Thursday, August 8, 2013

Boycott Winter Olympics In Russia?

From ESPN: The only previous time the Olympics were held on Russian soil, the United States boycotted those 1980 Summer Games to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. With six months remaining before the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, some Americans are calling for another Olympic boycott.
Interestingly, these calls are coming from both the left (Tony winner Harvey Fierstein wants to boycott the Olympics due to Russia's new anti-gay laws) and the right (South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham wants a boycott because Russia provided asylum to Edward Snowden, who leaked secrets from the National Security Agency). Regardless of their political views, both sides are wrong. The United States should not boycott the Sochi Olympics.
Yes, the new laws banning "homosexual propaganda" violate human rights. Yes, providing asylum to Snowden is considered by some Americans to be aiding a traitor, although a sizable number of Americans applaud Snowden for revealing just how much our government was secretly spying on us. In both cases, I understand the reasoning behind the proposed boycotts. But boycotts are justified only if they can have a positive effect on the country's policy that we oppose. Olympic boycotts never do.
"Every athlete we've worked with says boycotts hurt the athletes more than anyone else," Hudson Taylor said. "It doesn't change policy -- it only hurts the people who worked their whole lives to win a gold medal."
Taylor is the founder and executive director of Athlete Ally, an organization dedicated to making sports more inclusive of everyone regardless of sexual orientation. The stated mission is to encourage "athlete allies" to combat homophobia and the bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes.
"The intent of an Olympic boycott is understood, but the outcome doesn't create the necessary change," Taylor said. "There are two major objectives. The first is to ensure that LGBT athletes and their fans and allies are protected from persecution at the Winter Olympics. And the second is to some way improve the situation for LGBT Russians after the Games end. A boycott does neither. It only will further galvanize the situation and make it worse.
Personally, I think a boycott is a stupid idea.  It does hurt the athletes and it won't change the laws in Russia.  If anything, it will embolden Russia, through sympathy, to keep the laws, especially short term.
So, I think I am in agreement with Mr. Hudson.

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