I didn’t feel compelled to watch the opening ceremonies of the winter Olympics, and I find that I’ve avoided the competitions as well. I know that Putin’s Russia, while oppressive, corrupt and authoritarian, isn’t the only, or worst, anti-gay regime. Our ally India gives Russia a run for the money, at least on paper if not in practice, in terms of outlawing homosexuality. Gay people face a death sentence in Iran and elsewhere in the Islamic world. In Nigeria, Uganda and other benighted places, things are little if any better.
Still, Russia rankles. Maybe it’s that Putin so obviously sees the games as a propaganda coup, as Hitler did the ’36 Olympics in Berlin. And while I didn’t support a boycott of Sochi, my gut tells me that these games are morally tainted. To cheer and applaud along with a beaming Putin turns my stomach.
Already, we’ve seen in connection with these games the arrest of Russian gay rights advocates and the stifling of anti-Putin protests (an everyday occurrence), with the IOC’s acquiescence, while Russian authorities allow a pro-Putin, anti-gay demonstration. In a more petty vein, there’s the Russians’ denial of access to at least one pro-gay Olympian’s website, reminding us of how “gay propaganda” is strictly forbidden.
I don’t condemn anyone who feels the fraternal spirit of the games themselves supersedes the sins of the host. But for myself, I can’t get over it.
More. Olympics delivering for Putin.