01.18.2014 06:28 PM

In Sunday’s Sun: the hate Olympics

“The Olympic Games,” says the president of the American Olympic Committee (AOC), belong to the athletes and not to the politicians.” Accordingly, he says, there should not be a boycott of the upcoming games.

Concerned about the possibility of one, the AOC circulated pamphlets that assert “fair play for athletes.” Athletes should not be used as pawns in political debates, says the AOC.

On the other side of the debate is the Amateur Athletic Union, which points out that the host country has broken Olympic rules that expressly forbid discrimination based on race, religion and so on. Participation would suggest support for the regime’s bigoted policies, says the union.

The mayors and governors of New York and Massachusetts chime in, also strongly supporting a boycott. Various religious groups, mainly Catholic, similarly call for one. Nations like Great Britain, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands also moot shunning the games.

Are Russia’s Sochi games, to commence in 19 days, actually in peril?

No, not at all. The scenario sketched out above is real, and it really happened. But it all happened many years ago, prior to Adolf Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics.

At the time, the head of the AOC, the loathsome Avery Brundage, dismissed growing concerns about Hitler’s persecution of Jews. It’s a “Jew-Nazi altercation,” sniffed Brundage, one that shouldn’t concern anyone else. Later, when it was evident that a Berlin boycott would fail, Brundage would go even further, blaming a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy” to jeopardize Hitler’s Olympics.

If all of this sounds a little familiar, it should. The Sochi games haven’t been controversial because Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin has avowedly anti-Jewish policies, like Hitler did. Putin has a different target: gays and lesbians. In most other respects, Sochi and Berlin, however, bear eerie similarities. The boycott debate has been heard before. And the result will be the same as it was in Berlin: the boycott efforts will fail, and the Sochi games will go ahead.

They shouldn’t. While the Olympic Games are indeed about athletics, anyone who suggests they are without profound political value is an idiot. Hitler certainly believed as much, and he used Berlin to provide a smokescreen for his military plans, and the Holocaust itself. The Olympics, he enthused, “awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die.”

Sounds like a modern-day politician, doesn’t he? Hitler knew the Olympics’ propaganda value. He used the 1936 Berlin games for agit-prop, covering the Olympic complex with Nazi banners, and giddily promoted Aryan athleticism. The Berlin games achieved their objective: no less than the New York Times later declared that Berlin brought Nazi Germany back “in the fold of nations” and “made them human again.”

Putin, as you may have heard, doesn’t like gays very much. He has passed what he calls “homosexual propaganda” law. It outlaws promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations.” It prohibits parents and teachers from telling young Russians that gay relationships normal. It also bans pamphlets promoting gay rights. Anti-gay violence in Russia has accordingly surged, and vigilante groups have formed to hunt down LGBT Russians online.

In the lead-up to the games being held at the Black Sea resort town, however, Putin has also made reassuring sounds about understanding and respect. Sounding rather like a certain German chancellor, Putin told the head of the International Olympic Committee that “we will do everything to make sure that athletes, fans and guests feel comfortable at the Olympic Games regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation. I would like to underline that.”

That, of course, is a lie. Participation in Sochi will do nothing whatsoever to advance human rights.

As in Berlin, 78 years ago, our participation will set human rights back.


  1. Ian Howard says:

    You would have denied Jesse Owens the chance to win four gold medals in Berlin with Hitler watching, to me that was the message of those games.

    • Warren says:

      Jewish athletes were dropped from the American delegation. And black athletes, like Owens, were referred to as “auxiliary athletes.” So, no, I wouldn’t have gone.

      • Ian Howard says:

        The problem with boycotting the Russian Olympics is that sets a standard that if we are consistent all sorts of unintended consequences will follow. Sanctions without teeth are meaningless gestures and with European dependence on Russian oil and gas the prospect of any real pressure seems remote.
        As it is allowing Billie Jean King to represent the USA as a delegate will do far more than staying home.
        Consider the avowed policy of Avigdor Lieberman and the right in Israel. It may not be as repugnant as Putin’s treatment of gays in Russia but has crossed a threshold where it is fair to ask is Israel meant to be a democracy only for Jews. Is this the type of behavior that should have led Harper to cancel his trip to Israel?

        “When I talk about land and population exchange, I mean the Little Triangle and Wadi Ara,” Lieberman said, referring to the predominantly Arab regions in central and northern Israel. “This is not a transfer. Nobody will be expelled or banished, but the border will move to the other side of Route 6.” Avigdor Lieberman

        “I will not support any peace deal that will allow the return of even one Palestinian refugee to Israel,” he said. “Because if we leave the right of return on the table, all pressure will be on this subject.”

        The right wing, in fact, would like to adopt the Jewish people wholesale, wherever they are, and to thus prop up the Jewish majority in the “Greater Land of Israel” by remote control or even, potentially, by giving Diaspora Jews the vote. And by demanding that hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arabs be “transferred” to another sovereignty and another citizenship, Netanyahu’s deputy and Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is only confirming the claims of many Palestinians: that by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, Abbas would be giving his blessing to those, like Lieberman, who view the citizenship of Israeli Arabs as second rate and expendable.


  2. dave says:

    I do not see Putin as reassuring because translation I have heard is that in addition to your quote, “…we will do everything…like to underline that…” he said something about homosexuals leaving the children in peace. He’ shown a nifty turn in foreign affairs, but these added words suggest to me an ignorant and grubby little man.

    I am not sure the Olympics has ever been about advancing human rights. I think right from the get go, by having ‘nations’ compete it has been a nationalistic propaganda event, ripped off by state governments to advance their own superiority.

  3. Mulletaur says:

    The Olympics are and always have been complete bullshit anyway. The Russians and the Americans covered for each other’s drug use during the Cold War, just to take one small but important example. I don’t really care who participates or where it is, as long as none of my tax money goes into supporting it.

    • smelter rat says:

      Bingo. The IOSC should rot in hell. They don’t give e fiddler’s fuck about the athletes, only about their sponsors and perks.

  4. e.a.f. says:

    the Os are simply a big waste of money which most of the host countries should be spending on education, health care, etc. The international O committee are a bunch of snootie nosed idiots who believe in their own superiority. they like the perks. all those competing countries have o committees and they all are a waste of money, if these countries really cared about sports and athletes they would offer them more financial support.

    For Putin this was a way to give his friends contracts and money and to strut upon the world stage, like he was a somebody. he is just another short man, who is loosing his hair. his comments regarding gays leaving children along was just sick. really, really sick. the Os won’t be canceled but it is to be hoped a lot of world leaders give the whole thing a pass.

    The Berlin Os did make the nazi’s look like they were normal. these Os will do the same for Putin and Russia. there is enough ethic violence in russia which we don’t hear about, that they should never have been awarded the games. we can only guess how much was paid for it all.

    liked the column.

  5. dave says:

    …and not only that but the goddam olympic goddam games goddam interrupt the goddam NH goddam L season…

  6. david ray says:

    so Vlad, is that a closet in your pocket or are you just glad to see us.

  7. L. Adams says:

    On that same basis, Canada should be denied hosting the Olympics if Quebec’s Charter of Values becomes the law, because then Canada discriminates based on race and religion too.

  8. Mike says:

    Where do you find the loons who comment on here.

  9. Derek Pearce says:

    I feel bad for the CBC who shelled out a lot of money to broadcast, but I hope these Olympics crash and burn. I will not watch one blink of coverage (I guess if I watch the news and they report then I won’t turn the channel) but advertisers and the IOC have to learn that host nations must respect human rights. Putin is a complete cannibal.

  10. Vlad says:

    Yes, yes, the gays are discriminated against by the Russians and it’s a great human rights issue deserving of boycotting the Sochi Olympics.

    But you seem to omit, even ignore the fact that the Russians are slaughtering the muslim Chechens which surely must be a greater human rights issue; and issue of life and death and not hurt feelings amongst gays.

    Why do you make such a big fuss about gays but ignore extermination of people? Are these your liberal western values?

    • Other Hockey Dad says:

      No kidding. Can you imagine the outcry if the Russians were clear cutting forests or fracking shale? That outcry would dwarf this gay foofurah.

      • Derek Pearce says:

        You are both being idiots.

        1) Vlad you are correct, and this just shows that Sochi should never have been awarded by the corrupt IOC to Putin in the first place.

        2) Hockey Dad quit with the anti-green hyperbole BS. Fracking occurs in the US and is not nearly the news item that gay marriage (for instance) is.

        You both are trying to smugly justify your own homophobia by misdirecting/obfuscating and pretending you have bigger fish to fry, whereas you just don’t like gays. Grow up both of you.

    • VC says:

      I’m skeptical about the motivations behind your claim: “But you seem to omit, even ignore the fact that the Russians are slaughtering the muslim Chechens.” It’s a 500 word article, not an encyclopedia or doctoral dissertation focussed on Russia’s human rights abuses.

      Why do you dismiss our western, liberal value for the equal concern and respect for all individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation? Are these your conservative values, because they don’t have any room in the way in which we have constituted ourselves as a society, here in Canada.

  11. Iris Mclean says:

    Yup. I don’t even have a TV, but whenever the godam Olympics roll around, my radio gets switched from CBC to American Public Radio for a few weeks. Apart from the political BS and the billions squandered, I don’t give a rats ass who can slide down a hill the fastest and I don’t want to even hear about it. Let the games be gone!

  12. Derek Pearce says:

    It’s called walking and chewing gum at the same time. I get so tired of hearing “well we have problems here so we can’t judge Russia/Nigeria etc”. No. We sure as hell can judge Russia for qualitatively different human rights abuses from any we have here. You don’t do your knitting with your head stuck in the ground.

  13. Chris says:

    I once shared your perspective Warren. I have a lot of friends that will be going to the Olympics and I struggle with how the decision would impact them. Many have trained their whole lives for what may be a singular moment. I know someone else who didn’t attend the games in Moscow previously due to the last boycott Canada participated in… I know that missed opportunity sticks with him almost daily as he coaches new swimmers.

    The best piece I read on this was from a former member of the olympic women’s hockey team… I have to say, if one reads this it makes a compelling case on how Canada should handle this going forward.. I invite you to read it Warren, I know you’re willing to look at issues from all points of views… http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/everyone-must-stand-for-equality-in-sochi-219088301.html

  14. david ray says:

    The Olympics should be held in one permanent place namely Greece where anti-glad Vlad can come bearing his homophobic gifts and be told in no uncertain terms that he can go fuck himself.

    • Iris Mclean says:

      The Olympics should be held on the fucking moon. And the assholes that stage and support them, including the attention-craving “athletes” should be paying their own passage.

  15. Steve T says:

    I agree that the Olympics have moved from a celebration of athletic talent, to a commercialized money-sucking spectacle that borders on ridiculous. If 1/10th of the money that cities/countries pour into the Olympics were dedicated to helping the homeless, or job training, or education, etc.., the world would be a better place.

    However, if we are holding the Olympics in their current form, then I don’t think the Sochi games should be boycotted. As others here have noted, there are dozens of countries with dozens of different human rights issues. Politicizing the Olympics is not a good idea.

  16. Paul Brennan says:

    lets go to china instead

  17. Jon Powers says:

    Stop bashing the Olympics. It’s the only opportunity i have to watch the best sports competition in the world – the two man luge.

  18. monkey says:

    I think we should still go and when going make a statement on the anti-gay law. I was on the fence initially, but when openly gay athletes like Johnny Weir and Mark Tewksbury said it would be a mistake to boycott, that re-affirmed to me it is the wrong way to go about it. Otherwise make sure you punish to perpetrator which is Putin and his henchman, not the athletes (many who probably disagree with the law). Also greater awareness of LGBT rights in general as a whopping 85% of Russians support the law so as long as homophobia is rampant there no government is likely to have the guts to repeal it. Also we should use this as an opportunity to highlight all countries that have homophobic laws as Russia is not alone here; there are 70 countries around the world where being gay is illegal including 2022 world cup host Qatar; and seven still even have the death penalty for it. A better way to get back at Putin is to work with Europe to stop buying Russian gas and instead get it from the North Sea or use electricity/district heating for heating. Gazprom is over 50% owned by the Russian government and the board are Putin’s henchman, so this would actually hurt him where it matters.

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