forbidding them to compete, or by taking away their opportunity to compete against the best athletes in the world. He manages to argue a lot of his points effectively by pointing out that this issue has occurred throughout history before, and that, during World War II, audiences were proud to watch Jewish and African-American athletes take home gold medals.

            Essentially, it all comes down to a conflict in values and principles. Do we value public safety more than opportunities for individual growth and success? Do we wish to tolerate Russian laws or do believe it to be our collective responsibility to denounce it? Do we believe that the principle of conservatism outranks to principle for equality? Once we answer those questions, we are able to for our decision on the matter.

In my opinion, it would be unsafe to send gay athletes in tourists to the Olympics as the law now stands. However, if a temporary truce can be agreed upon to stop arrests during the entirety of the Olympics, then we should send our athletes (including the gay ones) to do what they have trained for years to do. If we are lucky, the Olympics will do what they always have done and create a sense of unity that only serves in aiding the situation. I only believe two alternatives would be useful, either the world as a whole cancels the Olympics (which does not seem like a likely scenario) or we send our best athletes to win medals and prove that being gay is not a disadvantage. What do you believe? Let me know!


The comment I have answers some of the expectations that my Humanities teacher is expected to see in my comments. Unfortunately, I can't give you my opinion on what I believe, but maybe some other time?

What is the anti-gay propaganda law supposed to do? (There are other questions mentioned in the post as well that can be used for further research as well.)

I do agree with Joe Schlesinger's opinion, because if anyone is eligible to compete in the Olympics, with official permission from the IOC (International Olympic Committee), then the authorities, including the government, shall have no right to restrict them from going forward.

I disagree on doing a temporary truce because what if the government decides to overrule it while the Olympics is in progress? (is it even realistic to do so?) It should be more of a court settlement between the people responsible for passing the law and activists on gay rights, because then the decision would be considered absolute, regardless of the consequence for fines.

This is a consequentialist approach; we see the negative impact on the Russian Government keeping the law where the Olympics will not be as enjoyable as it is without the law in place. There are some virtue ethics used, additionally, as well as some etiquette and prudence. Finally, we seem to see a balance between normative and descriptive claims.

Thank you for letting me know your point of view. IYou make a good point when you speak of the unreliability of truceas. The anti-gay propagenda law was adopted in Russia in hopes of reducing the exposure of homosexuality in minors (basically, if minors don't see gays they won't become gay). Hope this clarified that point. What do you mean by normative vs. descriptive claims?

Before going any further with this discussion, I think we should first lay out the consequences of boycotting and not boycotting the Sochi 2014 Olympics. By boycotting the Olympics, the World could make an immensely strong political statement and gay rights might make some measureable progress in Russia and other countries. However, this decision might not help at all, and could anger the Russian government. What if they went as far as blaming the boycotting of the games on homosexuals? What of the athletes who have committed their lives to their sport in the pursuit of Olympic gold?
On the other hand, if the Games proceed as planned, athletes, straight and gay, will have the experience of a lifetime. All their hard work will be acknowledged, and for a few days, the world will come together, and that’s something worth fighting for. The opportunity could be used to make a statement as well, though there is considerable risk to whoever makes this statement.
Of course, the anti-gay laws in place should also be addressed. I agree that a truce isn’t enough. Politicians from other powerful countries should negotiate the neutrality of the athlete’s village so that a more universal set of laws are in place during the Games. Security should be assured by an international unit. At least this way, homosexual athletes could be safe.
The bottom line is that a statement needs to be made, but it would be a terrible loss to sacrifice the Olympic Games. I suggest boycotting other amenities. Vodka, clothing, foods, sports products... A statement would still be made, but this way, athletes won’t suffer because of it.

I really agree with the fact that wwe should boycott other Russian amenities. It would send a message to the Russian government while still allowing athletes and audience members of enjoying their Olympics. Afterall, are the Olympics really meant to be used as bargaining chip? Or are they meant to unite us in a way nothing else really can?