If Russian gay activists want to get the attention of, and put pressure on, the Putin government, then they should start sporting the names of the Olympic sponsors as they get arrested.
Money makes the Olympics go ’round. That’s why the International Olympic Committee came out yesterday and said that Russia’s draconian new anti-gay law doesn’t violate the Olympic charter. Had the IOC said otherwise, it would have jeopardized their games, and more importantly, their corporate sponsorships, and their money. And money is the root of these games in the modern era. It’s not about the world coming together in peace and harmony, or we wouldn’t be holding the games in such unpeaceful and inharmonious countries as China and Russia. The Olympic Games exist to promote the Olympic Games, their sponsors, and the “respectability” of an increasingly disreputable cast of host countries.
And the IOC won’t care about Russia’s horrific record on human rights, and the Russian government won’t care, unless we hit them where it hurts: the Money.
Whether or not you think boycotting the Olympics is the best way to go, we all agree that the key pressure point in the campaign against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s anti-gaye crackdown is the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The Olympics are now driving the media coverage on this issue, and the Olympics are Vladimir Putin’s soft underbelly on this entire matter. Putin desperately needs the Olympics to go off without a hitch – he sees the games as his legacy.
It’s our job to give Putin’s legacy the biggest hitch possible. And I can’t think of a more effective strategy than scaring off the Olympic corporate sponsors, and their millions.
The sponsors have the money, and they’ve got the influence. The last thing Putin needs is Olympic sponsors, and their cold, hard foreign currency, bidding the games dasvidaniya. Especially when Russia is so worried about decreasing corporate investment. But that’s exactly what those businesses will do – reconsider their investments – if their multi-million dollar brands start getting dragged through the mud along with a couple dozen human rights advocates.
How do you scare the sponsors? Plaster their names all over yourself – on signs, across your clothing, even across your forehead – during your next protest, during every protest, in Russia and abroad. (Everyone understands that protesting in Russia is dangerous. But to the extent that activists are already planning protests, they should emblazon those protests with the names and logos of the top Olympic corporate sponsors.)
Take this iconic image below of a gay pride protest being broken up in Moscow in 2011, or the one below it of a protester at the Sochi Olympics headquarters the other day. The protesters were not sporting any logos, but what if they were?
I’ve taken the first photo, sans logo, and added a Coca-Cola logo to it – Coke is one of the Sochi Olympics sponsors. Imagine if LGBT activists had been dragged away by Russian police with the words “Coca-Cola” emblazoned across their chest, like in the doctored photo below? Imagine how much more newsworthy this photo would have been? And imagine the damage to the Coke brand?
I did the same with the second photo, adding Visa to the hat of the woman as she’s being dragged away from the Sochi Olympics headquarters. Imagine the power of that image.
You want the Olympic sponsors’ attention? You want Vladimir Putin’s attention? You want the attention of the world focused like a laser beam on Russia’s anti-gay and anti-trans crackdown?
Then Coke is it.
And make sure Visa is everywhere you want to be arrested.