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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Thursday 22 August 2013

UPDATED: Wrestling with Russia: There's Something Queer About the Sochi Olympics

It doesn't take a genius to see where this is headed.

The Olympics is an international event meant to unite the world in a spirit of friendly competition.  Everyone is equal regardless of where they come from or what they look like - it's all about skill.

International events like the Olympics draw international audiences.  People will stream into Sochi from all over the world, trying to take in the sports, go to the cool parties and just be present for something special.

As with other world-stage events - the Toronto G20 comes to mind - you're also going to get advocacy groups showing up, using the platform to raise their voice or to protest injustices like, I don't know, the suppression of LGBTQ people and allies in Russia.

Russia (though not Putin) has said everyone will be welcome to the Games and the IOC seems to be taking that assurance as enough.  Thing is, Russians are still going to be persecuted regardless of what happens to outsiders.  Russia may try to pull a North Korea (these people are our people - back off, International Community!) but if they think they can shut out all the potential rabble rousers around gay rights, they're delusional.

Sochi will be filled with Gay Rights activists.  There will be enough gay-friendly activity on display under the international spotlight that other people with a bent for human equality are going to get in on the game.  Without question, Russia's anti-gay law is going to be challenged to the max, putting the Russian government - ie, Putin - in a corner.  On top of this, you'll have the rabble-rousers, the carousers - and the anti-gay rights camp will be out in force, too.

Russia or the IOC could take a page out of Apple's playbook, play on this emerging social zeitgeist and pull a brand-building win out of doing the right thing.  Trouble  is, Putin is a bear-wrestling tough-guy who doesn't like to be challenged.  It'll be mighty tempting for him to enforce his reputation and bring down the hammer.  That would not be a pretty scene. 

The IOC, focused solely on their Games and brand, need to take a step back and make a thorough assessment of what to expect and what repercussions they are prepared to own - because, at the end of the day, the Olympics are their party, we're the guests. 

Or, they can decide there's nothing to be done to change what will come and stick their heads in the sand.  That's a conundrum for them to wrestle with.

UPDATE:  The scuffles started after anti-fay protesters tore a rainbow flag out of a woman's hands.  The St. Petersburg City Government had sanctioned they rally despite the Russian Government's June passage of a contentious law outlawing gay "propaganda." Gays in Russia have faced increasing pressure and threats of violence from homophobic vigilantes.

That scuffle has left us with this ionic image of the sort that comes to define the stories of our time; they are the ones that matter, because the folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.  They kept going.  Because there were holding on to something...

With one of those iconic images that comes to define the stories of our times - the ones that matter.  Folks in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't.  They kept going.  Because they were holding on to something-

The notion that ideas are bullet proof.

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