Will Sochi Be Fun Like Munich?
The Winter Olympics in Sochi officially ignites February 7th, but tensions over a number of issues have been simmering for months.
For those looking to make the games a stage for shaming Russia over LGBT rights (among other things), the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has provided some clarification about how to do that without breaking their rules:
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made it clear to nations competing in February’s Winter Games in Sochi that athletes will be free to speak out against Russia’s controversial anti-gay laws, as long as they do so away from accredited areas.
The British Olympic Association (BOA) said it had received a letter from the IOC clarifying its rule 50, which says “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted”. The IOC has been under pressure to clarify its position since Russia introduced the new laws, which prohibit the “promotion” of homosexuality to under 18s, earlier this year.
This prompted calls for a boycott of the Games from some, including the actor Stephen Fry, and led others to condemn the new laws. The BOA, which expects to send up to 55 athletes to the Winter Olympics, said it had received a letter from the IOC this week, after last week’s executive committee meeting, clarifying the rules.
The IOC has also said that Sochi organisers will provide “protest zones”, as in Beijing, where demonstrations would be permitted. Human rights groups are concerned not only about the anti-gay laws but a wider chilling effect on freedom of speech under Vladimir Putin. The BOA said it would not stand in the way of any athletes who wanted to speak out on gay rights or any other issue, as long as they comply with the Olympic charter.
Protests zones, how dare they! Just for fun, I googled “University of Montana free speech zone” and found this:
The area between Mansfield Library and the University Center is designated as the Free Speech Zone. Use of the Free Speech Zone may only be restricted in terms of speaking time and volume.
The Oval may be used for other speech purposes upon approval of the President. Request to use the Oval is done through the University Center Event Planning Office. Speakers in the Oval may not interfere with The University’s educational mission by being too loud and disrupting classroom activities.
The authoritarian policies of the Russian state will be receiving lots of righteous indignation by all kinds of do-gooding western advocacy groups, most of it well-intentioned and genuine, I’m sure (I’m not trying to sound sarcastic here).
My worry is that those using their time, energy, and resources will be doing so without giving enough thought to the geopolitics of homosexuality.
In that post, the country I chose to contrast the Olympic concern-trolling of Russia was Saudi Arabia, assuring readers that it’s been a long time (12 years) since our Saudi friends have beheaded one of their subjects for being gay.
The brutality of the Saudi monarchy—especially Prince Bandar—is taking on a sinister tone after the Volgograd bombings. That link is CNN, and trots out Chechen separatists. A more likely Saudi Arabian perp won’t get CNN’s interest unless directed from above. That link is from b at Moon of Alabama, a perspective I’m thankful to have.
Russian citizens are getting blowback for something, and it might have something to do with oil and the proxy war in Syria.
Speaking of Syria, there are some headlines coming in under the holiday radar that may be used down the road—like Syria misses deadline to remove chemical weapons.
Israeli leaders are also expressing their displeasure at US foreign policy by trying to humiliate John Kerry, again. From Mondoweiss:
A top minister is scheduled to attend a Thursday dedication ceremony for a new Israeli neighborhood in a Jordan Valley settlement while US Secretary of State John Kerry is to be in the region, a move that could threaten to further complicate the ongoing peace process. Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar and other lawmakers are scheduled to visit the Jordan Valley community of Gitit and attend a ceremony during which “actual construction… on a new neighborhood” will take place, according to the organizers.
Add Iran to the mix, and the counter threat from the Iranian parliament to accelerate enrichment if Congress passes new sanctions, and we’ve got quite a few brewing headaches that could go aneurysm.
2014, here we go.