September 6, 2013

On the Road to Sochi 2014 ... #3

There's been lots of talk about the upcoming Olympics and Russia's stand on gays. A good place for you to start would be The Skating Lessons: 9/1 This and That post. Very, very insightful. Jenny Kirk and Dave Lease call on the USFS to put out a statement so their skaters know what to say. I would second that.

Another must read is the article in Slate magazine written by Marc Naimark and Charley Sullivan - Sochi Isn’t a Host, and Olympic Athletes Aren’t Guests, So Stop Talking About Hospitality which just illustrates why the USFS really needs to put out a statement. They pile on Jeremy Abbott's statement stating it's a lousy analogy. I don't want to read that skaters are lousy at anything.

So Ice Charades is about to open her mouth and hope that a skate boot doesn't land in there.

Are you ready for more or have you had enough? Because I want to broaden the discussion, twist it on its side a bit. Here we go ...

Congratulations Gays, it's not you ... well, not just you.

Russia - and not just the government - is xenophobic and homophobic, and it's been that way for a while. Of course not everyone feels this way, but it seems only now the anti-gay behavior is getting scrutiny.

Speaking of my own experience, back in the late 90s, I worked as a contractor for the US State Department and the official cables warned not to send African or Asian American employees/contractors to Russia. They faced random harassment and violence in the street. My boss sent all of us anyway. Sure enough in one outing in Moscow, there were five of us co-workers, all white Americans except for one of Vietnamese ancestry and he was the one stopped by the police and asked for his papers. Luckily another co-worker spoke fluent Russian and talked the police out of sending a US Embassy contractor to jail. On other visits, my African-American co-workers were beaten up walking back to their hotel.

So it didn't surprise me to read more recently that a fan group for the St. Petersburg soccer club Zenit sent a letter stating the team include no black or gay players. Gotta love any letter that states - we are not racist - because that usually means ...

Now racism in soccer isn't only in Russia. This is a growing problem in much of Europe. But the Olympics are going to be in Russia, so lets bring the discussion back to them. And let's not let them say the "gay propoganda" enforcement is for the protection of children. No, it's intolerance. Let's call them out on that.

So what to do? No boycotts. That doesn't help anyone. And I don't want athletes to feel they have the burden of protesting ... they need to concentrate on their sport. Hopefully we fans will take up the cause.

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