This past weekend, I was listening to “Cross-Country Check-up” (Oh my god how I have missed the CBC!) and the topic was Russia’s new anti-LGBT-propaganda law and its effect on the upcoming Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi.
There seem to be four ‘currents’ from different groups on how this should be handled:
1) The Fry: Boycott the Olympics.
2) The Takei: Move the Olympics to Vancouver
3) The Savage: Stop buying Russian vodka
4) The Unattributed: Call on the IOC to get formal assurances that will protect athletes and spectators through a variety of methods (e.g. direct lobbying, changing the Olympic Charter to explicitly include sexual orientation/identity/expression as something the IOC will not tolerate)
It wasn’t until I heard on caller near the end of the show who suggested the athletes all wear pride colours or all black that got me thinking. Personally, I’m not a big fan of chaotic demonstration or acts that potentially put our athletes at risk. While many THINK Vladamir Putin wouldn’t possibly arrest, jail, and fine hundreds of athletes, we’re talking about a man whose goverment in the Moscow theatre hostage crisis, denied physicians access to information about the gas used on Chechen rebels and hostages alike for antidote treatment. If I was an athlete whose ass was on the line, I wouldn’t want to take that chance.
However, I do LOVE the idea of athletes wearing all black in the Opening and Closing ceremonies and during the Games to compete in protest, though in competition, there would have to be at least one other colour–otherwise hockey is going to get REALLY confusing. All black cannot be taken as a gesture of LGBT propaganda. It’s a colour of protest and of mourning. And I mean, if you can’t wear all black without being arrested in Russia, where CAN you do that?
The Olympics is a massive logistic and financial committment for any host city and country. Most Olympics lose money (I’m not sure if Calgary is the only one to have turned a profit still, or whether Vancouver managed to do it), but the way in which the loss is mitigated is through Games-generated revenue. This means selling sponsorships, media rights, actual spectator tickets, and merchandise.
I’m not an Olympic athlete, but I do know what it’s like to dedicate your life to your sport. To deny these athletes their chance to represent their country against other countres’ best athletes is REALLY unfair. These Games are going to happen, and they’re going to happen in Sochi. No one in any position of capable power is interested in changing that. I’m not even sure Vancouver _wants_ another Olympics (it’s all cozy to say we should just move it there, but who’s going to pay for all that?) The rubles are spent. Now, they have to recoup what they can.
I think the athletes and the Olympic Committees of each country will ultimately make the decision that is right for them as a group (C’mon, ALL BLACK!), but that still leaves those of us who want to do something feeling like extra wheels on a bus that isn’t going anywhere.
So here’s what I’m proposing:
1) Black becomes the colour of this winter’s Games. During the Games, you can wear a black ribbon to symbolize your protest of the discriminatory laws in Russia and to mourn the oppression of their people. If I didn’t think an all-black Olympic rings was copyright infringement, I’d suggest making a pin or a shirt.
2) You don’t watch the Olympics. You get your news of the results from the non-official networks (a good use of alternate news sites like Huffpost, or depending if CTV is the official network in Canada, the CBC; NPR in the US, or one of the non-official networks in the US). This sends a message through the television rating system that the commercials are not hitting an audience. You don’t surf the official TV network/news network sites. That sends a message through reduced traffic.
3) If you had planned to go, you don’t go to Sochi. Empty seats are fewer rubles for the Russian government who is the agency that is footing the bill for this Games. This is one economic sanction that actually affects the government. That also means reduced knock-on effects of commerce in Sochi (empty hotels, empty planes, reduced restaurant patrons) which is where it hurts. I don’t think it will hurt the small businesses as Sochi isn’t going to become a ghost town. It just means they’re not going to get the bump in business that they might have expected.
4) Stop buying sponsor products. You stop watching the official networks’ shows. Send a message to the companies that hold the lion’s share of the recouperation price-tag that you don’t support these Games. While the dip in revenue might not cause them to pull-out of the Games, it may cause them to evaluate their position; and who knows? Maybe they will. The list of Sochi sponsors is here: http://www.olympicsuniverse.com/winter-olympics/sochi-olympics-sponsors-2014.php
Send your support to the athletes via Twitter, Facebook and other social media (or even snail mail!), not with your dollar. They don’t see any of that money anyways.