Opinion: Leave politics out of the Olympics


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It’s been forty years since the American Psychiatric Association recognized that homosexuality was not a mental illness, yet there has been little progress toward the acceptance of same-sex couples. However, while many countries are still intolerant of non-traditional marriage, America has definitely evolved and has begun to accept homosexuality into the norm. This brings us to the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi, Russia in February. In June 2013, Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin signed an anti-gay law that makes the promotion of non-traditional relationships unlawful to promote to minors. With this law, gay couples holding hands and people holding a rainbow flag are subject to massive fines and possibly jail time.

Organizations around the world have responded to Russia's anti-gay mentality, one of these being Google.

At the wake of the Sochi Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, Google's doodle turned into a logo of athletes in action, forming a rainbow. This act is presumable in response to the law, as it was followed by a quote from the Olympics Charter that said, "The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

Last year, The Russian law also prompted some to call for the United States to boycott the Olympics, but President Obama has made it abundantly clear that he is not in favor of the boycott. According to ABC’s Mary Bruce, Obama told reporters at a White House news conference that he doesn't think it is appropriate to ask these athletes who have dedicated their lives to participating in the Olympic Games to boycott.

There seemed to be an overwhelming disagreement with the boycotts from students and staff at CSULB.

Russian Studies professor Harold Schefski has taught at Cal State Long Beach for 27 years.

“The best thing to do would be for the gay athletes to go and not deny their gayness, to perform well and to do what the Olympics are supposed to do, bring all the nations together,” said Schefski. He also said that Russia is about half a century behind as far as gay rights are concerned.

“It is like America in the 40’s or 50’s, and still has not evolved from that.” Schefski said.

Freshman Ashley Meng also did not agree with the boycotts.

"The Olympics are a long-running, nationwide tradition and should not be ruined simply because homosexual Russian citizens can’t show PDA,” said Meng. "The Olympics are a time when people should set aside their personal preferences and instead, should focus on winning for their countries.”

Junior Amanda Bolger was against the boycotts, but opposed the Russian legislature.

“We can’t give ourselves a reputation of quitting or boycotting just so we can always have what we want,” said Bolger. “Sometimes we have to sacrifice for the bigger picture, winning at the Olympics. Boycotting the Olympics will give us a bad reputation, but if these homosexual athletes came home with medals around their neck, it would make a bigger, better statement.”

The US already had a reputation for boycotting the Olympics. In 1980, the US boycotted the Moscow Summer Olympics due to the Soviet Union’s involvement at the time in Afghanistan. In response, the Soviet Union and other European Axis powers boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

That said, the Olympics are not a time for politics. They are a time for the world’s greatest athletes to showcase the skills they have. However, a precedent has been set with civil rights and the Olympics. Jesse Owens changed the perception of black men when he won four gold medals in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Adolf Hitler’s backyard. In the 1968 Olympics, a political statement was made by United States’ Tommie Smith and John Carlos. They won their medals and raised their hands in a black power salute.

The best place to make a statement is from the top of the podium.

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