How to Protest the Russian Olympics

I’ve seen lots of petitions circulating demanding that the 2014 Winter Olympics be pulled from Russia because of their barbaric anti-gay laws or that we boycott them and not let our athletes compete to protest those laws. Neither of those is going to happen, folks. The Olympics are six months away, they can’t be moved at this point. And our athletes should not be denied the right to compete, especially when it won’t actually change anything.

But here’s what I would really love to see. At the opening ceremonies, both the American athletes and those from a lot of other countries as well should pull out little rainbow flags or signs with the equal sign on them, like the ones so ubiquitous on Facebook a few weeks ago. One athlete coming out and taking a stand for equality can be dismissed and that person can be arrested. But what are they going to do, arrest half the athletes during the opening ceremonies for their “propaganda” with the entire world watching? Not a chance in hell. It will embarrass the Russian government and be a powerful statement against bigotry.

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  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    In protest, most of Canada’s team is planning to place just off the podium.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000263140906 Donovan

    I would love to see that, Ed. I don’t think it will happen, but it should. Olympic athletes are not just athletes. They are diplomats and political figures. They represent what is supposed to be the best a nation can place into the Olympic arena. I hope that not only do American, Canadian, French, English, South African, and Chilean athletes flaunt this law, I hope the Russian athletes do to, and show the world Russia is better than their bigoted asshats want it to be.

  • dingojack

    I believe that the Olympic Committee can toss an athlete out of the games (even ban them from competing) for ‘political activity”.

    Of course that would never happen.

    Dingo

    ——–

    In London an Australian boxer got a stern talking to and was forced to change his t-shirt, because it carried an Aboriginal Flag on it. The irony of that is that it’s an officially recognised Australian flag (not to mention the whole Cathy Freeman thing at Sydney).

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    I recently watched the ESPN film about Katerina Witt. It was titled “Diplomat”. Witt was a gifted figure skater but she was not a diplomat, politician is much more the title she deserves. She was one brazillion percent pro-socialism–until her state supported “competitive phase” was about to end; she then became a capitalist.

    The notion that the Olympics are either apolitical or amateur is quaint, it’s demonstrable falsity notwithstanding.

    A true test of the Olympians support of teh GAY would be for them to post their best times, fastest running and swimming, highest pole vault and high jump, longest long jump, most error free hurdles, most accurate shooting and then, if there is a gay athlete competing in the event, withdraw and defer to that athlete. The scores would be there for all to see along with the the sight of Putin and his new, improved politburo doing anything from a slow burn to a towering conflagration of assholery.

  • zenlike

    Yeah, one problem with this. Even if they are not arrested by the Russians (fearing bad PR), the athletes who do this can get thrown out of the Olympics by making political statements like this, and it already happened in the past. The IOC is not averse of doing the dirty work for the the autocratic regimes. Granted, if every athlete of -say- the USA would do this, they would would have a hard time actually following through with this, but in this case this would cause a precedent for future events. Would be interesting to see what they finally would do.

  • dingojack

    MO – Just like Hitler’s refusal to shake hands with Jesse Owens stopped that whole second world war thing.

    Oh wait now….

    ;| Dingo

  • Sili

    It was FDR refused to shake hands with Owens.

    The IOC usually throws a hissyfit if anyone tries to make the Games political – in a way they don’t agree with, of course.

  • Scr… Archivist

    Do winter games have judges? If so, I would not be surprised if the Russian judges intentionally down-vote known gay athletes. This would accomplish two things. It would show that gays aren’t as good as straights, and it would deny a podium to any medalists who wish to protest.

  • Michael Heath

    Great idea Ed. If your suggestion got any momentum, I wonder how officials would react prior to the start of ceremonies? Search and confiscate? So, a ‘Plan B’ should also be in order. some sort of salute or gesture that is understood.

  • Artor

    It’s shameful that showing support for equality and decency is considered a hot-button political issue. I expect the Russians to throw a hissy fit, but if the IOC censures any players for showing solidarity, I will be boycotting the Olympics indefinitely.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    A true test of the Olympians support of teh GAY would be for them to post their best times, fastest running and swimming, highest pole vault and high jump, longest long jump, most error free hurdles, most accurate shooting and then, if there is a gay athlete competing in the event, withdraw and defer to that athlete.

    This is a winter Olympics, so there will be no pole vault, long jump, etc. How about if all the non-gay male figure skaters withdraw instead?

  • flyingsquidwithgoggles

    It seems like both Hitler and FDR didn’t shake hands with Owens…

    “When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus,” Owens said. “I had to go to the back door. I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.”

  • Charles Knutson

    And it has to be a mass, preferably international, protest. If it’s just a handful of athletes, the IOC could suspend them like they did in 1968. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Olympics_Black_Power_salute

  • Johnny Oizys

    Maybe they could just accidently line up so the national colors of their outfits made a rainbow. Oops.

  • http://www.gregory-gadow.net Gregory in Seattle

    At the opening ceremonies, both the American athletes and those from a lot of other countries as well should pull out little rainbow flags or signs with the equal sign on them, like the ones so ubiquitous on Facebook a few weeks ago.

    The problem is, the IOC has a VERY strict policy against using the Olympics as a platform for any kind of political or social statement. Athletes have been expelled from the games and had their medals stripped for this sort of thing.

  • https://www.facebook.com/michael.zalar Michael Zalar

    I had just posted elsewhere last night that I thought all the atheletes, at their discretion, wear rainbow armbands. No need to explain why or say anything about it in particular. Just a simple visual statement.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    @11:

    My bad. Sports change, not the issue. Fastest GS, longest ski jump, best boardwork on teh shred course, hottest (but still, how the fuck ever they work it, “chaste”), best shooting in the Xcountry biathlon, etc.,.

    “How about if all the non-gay male figure skaters withdraw instead?”

    And just give it to the Iranians*?

    Per Machmoodle Ahmbein’bad. there are NO gays in Iran.

  • matty1

    @6, 7, 12 The story I was told was that the day before Hitler had an argument with an IOC official after he shook hands with only German winners even when giving medals to other nations. As a result the day of Owens victory he refused to join the medal presentation and left the stadium. So he didn’t shake hands with Owens or anyone else and technically we’ll never know if he would have done if present, though of course his actions the day before and his whole policy suggest not.

  • Randydeluxe

    I’d much prefer to see all of the progressive countries in the world send their athletes to an alternate winter olympics. Ask the Vancouver committee to just re-organize what they pulled off 3.5 years ago. Raise the seed money privately. They have plenty of infrastructure in BC, and really, the crunch-time work of making the winter olympics come together all happens in the last 90 days.

    It doesn’t have to be huge in scope. Just large enough to deal with about half of the countries that usually go. And it could be timed to start and run on the exact same dates as the one in Sochi.

    It’s the winter olympics! If just the U.S., Canadian, UK, Japanese, French, and Norwegian countries all went to Vancouver, it would be the more legitimate competition.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I had just posted elsewhere last night that I thought all the atheletes, at their discretion, wear rainbow armbands.

    Or dyed hair.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Aren’t athletes people who don’t believe in letes?

  • F [is for failure to emerge]

    @ Modusoperandi:

    They specifically don’t believe in Leto. It’s a weirdly narrow edge-case of atheism.

    Rainbow armbands, dyed hair, and maybe banging some really fabulous shoes on tables and a well-placed glitter bombing. Attack with symbolic traditions, tropes, and stereotyped action.

  • http://polrant@blogspot.com democommie

    Modusoperandi:

    it’s “thletes” they don’t believe in, bub. Let’s not TRY to confuse the issye!

    “It’s the winter olympics! If just the U.S., Canadian, UK, Japanese, French, and Norwegian countries all went to Vancouver, it would be the more legitimate competition.”

    I’m pretty sure that the Czechs, Finns, Austrians, Germans would be upset about that. The teams from Bermuda and the Grand Duchy of Fenwick, less so.

  • http://drx.typepad.com Dr X

    @democommie:

    Grand Duchy of Fenwick,

    They always lose on purpose. I don’t know why they’re ever invited.

  • meg

    I had a similar idea, but think the closing ceremony might be easier than the opening.

    I’m reminded of the closing ceremony for the Sydney games, where Midnight Oil, an Aussie band with a political bent, made a strong statement. They wore two t-shirts, the top being fairly innocent. Once they were about to run on stage, they removed them, to show them all in shirts with the word ‘Sorry’ on them, a reference to the long sought after apology for the Stolen Generation. It’s not impossible to make a political statement at the Olympics – it just has to be well thought out and planned.

  • Woof

    I’m thinking a raised clinched fist inside a rainbow glove.

  • http://pandarogue.blogspot.com KevinKat, Panda Rouge, Dansant au Soleil

    Someone on Twitter posted a very important argument:

    How long does an athlete need to train before they can ignore human rights?

    No seriously. It’s too bad these people trained for years to go to an Olympic event in a country that wants to throw gay people in jail, but seriously I have no respect for any athlete who goes to these games.

  • Olav

    I must say I find Americans lecturing Russia because of human rights to be somewhat ironic. But even that aside, this argument:

    And our athletes should not be denied the right to compete,

    Is driving me crazy. Sorry Ed. But it’s the same argument that is being used in the debate in my country as well, so this has nothing to do with American athletes specifically.

    There is no “right” to compete. Athletes should not have rights above other people. Just because they are really good at whatever sports or games they have chosen to specialise in does not mean they get to ignore other considerations.

    Then again, but you guessed it, I think that in our societies so-called top athletes are given too much attention already.

    I agree that it would be great if participants could stage some sort of mass protest during the games. But it’s not in evidence that all of them agree with the reason for the protest. And besides they are going to be muzzled and leashed by the organisations anyway, on pain of exclusion.

  • matty1

    Meanwhile the Athletics World Championships are happening in Moscow at the moment without a peep from anyone. I don’t blame anyone for responding first to stories about the Winter Olympics, for some reason that got the momentum in discussions but it is a shame an opportunity for the same type of protest is passing by unremarked.

  • eric

    @15:

    The problem is, the IOC has a VERY strict policy against using the Olympics as a platform for any kind of political or social statement. Athletes have been expelled from the games and had their medals stripped for this sort of thing.

    I think that’s why Ed suggests it be en masse, and at the opening. The more people do it, the more politically difficult it would be to punish the participants. Yes, they will throw out one or two Canadian protestors. No, they are not likely to throw out the entire Canadian contingent. Also, by doing it in the opening, you may get more athlete support – at that point, they are giving up the possibility of a medal, but not a tangible win/record.

    My guess is that if a bunch of the biggest contingents (US, Canada, some northern european and scandanavian countries) did it, there would be a lot of positive press for gay rights but the IOC would not do much. They simply wouldn’t (IMO) throw out 50-60% of the competition’s athletes.

    My bet is that they’d say those protesting countries cannot (propose to) host the games for some number of years. That would be a warning/PR punishment to the countries to control politicization in their contingents, but it wouldn’t disrupt the games.