Winter Games 2014: To Boycott Or Not

black power

It’s undeniable- Russia has been acting particularly Russian lately. Somewhere between Pussy Riot persecution, anti-gay propaganda, Snowden sheltering, and referring to their wild dog problem as “living trash” while proactively rounding them up and locking them away (something we do here as well, by the way), many of us in the United States have pushed for boycotting the games. While I find all of the above indefensible (except maybe Snowden), I’m against turning away.

History tells us that the Olympics are about pushing civilization forward- even if it means holding the contests in places that are acting backwards. By the world sending their best to do their thing, history has to recognize the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. China didn’t just “relocate” dogs to build their Olympic village, they destroyed an entire shantytown that people had been living in. Nevertheless, in the years since, that nation has become more open and friendly to the free world than ever before.

I think it’s safe to say that modern day Russia isn’t as bad as 1936 Germany. What if Jesse Owens had boycotted, just not gone? Not put it directly in Hitler’s face that a black man could be a superior athlete to dozens of Aryans? His very presence there was already an act of defiance. Now add to that his absolute dominance, consider the measure of the stride of that footstep forward.

In 1968, rather than not go to the games in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos went to win gold and bronze respectively in the 200 meter race. Once on the podium, they raised their fists in a black power salute, making their cause heard around the world. Anyone sympathetic to the cause would have to be hard pressed to tell you that they should’ve stayed home.

Where the games are held only matters in that the place in question is about to bare first hand witness to what the greatest of the young adult generation of the time is capable of. Perhaps the powers that be behind the decision of where the show goes should make certain considerations, but once they’ve made their call, the youth of the world should never be denied.

So, my own issues behind me, I’ll be watching and talking about the Sochi Olympics.