Sunday, February 02, 2014

Should you watch the Olympics?

Yesterday's NYT had an article about whether gay people were planning on "boycotting" the Sochi Olympics by not watching the games when they begin next week. Some of those interviewed, who noted that they were indeed fans of the Olympics, said they didn't feel right watching feeling that doing so would be a sign of support for Russia's anti-gay policies and sentiments.
But, as Hilary Rosen of CNN and others have noted, not watching the Olympics will not have a direct effect on Russia. Russia will feel the effects, however, if fewer people attend the events and spend money in the country, as has been predicted.
Russia has the games. Despite calls from different sectors to take the games away from Russia (rather unrealistic but at least someone said it), they will occur in the country. The goal, going forward, should be to make sure that such a problematic choice does not happen again.
How to go about this?
Well if we boycott Olympic sponsors like McDonalds and Coke (which we should probably be doing for a plethora of additional reasons anyway) maybe that will send a message. I generally abhor corporate influence, but this might be the time and the place, and it's not as if the bid process has been pure as the driven snow anyway.
Which leads to a second suggestion, how about some transparency about the bid process? How about criteria that include a country's record on social issues? How about countries submitting plans that ensure impoverished peoples are not displaced, or animals killed, or indigenous lands desecrated? And I realize this would probably remove the US from the list of contenders; and I'm ok with that.
Because I really want to watch the Olympics. Even knowing all the wrongs that are committed in the name of these games, which are clearly in violation of the Olympic Movement's own mission statement, I continue to watch. I wish I could be more ideologically consistent; that it wasn't so easy to erase the offenses. Maybe the IOC and the corporate culture that surrounds it is too difficult to change, but we should try.