While some LGBT activists are calling for the International Olympic Committee to ban countries that discriminate against its athletes based on sexual orientation, don't count me among them. An Olympic ban would affect no policy change and would only serve to hurt the athletes, some of whom are gay, who have trained so hard for so many years.
Any attempt by outside forces or nations to politicize the Olympic Games is a disgrace. The beauty of the Olympics is that they are a celebration of the athletes above all else. The people on the sidelines are supposed to be just that for those two weeks as we all marvel at the power of human will and drive.
To be sure, we have seen incredible moments of powerful political statements at the Games, most notably the 1968 Black Power salute ignited our nation. When Jesse Owens became the star of the 1936 Berlin Games, he cast a bright light on the horrible discrimination afflicting the Germans.
What makes these so different is that it was the athletes making the statement by being athletes, not some outsiders attacking the Games with a political agenda.
While I was very young, I remember when the United States played politics with the Olympics and boycotted the 1980 Games in Moscow. All told, 65 countries refused to attend those games, many of them following the United States' lead. Was the Soviet Union hurt by it? Did the boycott affect any change in the Eastern Bloc? No. Instead, hundreds of athletes saw their dreams of an Olympic medal shattered because of the decision of national "leaders" whose policies these 20-somethings had no control over.
One of those athletes was a young diver named Greg Louganis. Louganis had won a silver medal in the 10m platform at the 1976 Games in Montreal. In 1978, he won gold at the World Championships in Berlin. Heading into the Moscow Games, he was a favorite to win gold. Yet because of politics, Louganis' dream of Olympic gold would have to wait. While Louganis won gold four years later, 14 nations responded to the United States' political boycott with a boycott of their own in 1984, smashing the dreams of hundreds more athletes.
Taking it to the next level, someone could propose a ban that would eliminate any nation with a discriminatory law. Countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Australia could all be banned from the Games because they don't allow same-sex marriage. Only 11 nations currently allow equal same-sex marriage rights. Why not ban every nation that discriminates?
While the Euro-centered protesters would surely sip their tea and tell you they don't intend for the Western nations to be banned, I don't see how they can have it both ways. Yet in their letter to the IOC they enumerate the violations of countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran and India... with no reference to the second-class-citizen status of LGBT Brits and Americans.
These wars should be fought in the United Nations, not the Olympic Games.
While some LGBT activists are taking to the streets of London to demand the IOC ban any country with anti-gay discrimination in sports, I find the effort short-sited and mis-targeted. Instead of demanding a ban, they should work with the IOC to make bold statements away from the Olympic Games, or find athletes to take a stand during the Games. Those are more powerful, effective uses of these Games.
Thankfully, the IOC will ignore these protests and institute no ban, continuing to focus on creating opportunities for the athletes. No gymnast, swimmer, diver, runner or rower should be held back from the Games because of policies they have no control over. I wish people would stop trying to play politics with the hopes and dreams of these athletes.
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