THE BLOG
08/15/2013 08:12 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

It's Time to Move the 2014 Winter Olympics Out of Russia

Last week actor George Takei wrote on his blog, "[T]he IOC must do the right thing, protect its athletes and the fans, and move the 2014 Winter Olympics out of Russia."

Moving the Olympic Games is a drastic measure that should not be taken lightly. However, recent events have made it clear that Takei is correct: Russia is an unsuitable and unstable nation that is unqualified to host a major world event. No country is perfect, but when Russia was awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics in 2007, few people knew that its warts were actually tumors. And instead of seeking emergency assistance to get healthy six months before the big event, Russia defiantly turned its radiation treatment on its critics and poisoned the atmosphere. In the run-up to the Games, everyone is talking about how Russia has gone downhill, and no one is talking about downhill skiing. At this juncture, no diplomacy can save this patient, and it seems that there is a new scandal every day.

New York Times readers were recently greeted by the headline "Gays in Russia Find No Haven, Despite Support From the West." The next day's horrible headline in the same newspaper was "Russia Steps Up Raids Against Migrants." According to the story:

"Everything about this massive sweep violates Russia's obligations under international law," said Tanya Lokshina, Human Rights Watch's director in Russia. "Prolonged detention without counsel, ethnic profiling, inhuman conditions -- it should stop now."

It seems that no group that doesn't resemble skinheads is safe in this festering wound of a country. In such an environment it is insane for advertisers to spend millions of dollars on risky Olympic Games that could easily tarnish, if not destroy, their brand.

For me, the final straw, in terms of wanting to move the Olympics, came on Monday when I heard the statement from Russia's Interior Ministry, which controls the police force:

The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully.

The head of Russia's National Olympic Committee, Alexander Zhukov, also made it clear that LGBT people and their allies were in jeopardy:

If a person does not put across his views in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken.

What this police state demands is that athletes and spectators surrender their liberty, free speech, and dignity to adhere to Russia's unjust, totalitarian laws. It is insisting that openly gay people go back in the closet. For LGBT individuals (and some straight people) who can't easily "pass" as straight or simply appear to be gay, the security forces are mandating that they play straight to fit in. Essentially, Russia is forcing them to consciously adjust the way they walk, talk, and act or possibly face charges or the wrath of neo-Nazi hooligans. This is asking far too much from these individuals and their countries while deliberately undermining the Olympic spirit. It is time for the IOC to act decisively and pull the plug on this travesty before it spirals further out of control.

As an athlete, I am sympathetic to the fact that the participants have spent much of their lives training for this big moment. However, the Olympics are allegedly about world unity and doing what is best for mankind. Surely, for the cause of human rights, these athletes can wait until 2014, if necessary, for the Games to be moved to a civilized country.

It is even difficult to understand why Russia still wants to host the Games. This fiasco is a public relations disaster, and Mother Russia is coming across as a big, dumb, stupid bear that hasn't succeeded since Sputnik. At best, Russia appears to be a passive-aggressive nation with an identity crisis. It violently jerks back and forth between narcissistic grandiosity and a debilitating inferiority complex. The nation wants to be viewed as an international player, which is wildly incongruent with its erratic behavior on the global stage. It desperately seeks the West's approval but defines itself by gleefully bashing the West. It positions itself as modern but comes across as hopelessly backwards and medieval. It flexes its flabby muscles in hopes that it will be perceived as powerful, but all the world sees are cowardly Russian thugs picking on the powerless.

There is no easy fix, and the number of negative stories will keep growing. Compounding the situation is Russia's attitude problem, with exasperated officials becoming increasingly tactless and testy as their country prepares to face its big Olympic test. Russia clearly doesn't have its act together, so it's time to move the big show before it's too late.