I’m pleased about the campaign to protect civil liberties in Russia, especially regarding same-sex relationships. I look forward to this campaign continuing and expanding into areas of the world which don’t just outlaw promotion of homosexuality (as we used to in the UK), but still actively hang gay people or throw them from mountains. Yes, that’s our friends, the theocracies of the Islamic world I’m talking about.
I’m less pleased that an international sporting event has become the focus of this outrage. I should declare a personal bias here. As someone who has enjoyed skiing (although I share the dislike of the former hooray Henry, now Club 18-30 skier and especially snowboarder types), it just happens that the Winter Olympics is the one international sporting event I enjoy. You can keep your ball games and your going-around-a-circuity things; there’s little more exhilarating than watching people hurl themselves down tracks or pistes at great speed and at great personal risk, pushing their physical and psychological limits to the maximum.
Naturally, the IOC itself is hardly an example of high moral behaviour, but that doesn’t mean that we should lose sight of Pierre de Coubertin’s vision; that here is a chance for the international community (including representatives of all ethnicities and cultural backgrounds) to come together in friendly competition – and it’s one of the few examples where all people of the world actually do play by the same rules.
So, let’s keep the outrage going, but could we try to focus less on talks of boycotting an international sporting event; less on general, and in some cases frankly Russophobic statements; and more on precision targeting criticism at Putin, his regime, and any abuses of human rights.
And once these games are over, can we maintain this outrage beyond European states, because frankly, that just demonstrates that we don’t expect other cultures to live up to common standards of human rights – and if you want an example of racism, that’s it, right there – a deliberate attitude of poverty of expectations.
We should be outraged about ridiculous laws in Russia, but I’m even more outraged about theocracies which support state-sanctioned murder of homosexuals, rape victims, and apostates.
And yet, many of those who shout loudest about Sochi seem otherwise strangely quiet about the Islamic world, with the notable exception of Peter Tatchell, who is consistent in his condemnation of Russia’s laws and Islamist ideology. Now why is that?
Try googling Iran, hanging, homosexuals, and see if you feel more or less outraged by the images you see than by the Winter Olympics.