New Russian legislation now effectively bans any public display of support or even mere acceptance of so-called “non-traditional” sexuality. Widely held as anti-gay, this has spurred global protest against this anachronistic, retrograde, mentality. With the Winter Olympic games in Sochi this winter, strident calls to boycott, or even to move them have ensued.
While Olympic boycotts as symbolic gestures are perhaps better than nothing, as history attests they will also achieve nothing better. Time and again we have seen that this merely deprives athletes who have trained passionately and exhaustively for years the opportunity to compete, and diminishes the quality of competition that remains; the games in all their pomp and ceremony, and proud celebration and promotion of the host country, simply roll on, largely unawares.
As for moving the games with less than six months to go, even if the considerable money this would require was already in place and the decision to do so already made, there’s just not enough time. It’s simply a non-starter.
Follow the Rainbow!
What if everyone who goes to Sochi prominently wears rainbow badges, or sports rainbow colours: athletes, team personnel, and, most importantly, visitors? And, what if we all encourage Olympic sponsors to incorporate the rainbow in their messaging, and support those products and services that do?
Not everyone will do this, of course, for there are those who agree with this Russian policy, and still others who won’t have the will to stand up to it. But the more who do, the stronger and more powerful it becomes.
For a host country the games are about promoting their country around the world, attracting tourism and business, and building good trading relationships. They are a considerable investment in time, money, and political capital.
Will Russia brusquely shove all that aside and choose instead the immense negative PR and global embarrassment of detaining or denying entry to droves of rainbow-wearing tourists? — thrusting their airports and train stations into churning chaos, leaving the stands devoid of cheering fans, streets empty of reveling partiers, hotels, bars, and restaurants vacant?
Will they arrest or turn back rainbow-wearing athletes from all around the world — a host country excluding athletes! — calling into question the very integrity of the competition?
Will they be willing to see their massively expensive showcase to the new Russia exposed before the press and people of all the world, as but a vast, echoing mausoleum?
If wisdom and prudence prevail, and money: No; Russia must turn a blind-eye or legislate an exception for the duration — both of which in themselves are small victories for equality rights. If they do so the games will thrive in undimmed glory, promoting full and fair competition — but now within the further context of equality rights on a global stage. All athletes will be able to give their best, Olympic visitors can enjoy all that Sochi has to offer, and Sochi and its merchants, and Russia as a whole, will reap all the benefits that are their due.
If they don’t, the games will be a resounding, crushing, debacle. The decision, between success or failure, will fall entirely on Russia itself.
Sochi is a challenge to the world. It is also an opportunity for us all to stand-up for something worthwhile: equality rights. Bringing the rainbow to Sochi does this in a positive, affirmative, and highly effective way.
Let the world truly come together in Sochi, beneath the rainbow colours of the Olympic rings and in the true Olympic ideal of the indomitable human spirit. Make Sochi the Rainbow Olympics!