by Jim Murchison
Sometimes there are productions that occur that are bigger than the stage that they are on. They stretch out into the world and impact the way society looks at things. Such is the case with the Olympic closing ceremonies. The entire world was watching that giant teddy bear cry that the games are over. The athletic games that is. The political games carry on.
Thomas Bach, the IOC president, was critical of countries that did not participate in Sochi, believing that a boycott takes the focus off of the issues and allegations of Human Rights violations and in particular the government’s policies with regard to the Gay community.
I don’t know if Bach is correct. Folklore has it that Jesse Owens shone a light on fascism when Hitler refused to shake his hand. Unfortunately, that is not quite the way it happened because Hitler had stopped shaking hands with the athletes before Owens won even the first of his 4 gold medals at the 1936 Olympics. What more likely effected a change in Nazi Germany was a little something called World War II. For his part Jesse Owens felt more slighted by FDR than he did Hitler.
Vladimir Putin sat in the stands looking expressionless and robotic while people gushed over how he had delivered everything that he promised. Bach alluded to the new Russia of tolerance in a manner that alluded to human rights and the GLBT community implying some growth in progressive thinking without embarrassing the host. Days earlier the Russian protest band Pussy Riot had been beaten by volunteer security in the street for expressing their displeasure with Russia and they were repeatedly detained and blocked from presenting protests on several other occasions. I would have much rather seen a closing ceremonies that symbolized the removal of the giant pickle in Putin’s ass, and the even more entertaining reinsertion of same pickle, than the banal Kumbaya, peace, love spirit of competition bullshit.
I don’t think it is necessarily the strongest message to boycott, but if you are going to go, find a way to shine light on crimes and injustice and make it a mission not just to get the gold, but to make this type of leader uncomfortable, embarrassed and pressured. I don’t know if it is possible to make Putin feel shame or pressure. The Robots in Disney’s Hall of the Presidents show more expression than the Russian 'leader'. For god’s sake, though, someone has to at least try to say something about it.