Russia is not the safest place for anyone LGBTQ-identified, but soon thousands of people of all kinds will be filing into Sochi for the 2014 Winter Games. While some are calling for a boycott, others are throwing their support behind U.S. appointed delegates like Billie Jean King and Brian Boitano as well as any other out athletes that will be competing for the Gold.
With the Olympics only a few weeks away, we thought we’d discuss where we stand on watching the high-stakes competitions, and if we ever watched them in the first place.
Lucy Hallowell: I love the Olympics. Love them so much. When I was in high school they added women’s ice hockey. We watched the US women’s team, led by players I grew up cheering for, win the gold in Nagano. Women’s ice hockey is a pretty small sport so over the years I have gotten to cheer for a lot of familiar faces in the Olympics, women I played with or against or coached with in the summer. Most of those ladies have retired by now, but there are a couple kicking around and I will be cheering them in Sochi.
There are totally valid arguments on both sides of the boycott vs don’t boycott debate. The one thing that really stuck with me is John Carlos saying that no one remembers that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar didn’t go to the 1968 Olympics but everyone remembers Carlos and Tommie Smith protesting on the podium. There’s a power to being there to say something.
I think the political side of the Olympics is going to be fascinating. Little Caitlin Cahow, the most earnest camper I ever had, taking a stand. I kind of love it.
Kim Hoffmann: I was way into the Olympics (both summer and winter) as a kid. I wanted/needed Bela Karolyi to be my life-coach/second father. The way he carried Kerri Strug off the mat? Eternally feeling goosebumps over it. But what’s important is that it’s winter—and nothing is colder or icier than Tonya Harding. Also, I watched Tonya & Nancy: The Inside Story on Lifetime in 1994 and have never been the same.
Dana Piccoli: I hate to admit it but I’m one of those rare lesbians that really dislikes sports. I have zero athletic ability and so it’s never held much appeal to me. That said, I always tune in to the Summer Olympics for Women’s Soccer (I mean, hello!). Figure skating makes me nervous. I’m so worried a triple axle will end with a trip to the hospital. I hate watching people fail. It’s the same reason I can’t watch American Idol.
With that said, I have tremendous respect for these athletes and all the hard work it took them to get to this level of competition. I’m really torn about Sochi. On one hand, I want to show the Russian government that I think what they are doing is appalling. On the other hand, my heart breaks for all the athletes who’ve worked their whole lives for this opportunity. I may watch bits and pieces to support hose athletes who had the courage to stand up in the face of opposition, but that’s all.
Chloe: I will be watching Olympic providing someone invites me over for a viewing party (hint hint). As a former International Relations major, I sadly don’t see this boycott doing anything other than “raise awareness” which means in this case means “chat about terrible things happening in other parts of the world.” While I 100% respect, admire, and understand why someone might boycott the Olympics, I won’t personally take part. Putin is not losing sleep over the prospect of low ratings and American disapproval. Russia doesn’t need our validation. Let’s say the boycott works, and slightly less people watch the Olympics this year. So what? How will that actually damage Russia? The Olympics are happening, the money is flowing in, and by the time activists tally up boycott impact or participation, the Olympics will be over and Putin will continue doing Putin as he has done for a long, long time.
Jill Guccini: I LOVE THE OLYMPICS SOSOSOSOSOSO MUCH so Sochi has been ripping apart my heart for months. My wife and I have decided that we are fo’ sho’ watching, and hoping we get to see some awesome Jesse Owens moments, or like the Carlos and Tommie Smith moment Lucy mentioned. FIGHT THE POWER. FIGHT THE POWERS THAT BE. At the same time, I really really hope everyone remains safe and OK.
As for who I specifically root for other than world solidarity and underdogs, I don’t follow winter sports heroes as much as summer ones, so I’m mainly rooting for Mary Carillo.
Karman Kregloe: I’m not a sporty lesbian, so I’ll probably just tune in to watch the bobsled events (mostly because I want to own a bobsled) and half-watch anything that my wife will be watching as I read a book. If anything, I’ll tune in to news reports about any developments around homophobia in Russia. The Washington Post reported this gem today about a recent press conference with Putin:
Putin met with a group of volunteers in the Olympic mountain venue at Krasnaya Polyana on Friday to wish them success at the Games. During a question-and-answer session, one volunteer asked him about Russia’s attitudes toward gays, a subject that has provoked worldwide controversy, and Putin offered what was apparently meant to be a reassuring answer for visitors to the Olympics. “One can feel calm and at ease,” he said. “Just leave kids alone, please.”
His comment is at once infuriating and scary. I’m sad that homophobia has marred this event for all of the athletes who have devoted their lives to training for this event. I hope someone (or a whole group of folks) use the occasion of the whole world watching to make a powerful pro-equality statement and that they aren’t harmed for doing so. Perhaps some positive change can come about as a result.
Trish Bendix: Growing up I only really cared about the women’s figure skating, but this year I’m going to try and watch more events, like women’s snowboarding (Belle Brockhoff!), skiing, and bobsled. My biggest hope for the games is that by bringing in people from all over the world, including out LGBTQ champions and fans, Russia’s queer community will feel the support they have outside of their current political climate.
Will you be watching the Olympics? How do you feel about them going down in Russia?