The 2014 Winter Olympics have officially begun. Though the Games have commenced, not everyone is happy about it. In fact, several people are very UN-happy about it. Boycotting Sochi2014 has been the topic of conversation amongst several Western countries, the USA included. I suppose, it’s a little too late to consider an athletic boycott…seeing as how our athletes are already there competing (and winning), however, President Obama and Vice President Biden were not in attendance at the Opening Ceremonies, nor will they attend any events this Winter Games. Although the President and Vice President formally stated they had timing conflicts, the world knows they are avoiding the games in protest of Russian President Putin and his policies.
For more than a century, some form of boycotting has been present in nearly every Olympic Games, whether it be spurred by geopolitical disagreements, or human rights abuses. Boycotting is not anything new, but is boycotting the Olympics necessary?
The U.S. is sending a strong message by sending openly gay athletes as a part of the delegation (in response to Russia’s anti-gay legislation). We are making it very clear that we don’t abide by any form of discrimination, sexual orientation included. And despite, U.S. efforts to ruffle Russian feathers, its clear that Putin is committed to showcasing Russia and proving its modernity… The intent behind the Sochi Winter Games has always been to boost the prestige and power of Putin’s regime. He doesn’t seem to mind the absence of key world leaders, but would an absence of athletes have made a louder statement?
Assuming there was still time to put an athletic boycott into motion, would it be just to these athletes who often only get one opportunity to perform? They work their entire lives to represent their country at the Olympics, is it fair to use them as political pawns?
There seem to be issues at every level of the Games this year: social justice issues, terrorist threats, alleged mob activity, gay and transgender rights, and even PETA has something to say about Sochi. But this is not the spirit of the Games. The Olympics unite us. The Games enable us to set aside our differences and focus on the things that connect us. That is the spirit of the Olympics.
Amongst all of the problems we seem to have with Putin, the Games and anti-Western policies, is the only solution really to boycott the games? In 2007, when Sochi was named host, were questions not raised? Putin had not implemented some of his more oppressive policies (such as banning “homosexual propaganda”), but by no means was Russia a pillar of democracy.
The United States and other Western nations may be taking a stand, but are we making a difference? Will protests and boycotts change Putin policies? This is unlikely. The focus has been and should always be on the athletes. Thus, would boycotting the Olympics violate its very essence?
Gureiv, Sergei. (2014, January 6). There are More Effective Ways. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/02/06/when-should-countries-boycott-the-olympics/there-are-more-effective-ways-to-bring-about-change-in-russia
Room for Debate. (2014, February 6). When Should Countries Boycott the Olympics? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/02/06/when-should-countries-boycott-the-olympics