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Views & Voices

The Olympics: Why I’m Tuning Out

Friday, February 7, 2014
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Getty Images

The crowd at Nationwide Arena roared Saturday night when seven Columbus Blue Jackets players and executives were introduced at the last home game before they head to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

I cheered, too.

Members of our home team will play, coach or manage for hockey teams of four different nations in Sochi. According to Cleveland’s Plain Dealer, nine other athletes and coaches with Ohio ties will skate, slide or sled during these Olympics.

I wish them all well.

But I won’t be watching.

For months, President Vladimir Putin and leaders of the International Olympic Committee have been dismissing world concerns over Russia’s anti-gay laws and violence with assurances that LGBT athletes and spectators will be safe in Sochi.

They’ve offered no such peace of mind to LGBT Russians, who won’t have the luxury of leaving the host country after the Olympics are over. Behind the facade of a nation sanitized for TV, gay Russians have become prey to hate-filled fellow citizens who call their anti-gay hunts “safaris.”

I refuse to be one more TV viewer fueling the corporate-athletic complex of the IOC, international broadcasters and sponsors who downplay Russia’s state-fueled violence and cloak their own financial interests in our good will toward the world’s top athletes.

With their anti-gay “propaganda” law and repeated statements equating gay people with pedophiles, Putin and Russian authorities have given their not-tacit approval to the violence befalling LGBT people there. They have unleashed this wave, and they have done little to stop it. We cannot dismiss what’s happening there by pointing out Ohio’s own shortcomings: lack of marriage equality and lack of anti-discrimination protections. Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine might wish us political defeat, but they don’t wish us physical harm.

“Why the fuck are you dressed like that?,” an off-camera thug asks a young man who’s wearing a bedazzled denim vest and carrying a woman’s bag on his arm.

He might be headed to Axis Nightclub if he were standing on High Street in Columbus. In Russia, on a video recorded by the bullies who do this type of thing with regularity, he’s cowering on the ground after he’d already been punched in the jaw.

In videos collected and posted this week by Human Rights Watch and others floating around the Internet, gay Russians are shown being beaten and kicked. Men’s heads are shaved and painted in rainbow colors. One man’s hair is painted with a roller.

Some have dildoes slapped across their faces or poked at their mouths. Teenage boys are doused in urine or forced to drink it.

“Do you agree that we should kill you?,” someone asks a man who’s down on his knees. “I suppose that’s my fate,” he answers quietly.

Watch one video and see what else comes up. It’s an entire YouTube genre: Russian gay men being abducted, stripped, degraded. One is held with a big kitchen fork pointed at his eyes. One man shakes as his clothes are burned. Human Rights Watch says he was forced to sodomize himself with a glass bottle.

IOC President Thomas Bach calls protest of this terrorism an attempt to interject politics into his precious Olympic games. He criticized criticism of Russia this week. He chastised world leaders such as President Obama who have chosen not to attend the games. He said they weren’t invited anyway.

Mr. Bach is German. His country’s history books should contain ample evidence of what happens when the world turns its back on hatred, when people wish unpleasantness away instead of speaking out against it.

Bach and Putin have teamed up to shut down dissent at these Olympics. Putin has set up a protest zone 9 miles from any Olympics venue, and anyone protesting must get approval from authorities. Bach has warned athletes that the IOC will take away medals, if need be, from anyone who makes a statement against Russia’s anti-gay atmosphere during the Olympics’ two-week run.

Reports say athletes might wear rainbow pins and other shows of support for LGBT Russians. I hope they do.

It’s the only thing that would make these Olympics worth cheering for.

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70 more reader comments:

  1. I am not watching them either.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 11:55pm
  2. Boycott !!

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 11:55pm
  3. I kinda hope every single medal winning athlete makes a statement against Russia’s anti-gay atmosphere… Imagine the reaction if the IOC take every single medal away from the winners… Doubt it’ll happen, but one can dream…

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 11:55pm
  4. God, Putin has barely done anything against the LGBT community and we’re already crucifying him. It’s the Olympics, watch it or don’t. It’s pointless to try and make a moral point of not watching a sporting event. Putin doesn’t have anything against us, he banned gay propaganda in schools because it was an easy way to be courted by the conservative factions of Russia. Get over yourselves and tackle some real problems facing sexual minorities instead of throwing a hissy fight over simple Russian political baiting.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 11:57pm
  5. sad really, that you think it's just not a big deal.

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:21am
  6. Thanks Jacob...I was going trough thiese comments and realise people dont really get it...Putin doesn't have anything against gay people..He is just stopping them to force their lifestyle on kids...and that is their law..It hasnot been said that people were arrested for being gay...

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:08am
  7. And trust me the real hell is in africa... I dont agree with it but in africa gay people get burned alive,stone to death,killed by mob...If they want real homophobia they should take a look at africa...

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:15am
  8. well said and I completely agree. I won’t be watching the Olympics. sad to hear the brutality facing the Russian LGBT community.

    Posted on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 11:57pm
  9. Boycotted….

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:00am
  10. yep not watching…next time maybe if the host country isn’t full of homophobes

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:01am
  11. by boycotting I feel you are punishing the athletes that worked so hard to get there, it is doing absolutely nothing to Putin or Russia. What they are doing there is disgusting and despicable but it doesn’t help not to watch.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:01am
  12. It’s the ’39 Berlin Olympics all over again. The Nazis did their best to cover up the atrocities going on in Germany during those games. Looks like Putin and his thugs are attempting to pull the wool over the world’s eyes. Clearly the IOC, doesn’t give a shit as they knew about the laws before their passage.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:03am
  13. I think you mean the 1936 Olympics and you're absolutely correct.

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:08pm
  14. I’m with you.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:05am
  15. I not watching either..lol XD

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:07am
  16. Sentiments I also echo… thanks for sharing http://theoriginoflove.com/2014/02/05/why-im-tuning-out-sochi-2014/

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:08am
  17. I’m watching and the world is watching; and Russian bigotry and hate is in the limelight. I love the athletes and I love the BIG GAY OLYMPICS! I hold my breath for rainbow flags on the podiums!!!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:10am
  18. I’m watching to support our athletes and our country. But I’m also keeping an eye on the athletes, companies and media that are supporting our community. These things matter and using this platform to advance the cause for human rights is huge. Go USA! And a big thanks to our allies that continue to express their support, even in the face of harm.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:15am
  19. How would President Putin like to be sodomized with a glass bottle, hm??? This is horrible, and I’m definitely not watching. No way in hell would I support such violent bigotry, especially on a scale this huge. :(

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:17am
  20. I really hope the ratings are the worst ever.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:18am
  21. I’m a huge supporter and member of the LGBT community but I’m not boycotting for the sake of the athletes and LBGT Russians. These athletes have spent all their lives trying to get here and while I do feel sorry for them getting screwed out of the real Olympic experience (I can safely say that Russia is NOT the place this should have gone down, should’ve gone to Pyongchang) I think they deserve the experience the others have. This is supposed to be about them, and with LGBT athletes out there, I think they deserve our full support. Plus, in the Berlin Olympics, it ended with a black man winning gold in a track event and making Hitler look like an imbecile, that wouldn’t have happened if people kept tuning out. I have a feeling that history will repeat itself this time. It won’t be the “sanitized nation” that the article talks about, I feel like they won’t be able to hide it all between all the gay hate and terrorism. They keep having to cut the cameras with the world watching, it’ll make them realize what assholes they are and maybe, just maybe, everybody seeing their Olympics fail will make Putin realize that Canada’s warm and genuine Olympics went so much better. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I’m taking action against Putin along with wearing my rainbow wristband every day during the games.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:20am
  22. Yes, but did Owens getting the gold stop the Holocaust?

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:14pm
  23. Not watching.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:28am
  24. I’ve never watched, and now I’m glad…I certainly have an even better reason not to watch than simple disinterest.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:31am
  25. The viewership stat.s after it’s over will be interesting. I’m betting on a ALL TIME LOW. I am in the “Did not watch” column.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:33am
  26. I’m not watching. Sadly, I know that many of my LGBT friends will be.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:35am
  27. nor i

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:38am
  28. We are boycotting them as well

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:41am
  29. Not watching, not buying any sponsor products.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:42am
  30. I won’t be watching either

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:46am
  31. Not me!! No way am I watching them !!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:51am
  32. Shame I neither drink coke, nor eat McDonalds, two of the largest sponsors of the Winter Olympics, otherwise I would be boycotting them too!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:22am
  33. Cut up your VISA card and switch to MasterCard

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:54am
  34. Shit thats going on in Russia is exactly how a holocaust starts.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:23am
  35. I’m not watching them either, I’m mean good luck to all the atheles I wish them well but I will not be watching for the reason of mistreatment of the LGBT Citizens of Russia.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:24am
  36. So let me understand this. Folks are not watching the Olympics & boycotting to send a message to Putin by hurting US companies who for the most part have zero influence the politics of Russia? I am watching proudly supporting the athletes representing the USA.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:39am
  37. American sponsors have paid huge sums of money to the IOC for these games. Cindy, respectfully do what you like. The focus and criticism here falls on the IOC for allowing these games to be held in a country that does not respect human rights. Think about that please when you are watching them.

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:53am
  38. They should have never be held in China as well!!!

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:30pm
  39. I’m only watching to see how the open gay athletes are being treated.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 2:41am
  40. Not watching this time.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:15am
  41. We’re boycotting.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:23am
  42. Boycott!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:35am
  43. BOYCOTT THE GAMES !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:43am
  44. Whether you watch or do not watch is immaterial. It really does nothing of consequence, though I understand the distaste, and am very happy all of this information has been consolidated in one place. Everyone should be alarmed at what is happening in Russia. There are also gross aspects of it that don’t even have to do with us LGBT folk. It’s also disgusting that Russia hired workers from Serbia and Bosnia to work on the event and then deported them without pay. Despicable.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:47am
  45. Boycotting the games– not watching …

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:15am
  46. Amen that someone feels like I do.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:16am
  47. But the Olympics aren’t in Africa right now.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:17am
  48. Fabrice you are as ignorant as any villager near Auschwitz. People are being beaten, oppressed and silenced. Bet you think the Jews must have done something for the Nuremberg Laws to be passed too.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:22am
  49. Yeah, Fabrice, more “Christian Love” in action. If you cannot see the connection, well, it helps you sleep nights.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:24am
  50. I just can not watch it…. It is a tragic state really….

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:38am
  51. I agree. Not watching, not buying from sponsors, canceled my VISA…

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 5:04am
  52. That was 1936 in Berlin and I’m not watching either.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 5:12am
  53. Nice essay, but I don’t see where he explains how not watching will have any effect on Russian politics.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 5:35am
  54. I’m not watching at all, either

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 6:05am
  55. I’m not watching either! Mostly because I haven’t watched the Olympics (or NBC) for years now but still! I know it doesn’t matter because I’m not in a Nielsen Family but still! Might still watch the World Cup, though.. #USA #USA #USA!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 6:07am
  56. It won’t do much other then give you the satisfaction that you “did something”

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 7:00am
  57. Couldn’t agree more!!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 7:34am
  58. should we stop discussing it? hmmm

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 8:23am
  59. Months of coverage of boycotting games in Russia……. Our brothers and sisters are being killed and arrested in Africa and this site remains silent – Why????

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 8:29am
  60. It’s Winter Olympics . Who cares I hate the cold.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 9:21am
  61. I say that any medals earned would have been cast in Lgbt blood, those medals are not something to be proud off

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 11:38am
  62. I am watching the BRAVE athletes who make their families and countries proud. When I see moms bursting with pride. I’m overcome with unstoppable tears. I truly believe having the games in Sochi brings gay equality into the forefront and will ultimately further our progress throughout THE WORLD! Hallelujah!

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 12:37pm
  63. I’ve never watched that shit. And I don’t care about it.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:13pm
  64. Amen Sharon, I’m supporting our athletes by watching. They certainly didn’t ask for the games to be held in an anti-gay country.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 1:54pm
  65. And they didn't call out to the IOC and demand to move them as well. That would've made a difference, but obviously a medal is worth more than human lives ...

    Replied on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:25pm
  66. I still say we should have boycotted the olympics, as we have done so twice years ago for something even less.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 2:00pm
  67. Sharon Jean Roth. Right on target.
    These kids gave up everything to be the best. They are brave to go there and should be supported.
    Its good that this is being exposed worldwide.
    Don’t forget this hatred is alive and well in the USA too…

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 2:40pm
  68. Said the couch potato. Lol

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 2:42pm
  69. Well said and agree.

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:26pm
  70. feeling sorry for the athletes. But no-I’m not watching

    Posted on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 3:53pm