The Olympics is an event meant to bring the world together in a spirit of sportsmanship and mutual respect. Sometimes the choice of host city can clash strongly with this purpose. When Sochi, Russia was chosen for the 2014 Olympics, this lead to a great deal of protest. Russia is seen as a place of “social stigma and state discrimination” with regard to visible minorities and immigrants. Russia’s homophobic laws and treatment of gays are also a source of major contention.
Amid the controversy, there is one unlikely source speaking up against calls for a boycott: Former Olympian Greg Louganis.
Louganis was sorry to have never have been given the chance to compete during that time period. He thinks that a boycott by athletes and audiences would hurt the competitors more so than Russia.
The Olympics typically happen every four years, providing a narrow window of time for an athlete to train and compete at their peak. Few elite athletes make it to three or more competitions. A boycott means a major opportunity will be lost that will never return. Louganis is not defending Russian policies; he is instead thinking of the sacrifice and disappointment of the athletes involved.
Despite his intentions, Louganis’ decision to speak out against boycotting the Sochi Olympics has earned him some negative press and even hate mail.
“I was told, ‘How can I call myself a gay man?’ Or that I was a horrible homosexual. I had one really graphic and hateful one and actually reached out to him and we became friends.”
Louganis’ alternative to an out-and-out boycott is to have Olympians thank gay friends and family members whenever they win.
— Marc Jayson Climaco (@MarcClimaco) December 13, 2013
“I don’t see how the [International Olympic Committee] can say anything about that, because it’s personal, not political. If you have a supportive aunt, uncle, cousin, friend who is gay, you don’t win a gold medal by yourself. There is a team of people behind you. And to recognize those people is a way athletes can show their support of the LGBT community and what’s going on in Russia.”
Image: Greg Louganis Twitter