Men in shiny suits and helmets are zooming through ice-encrusted tunnels, and thin, metal blades are cutting through frozen water rinks in choreographed fashion.
The 2014 Olympics in Sochi are well underway, and while nationalistic flags and athlete emotions are flying high with competitive spirit, the skies in Russia are devoid of any rainbow flags. News of institutionally-sanctioned homophobia coming out of this uniquely complex and frighteningly socially backwards country provides a depressing contrast to the excitement we wish we could feel around the zeal of this worldwide global event.
We didn't sit idly by while requests for equality were spurned. We tried boycotting Russian products, moving the Games to a more hospitable nation, commissioning our elected officials to call on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Russia to change their ways. We protested in front of the Russian consulate. Heck, even our president stood up for human rights and LGBT equality and refused to attend the most talked-about homophobic global event in history.
But our cries for official support went unanswered.
The games continue and our LGBT brothers are sisters brave enough to stand up in the face of hate continue to be met with beatings, arrests and detainment.
So now what?
The time is ripe for a sensible and feasible call to action. Now that we have the stage and international limelight to hear our cause and the plight of LGBT equality, we need to come together to plan next steps. Yes, it may be too late to call the IOC to task for Russia, but let's use this time of heightened awareness to demand that stricter guidelines be enacted for consideration of all future Olympic hosts.
We must pressure the International Olympics Committee and all supportive nations to choose only those host countries that uphold values of equality and integrity.
An openly gay city councilor from Vancouver, Tim Stevenson, recently met with high-ranking IOC officials to plead that the organization revisit its anti-discrimination policies to provide further, adequate considerations when it comes to protecting its athletes and spectators on the basis of sexual orientation. While the IOC said it's open to amending its charter to adapt to the current sociopolitical landscape, its president also criticized countries for bringing international politics into the Games. The IOC's balking at the consequences of their actions is like a homophobic parent urging their gay son not to bring his boyfriend home for the holidays.
We can not and will not curb authentic parts of ourselves or the support from our allies to validate the missteps of the IOC and countries that deny human rights to its citizens and visitors.
The Olympics are a unique time when the attention of the world is held. The Games are supposed to be the one time every few years when we put our differences aside and come together in the spirit of respect and peace. Ignoring human rights violations destroys the soul of the Olympics intended purpose.
Let's pressure the IOC to choose only countries that are pinnacles of civil rights. Let's celebrate human rights and the Olympic spirit by uplifting those who set a proud example for the rest of the world. There are 196 countries to choose from; surely a couple might qualify.