February 10, 2014
Who Does Boycotting The Olympics Really Hurt
Recently a relative posted on her Facebook page that she would be “boycotting” the Olympics. No, she wasn’t actually heading to Sochi, but she noted that this would be the first time she wouldn’t even watch the games on TV. She said she had to do so because of Russia’s stance on gay rights.
There is also a “Boycott 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia” page on Facebook, and this issue has been hotly debated – with the New York Times offering a serious look at this issue in its editorial section.
It is absolutely true that Russia has what could be called a despicable history when it comes to gay rights, but personally this reporter feels Russia is being singled out to some degree. While there were some calls for boycotts of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, there wasn’t the same level of volume. China has its own gay rights issues of course, but that nation also has serious HUMAN RIGHTS issues as well.
With no disrespect to the LGBT community, shouldn’t human rights be the overreaching concern in this?
Moreover, where is the debate about the upcoming 2022 Football (Soccer) World Cup, which will be held in Qatar? Homosexually in that nation is in essence a capital offense, yet it seems to hardly have gotten the scrutiny that Russia has gotten for the past seven years. Perhaps there will be calls for a boycott of Qatar as well, but personally I doubt it will resonate as loud.
The Middle East often gets a past for not only its LGBT rights violations but human rights as well. The media at times doesn’t want to offend people of another culture so a thin line is walked. Russia however is fair game to criticize as it is a western nation of sorts. It is enough like the west for us not to worry about being “insensitive” to their culture, but different enough that we really don’t understand said culture.
Russia, due largely to its borderline autocratic ruler Vladimir Putin, is easy to paint as an evil nation – it was after all (gasp) once part of the Soviet Union.
And this is where we circle back to the issue of what a boycott means. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued what was really a meaningless boycott of the Summer Olympic Games in Moscow because the “Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.” At least that’s how we saw it in the West. According to the Soviets, they entered the country to support an uprising against their allies’ government.
This occurred during the Iran Hostage Crisis when the United States had its own international problems, so Carter took the strange path of condemning the invasion and boycotting the Olympics. Boy that showed the Soviets. They remained in Afghanistan for about a decade and it became “their Vietnam War,” and actually in a few ways resulted in some of our modern problems – the CIA supplied weapons and training to the Mujahedeen, which later helped the Taliban rise to power and practically gave al Qaeda a base of operations.
What the boycott really did was punish the athletes – the American athletes. The Olympics only comes around every four years and many trained their whole lives only to not get to go and compete. It didn’t really hurt the Soviet Union.
The Soviets responded of course by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and that actually paid off for America. Without the Eastern Bloc nations, which except for Romania, stood by the Soviets the Americans dominated the games and won a record number of medals.
As for boycotting these games, NBC has already paid for the TV rights, so Russia won’t be punished. NBC might be concerned that it could lose some viewers, but the ads are already sold. So who is really being “punished” by boycotting the games?
Those who enjoy the spectacle of the games and good competition – like my relative. The games aren’t supposed to be about politics. If athletes from Israel and Iran can enter the stadium without killing one another than clearly politics can be put aside.
And if you want to hurt Russia for its policies, don’t visit, boycott its products, but don’t think your boycott of watching TV will do a thing.
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