On whether or not to boycott the Sochi Olympics

At the intersection of sports, politics and human rights


Adam Goldenberg argues that a boycott of the Olympics is in order given the treatment of gays and lesbians in Russia. Of all Adam’s points—full disclosure: I edited the piece—I think I found this sentence the most interesting (or at least provocative).

If the Russian government were passing legislation that discriminated against Jews, Canada would have announced a boycott of the 2014 Olympics already.

Here, conversely, is Patrick Burke’s case for not boycotting.

There does not now seem political support for a boycott. Here is a statement sent this way from John Baird’s press secretary.

The promotion and protection of human rights is a hallmark of Canada’s foreign policy. This latest development in Russia is extremely troubling and Canada has raised its concerns directly with Russian authorities. Canada follows the human rights situation in Russia closely and the promotion of Canadian values has and will continue to feature prominently in our ongoing dialogue. The decision whether or not to participate in the 2014 Sochi Olympics would rest with the Canadian Olympic Committee.

NDP MP and foreign affairs critics Paul Dewar has raised the idea of Canadian athletes waving the rainbow flag in Russia and here, via email, is the opinion of Liberal MP and amateur sport critic Ted Hsu.

At an event like the Olympics, I think we should be promoting Canada’s identity as a country. Part of that identity is that we believe in equality, respect for diversity and inclusion. We thus abhor the recent laws passed in Russia. But I think that Canadian athletes should participate in the Sochi Olympics, while letting everybody there know that our Canada proudly includes LGBT athletes. The openly LGBT athletes should, with their country’s support, show that they are not afraid, go for the medals and so be part of the Canadian team that will make us all proud.

And while the government defers to the COC, the COC seems resolutely anti-boycott.

Playing sports is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. Since London 2012, the COC has been involved in more than 100 events, with approximately 800 Olympians. This year, for the first time ever, we added Pride festivals to our long list of community involvement. Our aim is to showcase athletes in ways highlighting Canada’s values and pride. We believe in the power of sport uniting individuals of all races, genders and sexual orientation. We oppose discrimination of any kind. Our main focus is the preparation and performance of Canada’s athletes at the 2014 Games. The IOC has stated it continues to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media and it has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games. Mark Tewkesbury said it best that a boycott would only penalise the athletes who have been training for years preparing for their Olympic dream.

Update 5:08pm. Just off the phone with Mr. Dewar.

I think it makes sense to speak out strongly, that’s the first thing, Conservatives haven’t done that, and secondly to, if anything, leave it to athletes to also be involved and state their feelings … If you look at the tradition of the past of the Olympics, there have been boycotts certainly, but there’s also been people who have made strong political statements during Olympics games. And I could see that being an opportunity for people to state their concerns.


On whether or not to boycott the Sochi Olympics

  1. Absolutely not.

  2. I don’t think a boycott would do much other than to harden Russia’s resolve – certainly not unless it was by a significant portion of the countries. So we would be punishing our athletes for no real positive outcome.
    Now if our athletes want to do something to tweak the Russians’ noses – rainbow flags along with the Laple Leaf at ceremonies; even rainbow-coloured uniforms – I’d be very supportive. I really don’t think Russia would arrest our athletes and create an intrnational incident (though the likelihood of their images getting carried in the Russian media would be about nil).

    • perhaps a number of nations could agree with some sort of rainbow crest they would all feature on the bicep or breast of their uniform

      • wow..how ingenious…and that represents Canada?

    • I agree. Any boycott would simply be punishing the athletes. A boycott would certainly harden the Russian’s resolve, as the draconian laws passed apparently, & sadly; have the support of a vast majority of the Russian people. It would appear that little progress has been made since the collapse of the USSR; given the laws passed , the treatment of Greenpeace activists , & the incarceration of the Pussy Riot band members.

  3. Wow. Yes. Infact lets cancel all major events in the world until all nations agree with samesex rights. Infact lets make sure that same sex couples have it far better then straight couples too. Maybe we can put an end to this over population problem.

    • I would gather that a monetary solution would come down the gay community for all the suffering…

  4. I was in the forest, and this bear started to follow me. So I walked faster and he matched my pace. Finally, I stopped and tmidly went up to him and asked him, “Why are you following me?”. He answered, “bear surprise.” I didn’t want to put it in his head if he was already gonna eat me, so I asked “Can I have bear surprise too?”. He said: “No, I see where you are walking to and you will help me get bear surprise”. That didn’t really put me at ease. So I kept walking…
    Out of nowhere this deer ran at me. I rolled away and picked up a rock but the deer had already turned around and did a spinning kick, stricking me with both hooves. I dropped my rock and the deer picked it up and was ready to crush my skull. Then the bear picked up the deer and smoked it on the ground!! I was shocked. The bear was already starting to eat “bear surprise”.
    The enormity of the moment faded a bit after a bit. And I said “Wow. You saved my life. Thx. Is there anything I can do to thank you?”.
    And the bear turned around and smiled. And put his big paw on my shoulder and pushed me to my knees. And he replied “Yes there is. I’m a gay bear.”