This article by Ellen was published at rabble.ca on August 6, 2013.
In June Russia, host of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, passed a federal law which will seriously impact the rights of Russians, all Olympic athletes, staff, volunteers and foreigners who are LGTTBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Transgendered, Twin Spirited, Bisexual, Queer).
This has led to a call for a boycott of the Olympics. Calls for boycotts of the Olympics are not new tactics as a way to protest.
Historically, some have come due to violations of human rights within the host countries, such as at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. Others have targeted host cities, such as the issues raised during the Vancouver Olympics to protest the enormous cost to host the Games at a time when there was a need for public money for housing the homeless, education, poverty, funding for sports at a local level etc, as well as human rights concerns regarding signs, protest, and the use of cameras by the police. Other calls to protest have come because of violations by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), most recently the refusal to let women participate in ski jumping.
The public has the right to raise these issues as millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money go to fund the Olympics and end up in the pockets of the IOC, developers, large sponsoring corporations like Coca-Cola and the media. Very, very small amounts go to the athletes, who often have devoted their lives to reaching the top of their sport.