Off Topic: Sorrow of Sochi

We are now only a few weeks from the opening of the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Normally, I’d be abuzz with excitement. I’ve talked before about how much I love the Olympics. The Olympics are about pushing humanity to its fullest potential — physically, yes, but also spiritually.

The Olympic symbolThe Olympics are a time when all peoples of the world can gather together in fellowship. The borders between us cease to matter. In the Olympics, I see the seed of hope for a better future for the human race, a unified future like we see in fictions such as Star Trek or my own World Spectrum novels — the superior realities from which this blog draws its title.

But this time, there’s a damper on the festivities. By now, we’re all familiar with Russia’s draconian new laws against homosexuality and the controversy this has placed on the Sochi games. Some people feel the games should be boycotted over this, while others argue we should press ahead.

I feel incredibly torn.

On the one hand, few things offend me more than ignorant intolerance: racism, sexism, and homophobia.

Sometimes I think it’s strange that I get so uppity about gay rights. Despite my fondness for Glee and complete lack of traditional masculine traits, I’m not gay, and nor are any of my closest friends or family (as far as I know). I have no horse in this race. Oppression of gay people has no significant impact on my life.

But then again, shouldn’t injustice offend us? Doesn’t persecuting people for who they are or who they love diminish humanity as a whole at some level?

Homophobia just seems so wrong-headed to me.

A gay pride flagI’ll be honest: In public venues like this blog, I try to put on a friendly demeanor, but the truth is I’m a nasty bastard. I hold most people in contempt, and I have little use for concepts like kindness or compassion. I’m a bitter husk of a person with an icy void where my soul is supposed to be.

But despite this — or perhaps because of it — even I recognize that there isn’t enough love in this world. I can’t for the life of me comprehend why anyone would want to stand in its way.

And honestly, who the Hell cares what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own homes? What difference does it make?

But then again, I’ve always felt that the Olympics are about bringing people together. Even people you disagree with. Even your enemies. Even those you despise.

And it’s not like this the first time the Olympics have been held in a nation with a spotty human rights record. China’s abuses are well-known. I used to live in the largest community of Tibetans outside of Tibet or Nepal; I remember being stopped outside the local cafe by Free Tibet activists who told me of the dozens of monks who had self-immolated in that year alone to protest the oppression of their people (I signed their petition). I’m quite familiar with the horrors perpetrated by the Chinese government.

Beijing Olympic opening ceremonyBut yet I was still eager to support the Beijing Olympics. I did so because I believe the Olympics are about encouraging the best aspects of us rather than punishing our mistakes. I did so because I believe the sense of global community provided by the Olympics is too valuable for us to allow the crimes of one nation to stand in its way. I did so because I know that not everyone in China is as monstrous as their government.

Can not the same logic apply here? I’m sure many people in Russia are not homophobic thugs. Is it right to condemn the entire nation based on its ugliest components? Is it fair to break the Olympic fellowship over the crimes of a few? It seems to me that, in a way, that is bowing your head and admitting that hate is stronger than love.

Perhaps the Olympics might even help to bring some enlightenment to Russia. The government can try to crack down all it wants, but the views of the world will trickle in when so many nations gather together. Perhaps it might open some people’s eyes to the idea that gay people are not a bogeyman to be feared.

Still, this all seems so wrong to me, in a way even China’s abuses don’t. Maybe that’s wrong. It seems cavalier to rate various forms of oppression against each other, but again, nasty bastard, so while I’m being honest, I do find oppression based on someone’s sexual orientation to be slightly more distasteful than political oppression. You can choose not to oppose a tyrannical government. It’s a terrible choice that no one should ever have to make, but it’s an option all the same. No one can choose not to be gay.

It’s more complicated this time, too, because there was a clear alternative. The IOC could have chosen to move the games to Vancouver. They still have all the necessary facilities leftover from last time. They have the resources and the manpower. If memory serves, Vancouver actively volunteered for the job. God knows us Canadians are never going to turn down the opportunity for a big winter sports party.

A photo of Vancouver during the 2010 OlympicsThis would have sent a clear message that Russia’s anti-gay crackdown is unacceptable, while still preserving the Olympic fellowship in a way a boycott could not.

This makes me feel further distressed because it seems to show the Olympic Committee doesn’t care about Russia’s oppressive new law. They had a way to disassociate themselves from these cruel practices, and they ignored it. That makes the Sochi games feel all the more tainted to me.

So I just don’t know how to feel. Should I embrace these games as I have all others, or choose not to support them? Either feels like a betrayal of the Olympic principles and a concession of defeat to the tides of ignorance and hate. Supporting the games is ignoring all the Russian government has done, but spurning them is allowing intolerance to steal the games from us.

Granted, I realize it doesn’t matter much in the greater scheme of things. It’s not like the IOC is sitting there thinking, “Damn, we lost the faith of some anonymous Canadian kid with a blog! We gotta straighten up and fly right!”

But it’s important to me personally.

If you’re looking for me to come to some conclusion or offer a clear point, I’m afraid you’re destined for disappointment. I don’t have any answers. I’m just… sad, and confused.

5 thoughts on “Off Topic: Sorrow of Sochi

  1. Great post. However, I would suggest you rethink your line, ” Iā€™m not gay, and nor are any of my closest friends or family”. Not everyone is Out, nor does everyone wears their sexuality on their sleeve.

  2. From what I understand, the Olympic Committee has a well-documented history of corruption so no surprises from their end.

    As for Russian laws and the Olympics…well, there is sort of a precedent from the 1932 Summer Olympics…

    Oh, I know you’re an unkind, nasty bastard who holds people in contempt (even me!) but you know what? I like you anyway, so you will just have to deal with it šŸ˜€

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