I have struggled for a long time with the conundrum of the Sochi Olympic Games.
People who know me well know that I will watch almost anything sport-related. (Except motor “sport”. It’s not even a sport – it’s people driving for Pete’s sake!) And yes, even curling.
On the one hand, I want to boycott the Olympics, to not watch them out of solidarity for our LGBT sisters and brothers in Russia. On the other, I want to watch them because we have openly gay athletes competing, including Aussie snowboarder Belle Brockhoff. We also have a lot of support from non-gay athletes who think the Russian laws are draconian and vile.
I have struggled with all of the arguments surrounding boycotting – likening these Olympics to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin when people argued that it would be a boon for Adolf Hitler – and I get that argument. But the best thing to come out of those games was Jesse Owens.
I think the biggest stories to come out of an Olympics like this one will be the ones off the slopes. I also think that our openly gay athletes show their solidarity to the LGBT community in Russia just by being there. By being open about who they are, regardless of the Russian laws. I don’t know if we’ll see any open displays of defiance from athletes, daring the Russian authorities to arrest them, and I’m not sure I want to.
In the end, it comes down to the fact that we have openly gay athletes competing and I want to support them. They’ve worked hard to get there, and they deserve to compete in front of full stadiums, and in front of millions of people at home watching them on TV. They deserve to compete against the best in the world because they are the best at what they do, and being gay has nothing to do with that.
The single best thing to come out of all of this though, is that LGBT rights is again at the forefront of everyone’s minds. While we are lucky here in Australia that there are laws to protect us from discrimination, (and though sometimes we still feel like we are going backwards), events like the Sochi Olympic Games and the political climate that surrounds them serve to remind us that we still have so far to go, and that our community encompasses more than just our own backyard.
It’s a reminder that we cannot turn our backs on prejudice, in whatever form it takes, and hope that it will eventually go away.