I’m confused. In a little less than 6 months, Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games.
Leading up to those games, Russia has criminalized homosexuality and legalized state and informal terrorism against LGBT citizens.
And all we can think of in return is dumping our Russian vodka before the games begin?
We have seen all this before.
In 1935 the German government of Adolf Hitler re-criminalized homosexual activity:
“As part of a massive rewriting of the criminal code, Nazi jurists revised Paragraph 175. Issued on June 28, 1935, and put into effect on September 1, 1935, the revision emphasized the criminality of both men involved in “indecency.”
“Even before the new law went into effect, Nazi courts expanded the range of so–called indecent acts beyond the single offense prosecuted under the old law. By 1938, German courts ruled that any contact between men deemed to have sexual intent, even “simple looking” or “simple touching,” could be grounds for arrest and conviction.
“New language added as Paragraph 175a specifically imposed up to ten years’ hard labor for “indecency” committed under coercion, with adolescents under the age of 21, and for male prostitution. Individuals victimized by acts punishable under these new provisions could be—and were—prosecuted as criminals according to Paragraph 175.
Paragraph 175 was an important part of the Holocaust – the Nazi criminalization of non-arayan and other people that lead to the organized mass extermination of over 6 million people by the most inhuman and extreme means.
The laws that established the grounds for extermination – like Paragraph 175 – were firmly in place and acted upon as the Nazi dictatorship implemented its plans to host the 1936 Summer Olympics at Nuremburg.
And the 1936 Olympics became a testing ground for world reaction, as documented by the United States Holocaust museum’s collection on Sport and Nazification:
“Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, observers in the United States and other western democracies questioned the morality of supporting Olympic Games hosted by the Nazi regime. Responding to reports of the persecution of Jewish athletes in 1933, Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Committee, stated: “The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race.”
“Brundage, like many others in the Olympics movement, initially considered moving the Games from Germany. After a brief and tightly managed inspection of German sports facilities in 1934, Brundage stated publicly that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should go on, as planned.
“Many American newspaper editors and anti-Nazi groups, led by Jeremiah Mahoney, president of the Amateur Athletic Union, were unwilling to be duped by Nazi Germany’s hollow pledges and lies regarding German Jewish athletes. But Avery Brundage maneuvered the Amateur Athletic Union to a close vote in favor of sending an American team to Berlin, and, in the end, Mahoney’s boycott effort failed.”
Turning back to the Russian Winter Olympics, a boycott seems like a non-starter, for both good and bad reasons. And like the rest of you, I don’t have any more vodka to pour out. So what now?
Not only does it look like Russia will get away with staging a Potemkin village games that hides the terror of it’s anti-LGBT laws behind two weeks of winter fun and tourism promotion, it shows the lack of coherent options for protest in the face of the power of the Olympic movement.
But surely there are some answers rolling around in the mass of sponsorships, human rights, media cartels and reportage and state representation? Surely, there is something effective that can be done to shine a light on this new emerging fascist state?
The goal is obvious: portray the extent of Russian state terrorism against LGBT people and demonstrate that this is the thin edge of the wedge. And it is not acceptable to democratic people.
That effort failed in 1936. It shouldn’t be allowed to fail this time.