Russia may be 1st Olympic host to ever threaten to jail Olympians

When I see people talk about “the spirit of the Olympics,” and how the entire point of the Olympic Games is for enemies to put down their swords for two weeks and join together in sport, I have to chuckle.

Why?  Because the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia may be the first Olympic Games in recent memory – if not all history – where the host country has threatened to arrest the athletes.

Increasing worldwide concern about Russia’s growing crackdown on its gay and trans citizens, and now its promise to arrest Olympic athletes, visitors and media who attend the Sochi games, isn’t about politics, it’s about safety.  The “spirit of the Olympics” isn’t to risk your life for a medal.

In fact, the spirit of the Olympics is about quite the opposite of threatening the athletes, or anyone else.  You were kicked out of the Ancient Olympics if you violated the truce, which happened once to Sparta:

During the Olympic Games, a truce, or ekecheiria was observed. Three runners, known as spondophoroi were sent from Elis to the participant cities at each set of games to announce the beginning of the truce. During this period, armies were forbidden from entering Olympia, wars were suspended, and legal disputes and the use of the death penalty were forbidden. The truce was primarily designed to allow athletes and visitors to travel safely to the games and was, for the most part, observed. Thucydides wrote of a situation when the Spartans were forbidden from attending the games, and the violators of the truce were fined 2,000 minae for assaulting the city of Lepreum during the period of the ekecheiria. The Spartans disputed the fine and claimed that the truce had not yet taken hold.

There are a number of valid reasons to no longer host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia, and to move them, say, to the city of Vancouver for February of 2015 (to give Vancouver time to prepare).  But paramount among those reasons is concern for the safety of the athletes.

Russia’s threat to jail Olympic athletes, visitors and media is unprecedented in the history of the Olympics.

The Soviets didn’t threaten to jail the athletes during the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Even Hitler didn’t go that far when the Nazis hosted the Berlin Olympics in 1936.

Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring watching events in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, via Wikipedia.

Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring watching events in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, via Wikipedia.

The very fact that Russia dawdled for three weeks, when asked by the International Olympic Committee for assurances as to the safety of the athletes attending the 2014 Winter Olympics, should have given the world pause.

But for Russia to now say “game on,” and recommit to throwing Olympic athletes, guests and media in the gulag, for the supposed protection of Russia’s “children,” is beyond the Olympic pale.

Russia can no longer be trusted to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.  The International Olympic Committee should stop throwing good money after bad and move the venue now, while it still can.

Russia can talk all it wants about the safety of the children.  The world should be worried about the safety of its athletes.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • Nathanael

    It is simply unsafe to go to Sochi in February. For everyone. Every athlete, every coach, every judge, every attendee should simply announce that they will not go due to concern over their personal safety.

    A different set of games should be organized for the athletes due to the fact that they cannot go to Sochi.

    That is the correct method of “protest” now.

  • Fame Robb

    If Russian authority will arrest athletes and guests during the Olympics, then they will be violating the very essence of Olympics.
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  • Russia with love

    Suck a dick.

  • and moi

  • Anonymous

    Maybe there is a way to protest without these numbskulls noticing? Like duct tape over protesters’ mouths a la “No H8”?

  • Anonymous

    Everyone should show up wearing Guy Fawkes masks.

  • Doug

    and now the IOC is threatening to DQ any athletes making a protest.

  • nicho

    Where’s Anonymous when you need them? Is there something like a Bat Signal for Anonymous?

  • jomicur

    Yes, their fee. The Olympics committee live in luxury hotel suites, dining on champagne and caviar, while gay Russian kids are being kidnapped and tortured. That’s the true Olympic spirit in action.

  • There are lots of brands and companies you can both boycott and contact via letter or email to let them know you feel they are damaging their brand by supporting Russia’s anti-gay pogrom.

    Here’s a list of the major corporate sponsors who do business in the U.S.: Coca-Cola, NBC, Comcast (NBC’s parent company), GE, McDonalds, VISA, Procter & Gamble, Dow Chemical, Kasperksy Lab, Samsung, Panasonic, and Volkswagen.

    There are more, but those are the biggies.

  • Thom Allen

    Let the Olympics, Olympic sponsors, NBC, the Russian government, Putin, IOC, USOC, US government know what you think.

  • Thom Allen

    Voice your displeasure to the IOC, USOC, NBC, Olympic sponsors, Russian government, Vladimir Putin, US Dept. of State, etc. Below is a list of contact information. Send an e-mail, make a phone call, send a fax, share the list with your friends and post to social media.

    http://tickets.sochi2014.com/tservice.dll?affiliate=ORP&fun=contact&doc=feature/helpContact/contact&hilfeid=7856&hilfetitel=How+can+I+contact+the+Sochi+2014+Ticketing+Customer+Care%3F&plattform=

    US Olympic Committee [email protected] [email protected]
    or call the main number at 719-632-5551

    IOC Press Office [email protected] +41 21 621 6000
    Dr. Jacques Rogge
    Château de Vidy
    Case postale 356
    1001 Lausanne
    Switzerland
    Phone
    +41 21 621 61 11
    Fax
    +41 21 621 62 16

    US Department of State http://contact-us.state.gov/app/ask/session/L3RpbWUvMTM3NjQyMTA1My9zaWQvVy1rTTVIeGw%3D
    Switchboard 202-647-4000

    Embassy of the Russian Federation

    2650 Wisconsin Ave., NW
    Washington, DC 20007
    Phone: (202) 298-5700

    and

    2641 Tunlaw Rd., NW
    Washington, DC 20007
    Phone: (202) 939-8907

    [email protected]

    Russian Consulate in NY (212) 348-0926 Fax:(212) 831-9162

    Vladimir Putin
    23, Ilyinka Street,
    Moscow, 103132, Russia.
    http://eng.letters.kremlin.ru/send

    NBC Olympics [email protected]

    NBC Sports [email protected]

    Olympics sponsors:

    Coca Cola https://secure.thecoca-colacompany.com/ssldocs/mail/eQuery_product.shtml
    1.800.GET.COKE
    (800.438.2653

    Proctor and Gamble http://pg.custhelp.com/app/ask/session/L3NpZC93blR0Nkh4bA==

    Samsung [email protected] (Samsung’s PR firm)
    Samsung support https://contactus.samsung.com/customer/contactus/formmail/mail/MailQuestionProduct.jsp?SITE_ID=1
    Samsung North American Contact Center
    Tel: 1800-SAMSUNG (726-7864)
    General Electric http://www.ge.com/contact/general +1 203 373 2211
    Visa [email protected] (800) 847-2911
    McDonald’s http://www.mcdonalds.com/us/en/contact_us/social_responsibility/social_responsibility.html

  • fritzrth

    Absolutely.

  • fritzrth

    … this old homo’s memory is failing.

    I know exactly how you feel! B-)

  • Bill_Perdue

    The same is true of their major American sponsors, especially NBC, but including Coke, McDonalds and others. Boycott and divest.

  • jomicur

    Now that you bring it up, I’m not sure I remember which it was. I’m guessing it was the IOC, but this old homo’s memory is failing. I do recall that the case was tried in a US court (which of course sided with the “real” Olympics) but I presume that’s because the Gay Olympics were founded and headquartered here.

  • PortlandMargo

    The Olympics is a joke. If they ever were about “brotherhood” and “the spirit of international cooperation”, it’s been a very long time since that were true. It’s now all about money and power for multinational corporations and political groups, who routinely trample the civil rights of the citizens of host-nations. It’s a huge waste of money, a traveling environmental nightmare…and the IOC is utterly corrupt. The fact that this outrage is apparently going to stand only strengthens my belief that we need to end the Olympics once and for all. All we can do meanwhile is boycott every company that has any connection to this debacle – NBC especially.

  • fritzrth

    That’s the crux of the matter. It’s about their own enrichment.

  • fritzrth

    Was that the IOC or the American committee? In either case, as long as the Frog Olympics survived, everything’s copacetic! B-)

  • FLL

    They might not care if people consider their non-action tacit support of Russia’s current pogrom. As long as they got their official fee of over $100 million (and probably some unofficial under-the-table bribe money), they’re probably content.

  • jomicur

    No surprise. Remember their fairly relentless crusade against the “Gay Olympics”? It must really gall the IOC that the Gay Games, as they are now called, get international coverage.

  • JozefAL

    Yeah, especially since the IOC’s official stance now is to threaten any athletes who “violate” Rule 50 which prohibits any “kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda . . . in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

    As the Advocate reports (from a story originally posted at GayStarNews):

    “According to the cited rule, athletes found in violation could face ‘disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned.’

    This means any athlete who is seen holding hands with a member of the same sex or wearing a rainbow pin at any point during the games in Sochi would not only face potential fines, jail time, and deportation under Russian law but also punishment from the International Olympic Committee.

    The IOC spokeswoman also told Gay Star News that athletes who violated rule 50 of the Olympic charter by showing support for the LGBT community would be evaluated on an individual basis and ‘sensible approach’ would be taken ‘depending on what was said or done.'”

    Here’s hoping the athletes from the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Spain and other LGBT-supportive countries offer an en masse protest and see just how many of them are sanctioned by the IOC.

  • fritzrth

    At this point, non-action by the IOC is tacit, if not blatant, support of Russia’s incipient pogrom against their GLBT citizens. It is an imprimatur for the continued attacks against gays that are being perpetrated by neo-Nazi and Orthodox gangs, while the police either stand by doing nothing or lend active support.

  • redbluegreen

    Thanks, yes I signed it and tweeted it and emailed about those petitions. I just feel like there should be more we could do. I’ve spent time in Russia and this is such heartbreaking developments, and I feel the Olympics is a way to effect change–just want to do more.

  • Thom Allen
  • FLL

    Thom Allen’s link (above) to a petition to change the location of the Games to Vancouver is also an excellent idea.

  • redbluegreen

    Thanks for the information and sorry, don’t know how I missed the infor in your earlier post.

  • Thom Allen

    Here’s a petition you can sign and forward to others and post on social media.

    http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/international-olympic-committee-ioc-relocate-the-2014-winter-games-to-vancouver-2

  • FLL

    I updated the link to the most informative article I could find, which is from Equality California. This is actually a resolution, not a bill, that was introduced by Sen. Mark Leno (San Francisco) in the California state senate yesterday. It doesn’t mention it in the article, but I found out that it is SR 18, and the resolution will be heard in the Senate prior to the conclusion of legislative session in September.

  • Monoceros Forth

    Aaugh, Hermann Goering’s face! I can do without seeing that in the morning.
    This situation has become truly ridiculous. Just cancel the damn Games! Take a mulligan if necessary, delay the Olympiad and stage it later somewhere else.

  • Uranus

    Let’s get more organized. This is 2013. We can’t let them bully us anymore.

  • redbluegreen

    What bill is this? Could non-California residents support it in any way? Thanks for sharing.

  • It costs ~600 million dollars just to mount a bid to host the Olympics. The winner, probably ended up spending more than that. That’s a lot of bribe money.

  • FLL

    The IOC would have to refund Russia’s fee of over $100 million. In any case, the IOC has probably spent a lot of that money already.

  • FLL

    At this point, only residents of California are in a position to strike a real blow. There is a bill in the California legislature to instruct the California state government to financially divest from Russia, including two multi-billion dollar retirement funds for state workers and teachers.

  • The IOC isn’t going to do shit. Russia paid them their bribe so now the IOC is going to stay bought.

  • FLL

    There were some Jewish athletes, including two from the U.S., who voluntarily chose not to participate, but no, Hitler did not threaten to jail Jewish Olympic athletes from other countries in 1936… obviously. Putin’s agenda for the Olympics is a first, which, considering European history, is really saying something.

  • redbluegreen

    What can US citizens do? Boycotting a brand of vodka seems hardly effective.

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