Sochi 2014: Do not mix the games with politics


David Holt

The 22nd Winter Olympic Games will begin on Feb. 7 in Sochi, Russia. The games have been shrouded in a controversy concerning Russia’s anti-gay legislation.

With still three weeks to come, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games have definitely had their share of controversy, from fears of insufficient levels of snow, to two deadly bombing bombings in a neighboring town, and perhaps most provocative, the anti-gay legislation that threatens prosecution of anyone displaying non-traditional sexual relations in the presence of minors.

Many countries have chosen to show their disapproval of these terms by not sending their leaders to the games. President Obama, who will not be attending the games, has chosen to make a statement by sending openly gay athletes Billie Jean King, Caitlin Cahow, and Brian Boitano as members of the U.S. delegation.

Although some countries and social groups are intent on holding political rallies at the games to spread their message to the world, I think President Obama’s move is rather well-played: he has made a statement without making a scene.

Athletes hoping to compete in the upcoming games have dedicated their entire lives for this event: hours upon hours of hard work and dedication to achieve the goal of their dreams. They have sacrificed their livelihoods to get this single shot at glory. While equality around the world certainly is important, the Olympics are not an appropriate place to make a stand.

Openly gay American figure skater Johnny Weir, who is a two time Olympian, will not be attending the games due to health related issues. He does not support the idea of boycotting the games, stating that he would have competed in the games despite the anti-gay controversy.

“I would have competed there because my whole life has been about going to the Olympics. Being gay isn’t something that I chose, being gay is something I was born into,” he said. “But being an Olympic athlete was something that I chose and something I worked hard for and I’ll see it to any necessary end.”

Although boycotting the Olympics will make it clear that we do not agree with their laws (not to mention a waste of over 50 billion dollars), it solves no problems. The LGBT community would still be restricted by the country’s laws. Although Putin has improved Russia’s image by freeing members of the Pussy Riot female protest group and pardoning Arctic 30 demonstrators, he is probably not going to annul his anti-gay law in the aftermath of a boycott.

The most effective way to solve this issue is to support all athletes participating in the games. By standing by our athletes, many of whom are part of the LGBT community, we show them our respect and compassion for their cause. Athletes competing in sports they respect highlights that they are strong enough to hold their values despite tough opposition.