Don't Boycott the Olympics

Refusing to participate in the Olympics will accomplish nothing of value.


It's like 1980 all over again. There's a war in Afghanistan, the economy is lousy, Paul McCartney has a new record coming out, and some people are calling for the United States to stay away from the upcoming Olympics in Russia.

When the first talk of another Olympic boycott arose, no one took it very seriously. It came from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who enjoys far more face time on Sunday morning talk shows than influence over U.S. policy, and who is upset about Edward Snowden. But the idea could be gaining traction.

Some gay rights advocates, from both the United States and Russia, have urged the U.S. and other countries to stay away from Sochi this winter to protest an anti-gay law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. The law makes it a crime to engage in "propaganda" in favor of "nontraditional" sexuality among minors, which is an ominously wide net.

Human Rights Watch has said the law "is clearly incompatible with the Olympic Charter's promotion of 'human dignity,' as well as a blatant violation of Russia's international legal obligations to guarantee non-discrimination and respect for freedom of expression." Comparisons have even been heard to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, presided over by Adolf Hitler. On Friday, though, President Barack Obama said he does not favor a boycott.

It's true that the Olympic Games can be exploited for the benefit of a repressive, authoritarian government. But everyone knew all along that Putin's government views personal liberty with suspicion and malice.

It's not clear, though, that Russia is less free than China—which was allowed to host the 2008 Summer Games. In both cases, the International Olympic Committee decided not to use human rights as the main criterion for choosing a site.

Maybe it should. But that would mean restricting the games to liberal democracies—which could lead other governments to withdraw on grounds of second-class treatment. This approach, like a boycott, would undermine one of the central purposes of the Olympics: fostering international understanding and friendship. It would separate the world into good guys and bad guys, instead of building bridges between the two.

Back in ancient Greece, the games took place under a truce. "Wars were suspended, armies were prohibited from entering Elis (the site of the first Olympics) or threatening the Games, and legal disputes and the carrying out of death penalties were forbidden," notes the Perseus Digital Library Project at Tufts University. That allowed enemies to meet without hatred or bloodshed. To stay away from the event because it is being held in a place inhospitable to our values is to miss the point.

The International Olympic Committee says it has "received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games." If police were going to drag protesting medalists off of the podium, a different approach would be warranted. But Putin isn't likely to do something that would impress his brutality upon the world.

The last U.S. boycott, in 1980, suggests that refusing to participate will accomplish nothing of value. It was a protest of the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. But the Soviets stayed there until 1989.

What the protest did achieve was to punish blameless athletes who had trained for years for the chance to compete in the ultimate contest. Many of them lost the chance forever. The same thing happened in 1984, when the Soviets and their satellite states paid us back by spurning the Los Angeles Games. They had no more effect on our government's policies than we had on theirs.

It's true that host governments endeavor to strengthen their hold on power by showing themselves off in the most flattering light. But as the Chinese can attest, the games also invite intense worldwide scrutiny, which in the modern media age is likely to trump any gains.

By singling out gays for discrimination, the Russian government has invited athletes to find ways to signal their belief in equal treatment—before the eyes of the Russian people and the world. In the end, the games are likely to highlight the flaws of the ruling regime, not conceal them.

Will the games make an important contribution toward expanding gay rights and human rights in Putin's Russia? No. But that's not their purpose. Their purpose is to showcase individual excellence, honest striving and peaceful competition across national boundaries. It's not everything, but it's enough.


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  1. No, no, no, do boycott the Olympics. Then the Russians will boycott us the next time we host, and I’ll eat free McDonald’s meals practically on demand for the duration of the Olympics. Like I did as a wee lad.

    1. With the East German “women” shaving their backs 3,000 miles away, the Americans are heavy favorites.

      1. It was a glorious time. Kids, of course, love McDonald’s. I was a kid. Back then, free food was all my parents saw, not worrying so much about calories, cholesterol, etc.

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  2. Fuck the Olympics.

  3. Just too good not to post; Bloomberg get’s bitch-slapped:……html?_r=0
    “In a repudiation of a major element in the Bloomberg administration’s crime-fighting legacy, a federal judge has found that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York, and called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms.”

    1. Bloomberg:

      “I have just now personally ordered a review of these procedures and am waiting for a report which will clear Me’n’NYPD of all wrongdoing. Stop-and-frisk is a valuable tool for preventing Terrorism and promoting Public Safety. I am sure the Supreme Court will see it our way on appeal — we already have AG Holder on our side. As an afterthought, why don’t we invite the TSA to perform these searches — they are authorized to be more Invasive.”

    2. a federal judge has found that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York

      Did they stop and frisk only minorities? It isn’t a violation of your rights when you are a white guy?

      Fuck this “judge” with a rusty chainsaw. Stop and frisk violates everyone’s rights, not just those of minorities.

      1. well the proportion of whites and Hispanics frisked vs blacks being frisked is enormous. So I can see where they get the idea. But as a legal matter, minorities don’t have rights, individuals do. The NYCPD has a policy of violating people’s rights, however racist the de facto enforcement may be.

  4. I’m going to boycott the Olympics for the same reason I always do – the broadcasts are horrible and will ignore a good match between “foreigners” in favor of a boring one with an American in it every time.

    1. And 8-hour tape delays.

    2. YAY for being superior because of artificially constructed boundaries!

    3. The live streading app solved a lot of this.

      I watched the Korean fencer crying for 45 minutes alone on the platform or whatever you call a fencing field.

      1. I remember a Korean boxer refusing to live the ring for some hours after being PWND in a years-ago Olympics. Apparently he did not agree with the judges’ decision in the match. It was pretty awesome.

        1. The Korean Boxer ALSO refused to “leave” the ring.

          The Ring: Love it, Live it, LEAVE it!

        2. In the fencers case, she couldnt leave. They were appealing a decision, and, according to the rules of fencing, leaving the platform is acceptance of the judges decision.

          The appeals process requires a cash deposit and the Korean team didnt have it on them, so had to send someone out to an ATM. Seriously.

          Oh, and by the way, she was completely jobbed. Royally screwed. It ended up costing her a medal. She should have been in the gold medal match, but after an hour of this and then a short break, she lost the bronze medal match.

          1. I remember that one.

  5. Carter and Brzezinski deliberately provoked the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan before feigning outrage and calling a boycott.

    This doesn’t rise anywhere near that level, nor even to the 1936 Munich games. It’s also entirely possible that a Russian court will strike down the law in question on constitutional grounds before the Sochi games commence.

    1. I thought it was Madeline Albright. No wait, that was Kuwait.

    2. 1936 Munich games


    1. Badminton player?

  6. Can’t we just boycott the Olympics because they are always terrible and a huge waste of time and money?

    1. always terrible

      citation needed

      1. See Games, Olympic 776 BC – 2010 AD.

        1. ^This guy gets it.

    2. Dude, I don’t wanna miss the next epic faceplant from the ice dancers or pairs skaters. That’s gotta see TV

    3. Olga Korbut

      Back when the pros at ABC ran the coverage of the olympics, we got to see history happen live.

      I will never forget that moment.

      1. Color commentary by Max Headroom.

    4. It’s the winter olympics that are always terrible. Summer Olympics are the best: wrestlers, swimmers, divers and gymnasts. I suppose wrestlers is a little specific, but we can all agree on swimmers, divers and gymnasts, no?

      Counterpoint: rhythmic gymnastics. It’s not a sport they should all be sent home.

      1. same for trampolining

        1. I don’t see how you couldn’t consider trampolining a sport. Or at least an impressive athletic competition. Have you even seen it? It’s not a bunch of fat women bouncing on those little 4′ trampolines, you know.

          1. Now THAT might be worth seeing.

      2. “Swimming. Swimming isn’t a sport. Swimming is a way to keep from drowning. That’s just common sense.”

    5. Well, you are wrong about the terrible part. It is a big waste of time and money. But that is mostly for the host. Just never host the Olympics in the US and have the athletes all rely on private fundraising (which they mostly do already in the US) and I’m happy.

  7. I’m boycotting the olympics, but mostly because who the fuck cares about the olympics?

  8. Fuck the Olympics.

    And Steve Chapman.

    1. here here!

  9. Doesn’t the host city for an Olympics usually pay for the “prestige” through the event turning into a total money-sink where the IOC keeps the money and the locals are stuck with a useless Olympic Village that eventually turns into the warehouse district from a Batman movie? If we want to punish Putin, maybe we should just hold them in Russia every time.

    1. I think they’re getting the 2018 World Cup, too, right?

      1. Correct.

        Although the 2022 in Qatar looks to be the real disaster.

  10. a federal judge has found that the stop-and-frisk tactics of the New York Police Department violated the constitutional rights of minorities in New York, and called for a federal monitor to oversee broad reforms.

    “Something something now let him enforce it.”

    1. How many divisions does a federal judge have?

  11. There’s another factor I haven’t seen mentioned here. Democrats already seem poised to blow the midterm elections; boycotting the Olympics on the basis of LGBT rights will make it a certainty. That’s not to validate the anti-gay vote, of course, but I think we all know it’s there, as a matter of modern realpolitik, and Team Red won’t hesitate to exploit it.

  12. The Olympics are stupid anyway. Up next in our Olympic coverage: another touching human interest story about a top US athlete in a sport no one cares about for 47 out of 48 months, who will fall short of winning the gold anyway.

    Who wants to see China vs. Liechtenstein in some obscure sport? The games should be Nike vs. Reebok vs. Adidas. Let’s see who really has the best athletes, and some fair matchups.

    1. I propose the games should be Human Growth Hormone vs Chinese Fake Birth Certificates vs Crooked Judges.

    2. It is not the Olympics that are stupid. It is the coverage of the Olympics that are stupid.

      At some point, NBC realized that it could increase its advertising revenue by converting a sporting event into a soap opera.

      The sports are still happening, you’ll just never see them.

      1. I fully intend to proxy my way into the UK and watch the BBC coverage next time around (not for the winter olympics because they bore the shit out of me). Folks seemed genuinely pleased with the way they handled it.

  13. Oh, BTW guys, this is just a way for both bills to not pass.

    “Well, I voted for Obama’s bill, so I voted against Rand’s.”
    “Well, I voted for Rand’s bill, so I voted against Obama’s.”

    Same shit, different day.

    1. Fucking fuck, wrong thread.

      1. Nah – EVERY thread is the right thread for this type of message!

  14. If the Olympics just admits what it is and starts awarding medals in cheating I’ll watch.

  15. Speaking of the Olympics, I watched the ESPN documentary on Katerina Witt last night. At the beginning of it, they had to explain there was once this thing called the cold war and the Berlin Wall and East Germany. It was really sad. But I have no doubt they did that because generation retard don’t know much history.

    Witt remains the only commie I ever rooted for. I don’t care if she was a commie stooge. She was fucking hot. Like Africa hot. This is why I could never have been a cold war spy. I would have folded like a chair the first time the Ruskies sent over a hot agent.

    1. They didn’t have to explain about the Cold War. They just needed to show Katerina Witt.

    2. I’m exactly with you.

      Also, the classic line from SNL “Wayne’s World”…which I forget the exact quote, but it was about how once the Germanys got back together, Katarina Witt lost that “taste of forbidden fruit”.

      FUCK she was SO hot!

    3. Ugh, the CIA should be headed and staffed by women. Well, not the Valerie Plame type but — oh never mind.

      All I can say is, the one part of that movie “Ronin” with Robert de Niro that I liked was when Katarina Witt got shot in the middle of the ice rink.

      I never liked the commie shill. But then my chromosomes immunize me to her dastardly appeal.

        1. No, +YY.

  16. I wish it was 1980 – back when I thought things would get better – and I was right for a while.



    2. Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling.

    1. What do you expect when everyone under 30 says “google” when they mean “query”?

    2. I am figuratively banging my head on my desk.

    3. Uh, it’s not a good idea to use a word in its own definition. I’m pretty sure that is bad practice. Especially when you are defining it to mean the opposite of what it means.

      1. “this definition is false”

  18. It’s true that the Olympic Games can be exploited for the benefit of a repressive, authoritarian government. But everyone knew all along that Putin’s government Steve Chapman views personal liberty with suspicion and malice.

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  20. Jeez, a lot of Olympics hate. I certainly agree that there is a lot of stupid crap about the Olympics and that the US coverage is terrible. But I really like seeing the interesting individual sports that you would never see otherwise. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is the huge costs imposed on the hosts. So much is expected now of a host that it really can’t be economically beneficial. So I think that it should just be held in places where the facilities already exist. And the winter Olympics should always be in Europe or North America because no one else gives a fuck. How many bobsled tracks and artificial whitewater courses does the world really need?

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  22. Refusing to participate in the Olympics will accomplish nothing of value.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but as has already been pointed out, participating in the Olympics accomplishes nothing of value either.

    1. Neither does climbing a mountain or cradling a laughing child.

      1. Climbing a laughing mountain on the other hand…

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