Friday, 24 January 2014

My Personal Olympic Boycott

Every four years the world is reintroduced to obscure winter sports that seem to emerge from hibernation solely for the Olympics. Of course that isn't true. Of course there are untold hours of training and scores of competitions that occur in the intervening years, but let's be honest. How many of us can truly claim to have watched the World Cup of Skeleton or Biathlon in non-Olympic years?

The lack of visibility for these athletes should neither diminish their commitment nor their sacrifice to  the pursuit of excellence. The Olympic Games are their Mt. Everest. They doggedly and tenaciously chase their dreams. Most will never experience the thrill of a medal or of a flag being raised. Their Games are won in the simple joy of competition.

I admire these athletes. I applaud them and their goals. Which makes what I have to say even more painful.

I have decided that I will not be watching the Winter Olympics this year taking place in Sochi Russia. I will not be parked in front of my TV or computer to cheer while Hayley Wickenheiser (one of the most deserving Canadian Olympians in history) proudly carries my country's flag into the stadium. I will not yell "Hurry hard" at my beloved red and white clad curlers, nor will I scream obscenities at full-time Toronto Maple Leaf forward and temporary American winger Phil Kessel as he skates rings around Sidney Crosby. I wish them all well, but I will not be in attendance.

I have decided to stand with my LGBT brothers and sisters. Russia's oppressive laws concerning homosexuality cannot go unchallenged in this Olympic year. As a Jew, I only wish in hindsight that people had the gumption and courage to speak out for the German Jewish and Roma athletes who were not allowed to participate in the Berlin Games of 1936 due to the passage of the Nuremberg Laws a year earlier. Russia has found willing and wilfully blind partners to its bigotry and injustice in the International Olympic Committee and all of the corporate sponsors who are silently giving their assent to the host country's treatment of its own citizens. It is treatment I cannot abide.

I am not gay. Neither are my children. I am simply a social-justice seeking human being who desires equal opportunity for all people. The Olympics are the biggest global public relations platform available to host countries in the history of mankind. In my mind it is simply and unequivocally wrong to pat Russia (and McDonalds, VISA, GE and the rest) on the back on every interactive worldwide media platform.

I know that my personal boycott will accomplish absolutely nothing. Nobody cares one whit what I do or think. And believe me when I say, I did not come to this conclusion lightly. I love sports and I love being a sports fan. I love the drama of competition and I value the athletes' commitment to both their events and their countries. But I value my integrity more.

So during this Olympic fortnight I will be reading a good book, watching reruns of Castle, or maybe taking in a movie or two. Patrick Chan will just have to go for the gold without me.

Tzedek Tzedek tirdof. Justice, Justice shall you pursue. Deut:16:20

No comments:

Post a Comment