Sochi 2014 Olympics Boycott? Greg Louganis: “Nyet!” Stephen Fry: “Da!”

The mounting controversy surrounding Russia’s widespread legal war against LGBTQ persons and allies continues to inspire people to speak out, worldwide. The loudest of these voices are LGBTQ people themselves.

Two notable and diametrically opposed viewpoints have emerged from the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively. Olympian athlete Greg Louganis and world renowned entertainer Stephen Fry, both two out gay men, are speaking up for themselves, in their own words, and taking a stand against anti-gay legislation in their own distinct ways.

Both men took to writing blog posts (Louganis writing exclusively for PolicyMic while Fry posted an open letter on his own blog), voicing their concerns and advocating for the rights of all LGBTQ people affected by the increasing strict, punitive climate in Russia.

Louganis’ post, “I’m An Openly Gay Gold Medalist and I Reject the Sochi Olympics Boycott,” (http://www.policymic.com/articles/58481/i-m-an-openly-gay-gold-medalist-and-i-reject-the-sochi-olympics-boycott) speaks from experience to Louganis’ concern for all the LGBTQ athletes, supporters, families, teammates, coaches and peers who went to great efforts in preparation for the 2014 games.

Though Putin and the Russian government has assured the public those traveling to Russia will not be penalized under the anti-gay laws, none of this is guaranteed. Still, many athletes such as Johnny Weir and Louganis plan to move forward in courage and support and attend the upcoming events.

Louganis’ blog post began, “As an openly gay Olympic four-time gold medalist, you might expect that I would be in favor of joining prominent LGBT activists in calling for America to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia. After all, Russia’s recently passed laws cracking down on gays and lesbians violate everything I’ve spent my career fighting for; namely, love and respect for all people.”

However, he continued, “Boycotting sends the wrong message and will only harm the hard-working athletes set to compete in the 2014 Olympics, not the Russian government itself. I know from personal experience. My first Olympics I won Silver at age 16, and then in 1980, at the height of my diving career, President Jimmy Carter opted to boycott the 1980 Olympics in Moscow as a method of protesting the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. The toll on fellow athletes and me was devastating. We had trained our entire lives for that one moment.”

To mirror his message of support, he encouraged readers to stand behind gay in-community role models and  athletes, and encouraged people to sign the All Out and Athlete Ally petition against Russia’s recent actions (http://gayagenda.com/lgbt-empowered-shaun-t-partners-up-with-athlete-ally).

Stephen Fry’s words were just as impassioned, his sentiments just as vehement:

In his post, “An Open Letter to David Cameron and the IOC,”  (http://www.stephenfry.com/2013/08/07/an-open-letter-to-david-cameron-and-the-ioc/single-page), Stephen Fry drove his points home by writing, “An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.”

As he too spoke from his own experience, Stephen Fry continued, “I am gay. I am a Jew. My mother lost over a dozen of her family to Hitler’s anti-Semitism. Every time in Russia (and it is constantly) a gay teenager is forced into suicide, a lesbian ‘correctively’ raped, gay men and women beaten to death by neo-Nazi thugs while the Russian police stand idly by, the world is diminished and I for one, weep anew at seeing history repeat itself.“

Fry then ended his article by citing the IOC’s own rules, re-purposing them inclusively, in defense of LGBTQ rights. He ended his letter as follows:

“I especially appeal to you, Prime Minister, a man for whom I have the utmost respect. As the leader of a party I have for almost all of my life opposed and instinctively disliked, you showed a determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights and helped push gay marriage through both houses of our parliament in the teeth of vehement opposition from so many of your own side. For that I will always admire you, whatever other differences may lie between us. In the end I believe you know when a thing is wrong or right. Please act on that instinct now.”

Additionally, entertainers such as actor Harvey Fierstein, George Takei, Dan Savage (http://gayagenda.com/dumpstoli-russias-anti-gay-bill-sparks-creative-boycott) and a growing number of public figures are making themselves heard. While everyone who’s come forth is voicing opposition to the anti-gay legislation in Russia, it seems like opinions run neck and neck: those who feel a boycott is futile or unfair for the Olympians seem to equal those who feel it is unconscionable to hold the event in Russia at all.

Have your say!

Click the following link to sign All Out / Athlete Ally’s petition speaking out against Russia’s anti-gay legislation https://www.allout.org/en/actions/russia-attacks or leave your comments below.