A Human Rights Protest Strategy for Sochi 2014


Speak Up and Speak Out at Sochi!

We have all heard the comments about Russia’s new law banning non-traditional sexual relations which will be extended to, and include all athletes attending the 2014 Games in Sochi. This will be applied to anyone attending, be it athlete, spectator, vendor, or the man in the moon.

I have to admit that when I first heard about Russia’s return to the dark ages, as a heterosexual, I was quite “ticked off” because it goes against my central beliefs from a human rights perspective. As far as I’m concerned it is discrimination and harassment based solely on a person’s sexual orientation. Nothing more and it is totally wrong! It’s repressive and oppressive!

The comments about attending the Olympic Games in Sochi, have included calls for a boycott from such notables as British actors Everett Rupert and Stephen Fry. But from what I have read, most athletes including gay athletes wish to go to compete in Sochi, and world leaders, although incensed, have fallen short of calling for a boycott.

Supposedly, the International Olympic Committee has received assurances that the new law will not affect anyone either attending or participating in the Games. As far as I am concerned, the IOC is taking a “we can’t do anything” attitude.

I am reminded of the1936 Olympic Games, when threatened with a boycott, Hitler agreed to let black and Jewish athletes from other countries compete. He even temporarily removed anti-semitic signs and slogans. It was one of the greatest “con jobs” of the twentieth century.

A threatened boycott did nothing to change Nazi Germany’s permanent racist policies. The 1980 U.S. boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games similarly accomplished nothing.

I am reminded of the quotation by Saul Alinsky, a community organizer of the 1960’s:

“The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.”

I have to agree with those wishing to go on to Sochi. I believe that those who have spent years training should not be denied the opportunity to compete because of Russia’s narrow-minded discriminatory laws.

The time has come for countries such as Canada, the U.S., Great Britain and Canada, their Olympic organizing committees, and their athletes to stand up, speak up, and speak out about Russia’s oppressive and repressive laws.

There are many things that the Olympic teams and athletes from the participating countries can do to protest, and express their abhorrence for Russian legislation concerning a person’s sexual orientation, while still participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, but on their own terms, incorporating their beliefs and values.

Wearing pins stating opposition to same-sex discrimination, and publishing material to support the rights of people to practice their way of life are some of the ways in which participating countries and their athletes can protest. The list goes on and on.

What I am proposing is the athletes and the countries that are opposed to Russia’s policies and laws participate in the opening ceremonies by entering as teams while holding hands. Men and women holding hands, men and men holding hands, and women and women holding hands, will make a statement that relationships with the other sex, and relationships with the same sex should be treated and are treated equally by their own countries.

The opening ceremonies are the best time to make such a statement. It is when the most people world-wide watch the Olympics; be it in person or on television. It is the only time when such as a protest can be made except during an Olympic competition. Making a political statement is not permitted during Olympic award ceremonies, and making a protest during a competition may result in disqualification.

I doubt if all members of a country’s Olympic team would be arrested and prosecuted under Russian law for holding hands. Imagine the absurdity if this happens. Better yet, imagine how Russia would look in the eyes of the world.

So what do you say to this idea? It’s probably the best of both worlds – participating in the Olympics while giving the host nation and the IOC a subconscious, what many call, an Italian salute.

It’s time to stand up, speak up, and speak out against those countries that practice oppression especially when toothless international organizations sit idly by and allow discrimination to continue, and not protecting the human rights of individuals.


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