The Guardian reports that Sebastian Coe and David Cameron have dismissed a boycott of Sochi in the wake of Russian legislation targeted at making public homosexuality a crime. The facile and rather disengenous argument put forward by Coe is that the Olympics are somehow a magical creator of global harmony. I’m going to breakdown “Lord” Coe’s self-gratifying bullshit for you.
Boycotts never work. Thatcherite bullshit left over from the 1980s. In a CBS interview Thatcher was answered the question of sanctions: “I think a policy of sanctions would harm the very people in South Africa you are trying to help…” which was convenient since it allowed the UK to do business with SA while ignoring the ANC’s repeated calls for supporting a boycott.
Coe adds a special conceit to this however: “They only damage one group of people, and that is the athletes. It is an issue that needs to be addressed, but not an issue that is one of a boycott.” Isn’t that a choice for the athletes? Moreover it is besides the point. Putin isn’t harming athletes (well not directly) he is harming people on the basis of sexual orientation. Coe deigns to speak for gay community in Russia which is forced to confront the draconian and violent homophobia in that country. I’ll quote SACTU’s position from 1963 (a position which should have immediately given Thatcher pause, and which may serve to remind “Lord” Coe):
It is sometimes argued even by well meaning people abroad, that if the world boycotts South Africa, we the working people, will suffer most. Even if this were true- and we don’t believe it – let us assure our well-wishers abroad that we do not shrink from any hardship in the cause for our freedom. As it is, we are starving and our children are dying of hunger.
Coe is partially correct of course, the Athletes are victims in this. Rather than being left alone to compete they are being forced to perform in a pantomime of International solidarity and good will. They are being compelled into Hypocrisy, but it isn’t the athletes who should be consided in the call for boycott. Hypocrisy isn’t a life-threatening condition. It is those who face actual physical harm from Russia’s new legislation who matter in this calculation.
Coe goes on further to compound his disingenous position by attributing powers of social change to relationships built through international sport. Indeed corruption and elitism bred by the IOC has been a profoundly successful agent for social change. I believe it was a Bloomberg news report put it best:
The IOC isn’t exactly an honest broker, let alone a global federation committed to “excellence, friendship and respect.” It’s a self-recruited club of tin-pot emperors presiding over the greatest monopoly in all of sports.
I cannot think of an organization more inclined to Putin’s style of goverment despite his recent granting of asylum to Edward Snowden (the reasons for which I believe have more to do with political point-scoring than ethical support for Mr. Snowden).
No “Lord” Coe has demonstrated once again why he has no business steering the BOA and why, more than ever, a boycott is absolutely necessary.