On October 17, 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos had their respective gold and bronze medals taken away for raising their fists as the symbolic symbol of black power during their Olympic awards ceremony. It was reasoned that they had violated the goodwill of the Olympic Games, showed atrocious manners and poor sportsmanship. People booed the two Olympians out of the stadium. Still, when this incident is explained in many schools, there is an ambivalent “shrug” implied. This heinous display of simple-mindedness is justified by the fact that the Olympic Games are independent of politics and struggles. It’s about the glory (AND IMPLICIT EQUALITY) of sport.
So, now we see a global uproar about the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, after the recent passing of the Russian anti-gay law, which is described in garbled jargon as a ban on the “propaganda of non-tradtional sexual relations to minors.” People are protesting outside of Russian embassies and consulates. I’ve even reconsidered buying Russian vodka out of implicit guilt. I think the new Russian laws are disgusting and horrible. They are yet another indication of the civil rights calamity that is the Russian government.
The Olympic Committee took away two men’s medals because of their support of the civil rights movement in the United States. They were taken because it was thought that the Olympians introduced political opinion into the neutral arena of the Olympics. But a closer look reveals that regarding the Olympics as neutral is a fallacy to begin with because the Games seek to instill and to be a proponent of a sort of ambiguous “equality.” Neutrality and equality are not synonymous. Being a proponent of equality means breaching self-induced neutrality and supporting those that seek to equate the minority with the majority. By taking the medals of Carlos and Smith, the Committee added to the implicit inequity of the Games, but it also hypocritically contradicted itself. Pre-civil rights United States was an incredibly unfair and tyrannical place for minorities. One would hope that the Olympic Games officials wouldn’t be blinded by petty ignorant concerns that get in the way of the larger issues, but this clearly is not the case. If the Olympic Committee couldn’t see that the symbol of black power encouraged the equality it claimed to support as an institution, then I really doubt that it will sympathize with the gay community now. It strikes me as an identical situation, just 50 years later. Perhaps the only difference is that it isn’t a question of taking away of medals. Do you know what one of the most used products in Olympic Villages is? Condoms. To be specific, more than 150,000 were provided for the London Games, and that was 60,000 more than were used in Beijing. So we can only assume that the number of Sochi condoms will be higher, per demand. But what happens now, in light of the new laws, when international athletes are persecuted for “untraditional” sex? The whole thing is a ticking time bomb, rattling its way into the bedrooms of Russian citizens and foreign athletes alike.
These kinds of civil problems spawn from ignorance surrounding their vitality. The struggle for gay rights is the primary civil battle of this century. Right here, right now, it’s up to us to choose how we limit those based on sexual orientation. The Sochi Games will be played in a country that arrests those who take part in Pride rallies or who are somehow linked to businesses deemed “proponents of untraditional sex.” It’s disgusting, but the Olympic Committee has never been one for fair opportunity. It’s a hypocritical organization — and that idea comes before considering all the displaced working class around the world that have been cleared out of poverty areas to make way for Olympic stadiums (Atlanta, Montreal, London, Seoul). Don’t hold your breath that Russia or the Olympic Committee will do anything about the human rights violations that will reign supreme during Sochi 2014. If you feel strongly, don’t watch the Games. I certainly won’t. Don’t support an organization that doesn’t, and never has, practiced what it preaches. No matter how enticing the downhill skiing will be.