Stephen Fry’s open letter to David Cameron and IOC President Jacques Rogge has piled existing pressure on the IOC to ban the Sochi Winter Games due to Russia’s discrimination against LGBT people.
Fry compares the Sochi 2014 Games occurring under anti-gay laws to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and its infamous shadow of anti-Semitic persecution, stating that President Putin is “making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did Jews”.
The frightening parallel is the current lack of opposition from the IOC towards the Russian government. The IOC have merely released an indefinite statement saying that the anti-gay laws will not be present at the Sochi Games – however Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko disputed this in a recent Interview.
In 1936, the Olympic Committee, along with the German police, ignored the barbarism suffered by Jews. Six months from now, 78 years after this sinister Olympics, a similar Games could ensue. This is the persecution of a culture: gay men and women are beaten to death, lead to a resort of suicide, even “correctively” raped. And of course this is not just happening in Russia.
Fry’s plea to “not let history repeat itself” is one of many high profile outrages among celebrities and politicians. On Tuesday, appearing on The Tonight Show, Obama publicly condemned Russia’s anti-gay laws, calling it a violation of “basic morality” and stating that the fair and just treatment of people should “transcend every country”.
The Russian government is criminal. Oppression will be met with revolution. Russian LGBTs you are not alone. We will fight for your freedom.
— Lady Gaga ()
Many athletes are attacking the anti-gay laws and plan to promote gay rights during the Games, regardless of the consequences. Yet athletes who choose to advocate gay rights – even to the extent of wearing a badge – risk being thrown out of the Olympics for conveying “propaganda”.
This leads to the other end of the argument – that the Sochi Games should not be boycotted in an attempt to draw attention to the injustice. Interestingly, a Russian LGBT organisation has opposed the boycott because of this reason.
Yet it is undeniable that the Sochi 2014 Games proceeding under anti-gay laws would go against the unity that the Olympics stands for and would unravel the importance of modern diversity so conveyed by the London Olympics last summer.
The Sochi Games is flying a flag of contradiction. Even the mascots are symbols of bitter irony – for instance, there is an alien mascot named ‘Ray of Light’. Its story is featured on the Sochi 2014 website:
“Very soon, people understood that the difference between Ray of Light and the people on the Earth was based purely on appearances and that it was just people’s initial perceptions that had led them to believe that there were great differences. The more they interacted, the more they discovered that they were much more similar than they had thought at the beginning.”
The Putin favoured mascot of the snow leopard is supposed to symbolise Russia’s “regeneration”. A regeneration of “television technology” that is. This is the promotional quotation central to the Sochi 2014 website, a statement by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak stating that “advanced Ultra High Definition technology will be used in Sochi.” So the Games will focus on advancement and regeneration (or in other words, the economy), yet the country’s regressive attitude towards its LGBT people is truly ironic.
Fry reiterates that sport is cultural, and so surely the Sochi 2014 Winter Games taking place under a culture of oppression is wrong.