Should We Go For The Gold Or Boycott The Winter Olympics?


The endless and horrifying news of Russia’s human rights violations is enough to make one’s head spin. The images of brutality against the country’s LGBT citizens that have gone viral have broken my already cold heart.

If you’re like me you’re probably left wondering, what the hell is up with Russia and this Vladimir Putin-things-up-his-ass guy? If he is going to be so strongly influenced by the archaic Russian Orthodox Christian church, he might as well just burn witches at the stake and continue to believe the world is flat. Call me crazy, but when Neo Nazis start rallying for your cause I think it might be a sign that things are “no bueno.”

Oprah Winfrey once said that Maya Angelou once said, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” We in the LGBT community must remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are not only fighting for their rights, but for their lives and we must do whatever we can to help them.

Imagine for a second the debilitating fear our Russian LGBT brothers and sisters are living with knowing who they intrinsically are is punishable under their country’s law and how they have no rights to protect themselves from the vile, violent acts that are being committed against them.

So what can we do to help? Do I have to sell off my entire collection of Matryoshka dolls and replace them with one of those killer dolls from The Conjuring by Marie Osmond? She’s down with the gays.

I’ve heard President Obama, certain athletes and my pedicurist say LGBT athletes should go and compete at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, even with our knowledge of these deplorable human rights violations and that “it is the ones who attend that will be remembered”…or do they mean beaten and arrested?

Let’s be honest, an Olympic medal is an award, a prestigious one, but an award nonetheless. It’s an Oscar, a Grammy, a Tony…and possibly to some, a Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award. Is it really more important to win an award than to take a stand for the human rights of hundreds of thousands?

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but the global gay rights movement is a tad more important than being endorsed on the side of a cereal box, or even worse, morbidly embarrassing myself, my nation and God doing the Paso Doble on Dancing With the Stars.

Furthermore, I highly doubt some innocent gay youth, who was lured online by a bunch of skinheads, scared to death, humiliated and tortured really feels “supported” when someone skates around in a swan inspired unitard to Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work.”

Considering that merely talking about anything pro-gay is punishable by law, an LGBT person winning a medal will certainly not be covered by Russian television broadcasts, nor will it be written about in the Russian news. That same tortured youth or any other Russian citizen wouldn’t even be aware that a gay person stood on the podium let alone competed.

Whether an athlete makes the personal choice to compete or not, the real responsibility in this horrific mess lies with the IOC. It is the IOC’s job to ensure the safety and well being for all participants and, by not speaking out for LGBT human rights, shame on the IOC for putting attendees in a precarious situation.

It is imperative we contact the IOC to force Russia to protect LGBT participants.

One powerful way to pressure the IOC to take a stand against Russia’s persecution of LGBT people is to use the influence of its sponsors. Reach out to NBC, McDonalds, Panasonic, Coca-Cola, Omega, Samsung, G.E., Dow, P&G, Atos and Visa to let them know how you feel.

It boggles my mind to think the IOC and the billion dollar corporations it has as sponsors are putting money into the economy of a country whose human rights are non-existent. What kind of precedent is the IOC setting? I look forward to 2018 with bated breath. If we are lucky, maybe the IOC and its sponsors will choose a host country that’s gung ho for child sex trafficking, or at the very least, some female genital mutilation.

Until these corporations stand up for international LGBT equality and force the IOC to do the right thing, let us be unrelenting in making our voices heard. Basic human rights are more important than the advertising of a McGriddle, or a burp-inducing beverage. And while we’re at it Micky D’s, your support of these Russian Winter Olympics, I gotta tell you — I’m not lovin’ it!

Whether it’s as a private citizen, an Olympic athlete, a CEO of a sponsoring company, or a member of the IOC, it’s time to take a stand for something much bigger than oneself.

And if all else fails, you can always send Vladimir Putin a dildo.


John Carroll is a Broadway performer, writer and activist. For more information on him, go to

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  • Taliaferro

    Whether or not we boycott the Olympics in Russia depends on how serious we are about the rights and safety of the LGBT athletes and people in that benighted country and the world. The Olympics are a big deal but they are not the solution to world peace or a cure for cancer. It Russia and the IOC cannot assure ALL competing athletes that they will be safe, then countries would do well to refrain from sending their young people to Russia. Nothing will send a stronger message to Putin and his government and to not stand up for what is right is immoral. There will be other Olympics. If they cannot assure safety then their entire meaning is lost under the heavy mantle of commercialization.

  • 2eo

    Boycott, there isn’t an argument for going all out for medals that holds up to scrutiny.

    Handing Putin and his theocratic fascist regime the Olympics is complete validation for their systems, and raises Russian standing in the world. If our athletes go and do well then we hand Putin and his government a tremendous PR coup, look how well LGBT athletes did.

    However the constant chipping away at the idea that boycotts make a difference, even though they are proven to do very well in nearly all cases has pushed a feeling of impotence, and through carefully worded coercion even LGBT sites and writers are pushing for the Olympics to go on fully.

    Lets not ignore the massive amounts of money spent by Russian companies on blogs and news sites, Queerty is sponsored by a Russian Vodka company after all, and so are loads of others.

  • Cam

    Great article, The sad thing is….the article said “If he is going to be so strongly influenced by the archaic Russian Orthodox Christian church, he might as well just burn witches “… When the truth is, Putin is doing this for callus reasons, his approval slipped and he very purposely set out with an attack campaign aimed to gain support from the small areas in Russia with a “Russia for the REAL Russians” type of campaign. The Orthodox church didn’t influence him, they were just happy to jump on board and do his bidding, just like the did for the Tsars.

    As for boycotting. There is an option that nobody has mentioned yet because the IOC is obviously just a group of money hungry bigots supporting Russia, but…
    This Olympipics logistically could be moved to Albertvill France, Lillyhammer Norway, Calgary or Vancouver Canada, Nagano Japan, all of which have recently hosted and have all of the facilities. With the help of the IOC this move could be accomplished, EXACTLY how Sydney was standing by ready if Athens wasn’t ready in time for the summer games years ago.

    In Spite of what all of the corporate sponsors would want people to believe dumping a ton of money into Russia is NOT going to make things better for gays there, it shows support for the govt. that is harming them and we should not go.

    The winter Olympics are NOT the summer Olympics, there are far fewer countries that participate in winter sports and a boycott by just a few of the countries would basically negate these Olympics.

  • BrandoPolo

    No one would know who Jesse Owens is if he had boycotted the 1936 Olympics due to Hitler’s “white is right” policies. He went, competed, embarrassed Hitler, and became a legend.

    Comparing that kind of physical and moral achievement to a Oscar or a Nickelodian Award is intellectually lazy.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    I want nothing to do with Russia. Hold the Olympics in Greece, as it originated there. Forget all this leap-frogging all over the globe. Greece is where the Olympics should take place and nowhere else.

  • Cam


    But what you have done is also underline the point that the IOC has a long history of supporting horrendous policies. Germany used the Olympics to give it’s govt. legitimacy. If it was holding an internationally renowned event, then it was a govt. accepted by the world. That is another legacy of those Olympics.

  • D P

    I know this author’s opinion piece is thoughtful and well-written about a controversial topic, but the picture brought me in. I know, getting superficial here. So what. I breathe. But have you guys see this man’s calves? Those jeans are doing no service by hiding those babes!

  • fredhotman

    Boycott Sochi. Its a vehicle to legitimise the persecution of the LGBT minority.
    You support the IOC, you support Putin s Dictatorship over the suffering of these people.
    You go home to your warm beds while Putin s law harasses , oppresses, condones open brutality against ordinary folk same as you and I. 1936 Berlin Olympics and Sochi have the same hallmarks, different label same record. Sport these day shows very little guts to be fair & decent in the face of brutality.

  • MikeE

    @BrandoPolo: Jesse Owens didn’t “embarrass” Hitler.
    The olympics pumped much needed money into Germany, and having the world as their guests validated the Nazi’s policies.

    Hitler didn’t give a damn about some black American who won some medals. Germany won the medal count that year. It had more medals than the US. THAT was validation they needed, and got.

    If Russia wins more medals than any other country, which is a HUGE likelihood considering their past olympic performances, then for Putin it will be a validation that Russia is right, that the weak West is wrong, infected with effeminate and degenerate diseases, unlike virile, masculine, and definitely-not-gay Russia.

    THAT is what Putin will gain from not boycotting the olympics. Regardless of the reasons for his virulent anti-LGBT stance, his popular support will strengthen.

    Western athletes will go home thinking “yay us, we did the right thing”, and Russian LGBT people will be left hiding, cowering, waiting the arrival of the police to “search” their apartments, or confiscate their “propaganda”.

  • Derek Williams

    For a law to be justified, it should be necessary and in the public interest to begin with. Therefore, for this new Russian law banning “promotion of homosexuality to children”, to be necessary it must be to stop something that was happening that needed to be stopped, and the thing that needed to be stopped must be shown not only to have been occurring in the first place, but to be harmful, in this case to children, if it continued.

    So I have to ask, where in Russia was homosexuality ever being promoted to children, and by whom? And what were the results of doing so? No cases were ever adduced to the Duma to show that this was going on and needed to be stopped, and why it was just “homosexual propaganda” and not “heterosexual propaganda” that was going on and needed a new law to stop it.

    I don’t support any kind of propaganda being foisted upon children. I want them to develop as fully rounded human beings naturally, no matter whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. In the West, any teacher who did this would be sacked on the spot, irrespective of whether they were straight or gay.

    So given that there was no “homosexual propaganda” being foisted upon children in the first place, what was the Duma’s motivation for singling out homosexuals as uniquely a source of propaganda, and not heterosexuals? What evidence was there anyway, that you could even persuade a heterosexual child to become homosexual through the means of propaganda, or vice versa for that matter?

    The answer is, there was none, and there is none, and there never will be any. This egregiously manipulative law was unanimously passed with popular support at the behest of the Russian Orthodox Church as a stamp of moral disapproval and animus against gay people, to make them appear a danger to children, to make it appear that we are trying to engineer children into “becoming” homosexuals for nefarious, but never stated motives. This was one of the ways that Nazis fomented hatred against Jews, by representing them as “a danger to children”.

    The effect of this law is that it is now in practice, illegal to be openly gay or to discuss homosexuality in public. It is a criminal offence to provide support services to gay teenagers when they are at their most vulnerable through familial and peer rejection. It could rationally be argued that an openly gay athlete winning a medal in front of children would be committing this diffuse crime of “homosexual propaganda”, and it could in time be construed to be the same for a gay couple holding hands publicly in the street.

    This law should be anathema to all Russians, but they have been lied to through and through. They are clearly not seeing the half of its consequences for LGBT Russians, which we are seeing daily here in the West, because their government censors the media, such that homosexuals can be held up as pariahs, an endlessly renewable resource to blame everything on, from earthquakes to the economy.

    Once the Russian people have gotten used to being able to discriminate without legal censure, against gay and lesbian people, the government will pass more severe laws. Putin will find a legal means to give himself a fourth term. Already the arrests have begun with a Dutch film company arrested, jailed, fined and then deported for making a documentary about the “homosexual propaganda” law.

    There’s not a question in my mind but that the IOC must forthwith remove the Winter Olympics from Russia and relocate to a friendly country that recently hosted the Olympics, such as Greece (who need the money anyway) or the United Kingdom or Canada, and that does not have laws criminalising homosexuality.

    Homosexuals are an easy target because Putin knows we are too small in number ever to be able to defend ourselves against the Tyranny of the Majority. Once you allow one disliked minority to be stripped of some and then one by one eventually all of their civil rights, you can be next. Whatever civil rights you believe you now have, prepare to lose them as Putin becomes more and more like an amalgam of Hitler and Stalin.

    Considering that he authorised the genocide of over 200,000 in Chechnya, half of whom were children, it’s disingenous for Putin to claim he wants “to protect children”.

    People of Russia, you have been warned.

  • ChiChi Man

    @MikeE: Right on. The Jesse Owens defense ignores one glaring fact. Yes, Jesse Owens is a legend.

    But that didn’t stop the murders of millions of people.

    Even if we delude ourselves into thinking that Hitler was “embarrassed” by Owens, somehow he got over it. The truth is that the successes of the Olympics and, in particular, the German team helped Hitler solidify his power and led to WWII and the Holocaust.

    If the Russians hold a successful Olympics, we can kiss LGBT rights goodbye in Russia for the near future.

    If the Russians win a slew a medals — god help all of us.

  • bigomega73

    Calling on corporations to boycott the Olympics will never work. If you have any familiarity with corporate law, you know that publicly traded companies have a lawful obligation to their shareholders to pursue policies that increase their bottom line, not for the social good. While you may look at ads by companies aimed at the gay community and think that those companies are our allies, in reality they just realize that having as many consumers as possible will increase their income. They really couldn’t care less about our human rights. Those are all marketing campaigns. The minute advertising to the gay community hurts their bottom line they’ll drop us. Corporations don’t have morals. That’s capitalism. So to think that the revenue from the gay community will in any way compare to the revenue from the Olympics for these companies, you’re going to be sadly mistaken. Coke’s response to our community reflects this and wasn’t surprising to me at all. Russia should be pressured to change its policies, but trying to do it by pressuring corporations who legally have their hands tied to follow their profit is not the way to go. It just won’t work

  • CJ

    I don’t think the athletes should be forced to give up participating in the premier international games, so I do not want a national boycott. However, I don’t want to reward Russia. Instead I support a voluntary boycott and application of pressure upon corporate sponsors to drop their sponsorship save for helping the team’s expenses. Let Russia eat the expense of the games and benefit as little as possible while allowing the athletes opt in or out. Participation in the iconic Olympic Games is like no other opportunity or reward and we should not give the Russian government the power of control. Sochi is the host, not the owner. The IOC is not acting honorably, in my opinion, but has not yet tainted the Games. In other words, if the Games are worth participation, then they are worth participation regardless of host; but if the Games warrant an official boycott, then they have lost their luster for the long term, not only for 2013.

  • MK Ultra

    I’ve been watching a lot of Russian television and media lately. From what I gathered, the official Russian narrative that they’re spreading to their citizens is both shocking and closer to Nazi Germany than any of us suspected.

    The Narrative (or Big Lie) is that “human rights are a Western invention and part of a conspiracy by the ‘Jewish-controlled US’ and their powerful media and military to spread the ‘Zionist agenda’ throughout the world in an attempt for world domination”. They claim that Western culture is an attempt to undermine Russian culture and therefore, human rights must be discarded as a tool of the ‘enemy’.
    It’s not just LGBT they’re after, although they are certainly trying to use them as an example, but also immigrants, political opponents, dissidents (anyone suspected of not following Putin’s agenda, Middle Easter people, Asians, especially Black people, but more than any, Jewish people, whom Russia blames for the fall of the Soviet Union.
    They do propagandize the agenda that “Russia is for white Russians only”
    Of course when Russia announces its plans to the world, they don’t use this language. They say they are “protecting Russian culture and Russian children”.
    All I can say is, in this complacent world, things are going to get worse in Russia, much much worse, before they get better.

  • BrandoPolo

    @MikeE: @ChiChi Man: I love that people like to romanticize and overstate their own power, but Jesse Owens (or any othter athlete) not attending the 1936 Olympics would have done jack squat to stop Hitler.

    The problem with the “the Olympics validates this regime and gives them more power” complaint is that it’s an ex post facto argument. The fact that Russia (and Germany) were awarded the Olympics in the first place is a demonstration of the power they already have and had, it’s not going to give them power. And asking athletes to not attend the Olympics is not going to take any power away.

    The boycotts and activism is good to the extent that it draws attention to the issue, but let’s not pretend this isn’t total slactivism: the time to speak out against Russi’shuman rights record was years ago. Do gays really think that athletes are going to give up their life dream less than a year out because somebody started pouring out Stoli vodka this late in the game?

  • BrandoPolo

    @MikeE: Too late, boo. The gains, the power, the prestige that you think Putin has he already got by virtue of the fact that gays and their allies did nothing to stop Russia from getting the Olympics in the first place. The notion that the Jesse Owens’s of the world are not going to attend the Olympics is much like your notion that Jesse Owens didn’t embarrass Hitler — a pipe dream. Owens’s humiliation of Hitler’s false notions of white supremecy was just a preview of things to come.

    Speak out loudly against Russia, yes. Expect our athletes to not go, yeah right — that ship sailed a long time ago.

  • BrandoPolo

    @Cam: This is true, dude. The iOC has a long and shameful history of this kind of tyrant coddling. Let’s not forget how when Hitler was furious about being shown up by Jesse Owens, he demanded U.S. remove the two Jews on Owens’s final relay team to avoid further embarrassment. And of course the IOC caved and forced the U.S. to do so.

    How the IOC manages to escape scrutiny escapes me, but hopefully this means human rights activists will be paying better attention in further bidding prcesses. If that negative attention for the boycott keeps another Russia from hosting the Olympics, that’s an achievement.

  • Fitz

    Aside from a formal boycott, I think that this issue has overshadowed the winter Olympics. I can’t see myself sitting down to watch any of the events, not even the figure skating (!) without thinking about what is going on. I don’t plan to watch any of it, but I don’t know how other people feel.

    I understand the concern for the athlete’s safety– but I think we should also
    worry about what happens to the gay people who live there when the olympics are over.
    What chips will the world still have, and will it care?

  • ChiChi Man

    @BrandoPolo: LOL Please refer to my comments — not to your reinterpretation of my comments. My sole point — and it stands — is that Jesse Owens’s succeses did nothing to stop Hitler. This notion of LGBT athletes winning medals to stick it to Putin is ridiculous. Just as with the case of Owens, the people who benefit the most are foreigners who have nothing to lose. I’m African American and I love the story of Owens. But if I were Jewish living in Poland, I might not care so much.

  • boring

    I’m not watching the Olympics, not because of Russia.

    It’s because sports are fucking bullshit.

  • Liam Sauer-Wooden

    We should boycott Russia and all Russian products.
    ?? ??? ?????? ????????????? ?????? ? ???? ??????? ?????????.

  • Liam Sauer-Wooden

    @Liam Sauer-Wooden: This question marks are a translation of my comment into Russian (which Queerty doesn’t seem to process.)

  • balehead

    all you sound sad and need to go to a gym finally……

  • Evji108

    Many of the same questions came up in the failed movement to boycott the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. The USA and other countries now regret their failure to join the boycott.
    Read about it here:

    The Movement to Boycott the Berlin Olympics of 1936

  • 2eo

    @Evji108: Indeed, the fact remains that the Olympics were an absolute triumph for the Third Reich, and we’re handing another fascist theocracy the chance to completely validate itself.

    It provides an enormous cash boost to the economy and speeds up the internment and persecution of our LGBT allies. We are only a couple of years away from Gulags.

    I wish that was hyperbole, I really wish it was.

  • Derek Williams

    Either move the Olympics to a friendly country, or if not possible, boycott altogether, and if that’s not possible, call Russia’s bluff with a massive demo in the Olympic stadium.

  • yaletownman

    Are we going to the Olympics because it’s just LGBT people who are being persecuted over there and the audience won’t really think about that too much while watching? Would we be going if Russia was doing this to a racial or ethnic minority? Would corporations be alright with supporting them if this were the case? Of course not but it’s just LGBT people we’re speaking of so that makes it all OK.

  • 2eo

    @yaletownman: Actually their attacks on LGBT targets is coupled with an enormous increase in Anti-Semitic attacks too. The Neo-Nazi Orthodox church is leading the way, having a massive influence on Putin and the government and they absolutely loathe jews as well as us.

Comments are closed.