Sunday, February 9, 2014

Russia Doesn't Deserve the Olympics


Sure thing, Vladimir, tell us how much you love puppies.

I'm not actually boycotting the Olympics formally or officially. I just can't bring myself to watch them because I think they lend credibility and honor to Russia and Vladimir Putin in a way neither deserves. As far as I'm concerned, Sochi should never have been rewarded with the 2014 Winter Olympics.

I believe Vladimir Putin is an ex-KGB thug and that's what he will always be. I resented the hell out of the admiring photos and quotes that went around Facebook for a while, implying that America would be lucky to have such a strong and admirable leader, instead of the dreaded Barack Obama. Putin's negative quotes about our president were posted with satisfaction. Take that, Barack!

So along about the time we were gearing up for the Olympics, Russia and Putin decided to to pass laws making being gay illegal. Not only being gay but talking about being gay or supporting gays or sporting rainbow signs or ribbons.

According to the New York Times, "on July 3, Mr. Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form.
A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail.
Earlier in June, Mr. Putin signed yet another antigay bill, classifying “homosexual propaganda” as pornography. The law is broad and vague, so that any teacher who tells students that homosexuality is not evil, any parents who tell their child that homosexuality is normal, or anyone who makes pro-gay statements deemed accessible to someone underage is now subject to arrest and fines. Even a judge, lawyer or lawmaker cannot publicly argue for tolerance without the threat of punishment."  

Along with all this, we've seen pictures of gay people or gay supporters being arrested or beaten by security officers, approved by Putin and his government.

And then there are the dogs. Sochi had a stray dog problem, there's no doubt about that. Partly that's because so many homes were torn down to build Olympics venues while the residents were relocated to high-rise apartments where having a dog was impractical, so they left them behind. Partly, its because Sochi, and Russia in general, has no laws making it a crime to abandon and/or neglect pets and no policy of encouraging owners to be responsible by spaying or neutering their animals. 

Russia reacted to the situation in typical Putin blunt instrument fashion by shooting or poisoning the strays. Lots of kindly Russians have made an effort to provide homes or shelters but mostly, its been too little and too late.

I don't like Russia. I think it is ugly...not the country itself, of course, but its attitude and authoritarianism. I'm sure there are many wonderful Russians but Putin and his cohorts are their representatives so that makes them look brutal and belligerent and bullying.

On top of all that, last year gold medal-winning figure skater, Irina Rodnina, tweeted this doctored tweet about the Obamas and guess who Russia chose to light the Olympic flame? Ah, yes, that would be our Irina. Do you suppose it was just an unfortunate coincidence. Yeah, me either.

Of course, afterwards Ms. Rodnina said, "freedom of speech is freedom of speech." Sure, tell that to the Russians who try to stick up for gays.

View image on Twitter
So, all in all, I support our athletes in Sochi. I certainly understand how hard they've worked and how much they want to make the most of their opportunity to gain Olympic glory. But, for myself, I can't stomach the country or its leader, so I'm just letting this one go by.

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