Why We Should Care About the Sochi Olympics

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the past few months, and even probably then, you’ve heard about the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. This Olympics has been entrenched in controversy over Russia’s laws banning “propaganda of non-traditional relations.”

This law has inspired arrests and violent crimes against gay and lesbian Russians. It also serves as a stark contrast to the Olympic Charter that states, “Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind.”

Many Olympics have been held during controversial periods, including the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia that the United States boycotted and the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, which were held at the beginning of one the darkest periods in history.

Despite the controversy, many times heroes like Jesse Owens in 1936 and Tommie Smith and John Carlos in the 1968 Olympics, arise and, willing or not, become a symbol that transcends the politics of the time. They also suffered the consequences of losing money and respect when they came back home.

Regular readers know that I’m a bit of a robot when it comes to money matters. But I can’t help but hope that NBC, advertisers, and Olympic athletes take what would most certainly be a huge monetary risk and speak out against this unfair law. And, if that happens, we as spectators give them the support they need amidst the controversy.

We all have a key role to play in protesting this unfair treatment.

In order to understand the risks at stake, I dug a little deeper and found some important numbers concerning both the finances and politics of the Sochi Olympics. 

First the Finances:

Obviously, the Olympics are big business. And it’s important to note that NBC, advertisers, and athletes risk a lot of money should any controversy arise over their stance on the politics of the Games.

Speaking of politics, here are some numbers regarding the controversial law:

  • Individual violators of Russia’s gay propaganda law will pay $120-$150 per violation of the law, and NGOs, Corporations, and other legal entities must pay $24,000 –$30,000 in fines. Foreigners are also subject to 15 days of prison and deportation from Russia.
  • Gay rights group All Out has amassed 412,090 signatures as of yesterday calling on Russia to eliminate the gay propaganda law.
  • 4 GLBT activist detained last Friday during a protest of the law.

Of course, I can easily say the reward of speaking out is worth the risk, sitting on my couch without any monetary consequence.  We’ve seen many protests seemingly on the sidelines, but I think all versions can play a part in the change. 

I understand many of these athletes, in particular, have been training their whole life and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get to this point. However, those facts make taking a stance that much more admirable and the heroism of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ political protest that much more inspiring.

I can’t wait to see if the Sochi, Olympics creates a hero during this much needed time.  And if it does, I hope we all provide the support for him, her, or them in any way we can.