Why I am Not Boycotting the Sochi Games

The Olympics are not what they used to be. Far from the bastion of true amateur competition and beacon of international cooperation they once were, the Olympics have become a multi-billion dollar corporation like so many others. Bottom lines, revenue streams and merchandising are at the top of the pyramid now, where once the spirit of competition, friendship and peace reigned supreme. The resultant influx of professional athletes into the Games has watered down their meaning in certain events, making them little more than an All-Star team vs. the tiny countries with no hope of winning.

In the United States, an equally ambitious and fundamentally tone deaf corporation brings the Games to our television. NBC, who has been permitted to outbid every other network for exclusive American coverage of the games for what seems like decades at a time has long been known for delayed coverage, poor analysis, sensationalism, and mostly boring mini-documentaries during prime time which have little to do with any of the (tape delayed) sports coverage. What coverage there is provides far less suspense than it could for the average viewer.

In short, NBC’s coverage of the Olympics is generally poor. But in this country it is the only game in town, so those who want to watch the Olympics, in spite of all of the corporate influence, must watch it, in all it’s weaknesses.

So why watch? Because there are still moments that are reminiscent of the original purpose of the games, especially when amateur underdogs from underfunded countries most people don’t hear about surprise the world with an excellent performance. Because I want both smaller countries to have a chance, and watch my own countrymen succeed. And, despite all of its faults, the Olympic Games is still one of, if not the single biggest international event wherein so many different cultures and nations and peoples gather together in peace. (Heaven forbid that change in Sochi.)

It’s still fun and still worth it, even though it ain’t what it used to be.

Which is why I won’t be boycotting the games, despite some of the virulent anti-gay views of the host country that have recently been codified by law.

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I support rights of homosexuals in all areas of life.  That’s pretty much a deal breaker with me, and I haven’t set foot in Chik-Fil-Bigot since their whole anti-gay stance hit the fan. I wouldn’t watch Duck Dynasty even before their obvious bigotry was revealed, so I certainly won’t now. But I will watch the Sochi games.

Why? Because I don’t watch to support or endorse the host country. And it is not the athletes that have passed such laws. There are to be plenty of gay athletes in attendance at these games, some of whom are American. I can’t claim I wish Team USA well if I don’t watch them on TV, because their hosts are anti-gay. I watched the Bejing Summer games for the same reason in 2008, and I object to China’s civil rights record. (And to NBCs glossing over it during its coverage..declaring them the best games ever.)

If the International Olympic Committee were to ban homosexuals from competition, I would stop watching. And though I am concerned that the IOC chose such an intolerant nation as a host country this cycle, I’d never see Team USA or any other countries compete if by watching on TV I had to declare my support for the host nation’s every domestic policy.

Besides, there is something to be said for having them surrounded, as it were. If the world is filled with voices cheering on gay athletes as well as straight ones, that in my mind does more to counteract to vile policies in Russia than does refusing to acknowledge the games at all. This is about the world. About cooperation. About the people. I won’t toss that aside because I hate what the Russian government is doing.

I’ll boycott Russia, sure. Never had any real desire to go there anyway. But because I can’t blame the Olympians that I enjoy watching on the albeit lousy NBC coverage for the intolerance of Vladimir Putin, I can watch the Sochi Games with a clear conscience.

Though I will still mute Bob Costas when I can.

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