It’s been more than a week since my article on the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics was published on Huffington Post and things have gone from bad to worse. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) claimed “assurances” from high-ranking Russian officials that no gay athletes or visitors to the games would be subject to their new law allowing for the jailing and deportation of persons spreading homosexual propaganda. Apparently, these assurances depend on which high-ranking official you talk to. Vitaly Milonov, the minister responsible for the “gay propaganda” law, has said that Russia will arrest gay athletes and tourists, adding, “If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.” Vitaly Mulko, Russia’s sports minister, has gone on record saying, “that people with “non-traditional sexual orientation” are not banned from competing in the Games, but there will be consequences for anyone who publicly advocates homosexuality.”
The guaranteed consequences are 15 days in prison and deportation from Russia. The implied consequences are far worse. As we’ve seen over the course of the past several months, being gay or supporting gay rights in the world’s largest country, is a dangerous proposition.
The Canadian government finally put an end to its despicable silence when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird denounced the draconian law with some welcome harsh language. “This mean-spirited and hateful law will affect all Russians 365 days of the year, every year. It is an incitement to intolerance, which breeds hate. And intolerance and hate breed violence,” Baird added, “the Olympics is a great celebration of international sport, of international co-operation. This type of law being enforced flies in the face of the entire Olympic spirit.”
It is not often that I give credit to our Conservative government and I am certainly not going to start now. While Baird deserves kudos for addressing the issue and putting forth a statement condemning the anti-gay law, it is still a case of style over substance. Phrases like “bring pressure to bear on the Russian government,” and “deeply concerned, deeply disturbed,” mean very little in the face of such overwhelming human rights abuses.
I am not an athlete, I am not an Olympian, and I have not trained my entire life for the chance to represent my country on the world’s largest stage, but I am a human being. As a member of the human race who is committed to equal rights and protections for all, I would ask those athletes, both gay and straight, to search their souls for the purpose that binds us. You can go to Sochi and compete, you can have your moment in the spotlight and perhaps even win a medal. You can hang that medal on your wall and maybe even reap some financial gain or celebrity status from your accomplishment, but when you’ve packed your bags and gone home, you will leave behind over a million LGBT Russians who live without basic human rights every day…
Sometimes the human rights of many need to supercede the ambitions of the few.