Why the U.S. Shouldn't Boycott Sochi 2014

Let me preface what I'm about to say with this: I absolutely hate political involvement in the Olympics and don't advocate for any of it. At all. Ever. In any form.

That being said...

What with Russia's anti-gay legislation coming to light, there have been numerous people saying that the U.S. should boycott Sochi 2014 in protest. These range from important LGBT figures to senators to random people on Tumblr. But I have to wonder if these people have done any sort of research at all about what they're trumpeting.

Thankfully (and proving my point), the USOC released a statement about such a boycott.
"If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work. Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict. It did, however, deprive hundreds of American athletes, all whom had completely dedicated themselves to representing our nation at the Olympic Games, of the opportunity of a lifetime. It also deprived millions of Americans of the opportunity to take pride in the achievements of our athletes, and in their dedication and commitment, at a time when we needed it most. While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country’s best interests."

Have you ever done a Google image search for Moscow 1980? Well, I have, and here's what the first page looks like:

No indication that anything was amiss. The Cold War continued for years afterwards. The only thing this boycott accomplished was, like the USOC's statement says, depriving athletes of a goal they'd been working towards their entire lives.

As someone who knows what it feels like to have your goals foiled by government, I couldn't wish this on anyone. I didn't even put in years of training and sacrifice, yet not being able to do the only job I've ever wanted to do only because the British government wouldn't grant me a visa left me a complete emotional mess. I can't even imagine what those athletes must've felt like.

Just as a little side note, Steven Spielberg decided not to direct Beijing 2008's Opening Ceremony in protest over China's human rights issues.

His replacement put on what's widely considered the greatest opening ceremony ever. Awkward.
I think the public forgot about him somewhere within the first 20 seconds of the ceremony. I mean, I'm just saying.

And, if the U.S. had boycotted Berlin 1936, we wouldn't have had Jesse Owens, who is FAR more well-known than any boycott ever could've been.

Boycotts. Don't. Work.

On the flip side, I agree with everyone who says Russia's policies are horrible and backwards and unfathomably awful. I just read an article on Variety that talks about how NBC may or may not handle the situation, and whether or not coverage should draw attention to it. Which brings me to my next point...

Have you ever done a Google image search for Mexico City 1968? Because I have.

Note those handy red arrows I added?

This is what's called a successful protest, folks.

The Olympics is literally the world's biggest stage. Four billion -- billion -- people watch the Opening Ceremony. The black power salute is arguable one of the most iconic photos of all time, and is definitely one of the most iconic sports moments of all time.

I read the autobiography written by John Carlos (the bronze medalist on that infamous podium up there), and he wrote that black athletes were considering boycotting Mexico City 1968 to protest their inferior treatment. Clearly they didn't, and clearly they made the winning decision in terms of bringing attention to their cause.

But that boycott? Uh...

Again, I hate when politics bleed into the Olympics. Please don't think I'm saying that there should be a gay rights protest at Sochi 2014. The guys on that black power podium basically ruined the next few decades of their lives by doing that, and politicized an event that's inherently supposed to be non-political. But honestly, I'd prefer that to a boycott. If individuals want to take a stand, that's their own choice. But governments absolutely should not punish their athletes for something they have no control over.

Basically, boycotts suck. Just say no.

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