Friday, 9 August 2013

Why Stephen Fry is wrong about the Winter Olympics


So Stephen Fry wants us to boycott the Winter Olympics because they're in Russia where gay rights are (to put it mildly) not as advanced as they are here. And I rather get his point. We have very little sway over a place like Russia and this little lever might just get Mr Putin to change his ways - although I rather doubt it.

My problems with this approach are twofold:

Firstly, if we are to have a cultural boycott (which is, after all, what Stephen Fry is proposing) then should it not be comprehensive? Is the right approach to repeat the cultural sanctions that were used to apply pressure to apartheid South Africa? For sure, the Winter Olympics are high profile (less so than the summer games especially in the UK where aside from curling and the occasional ice skater we don't win very much) but what about football, tennis and athletics - all sports the Russians are good at - will Stephen Fry be writing to UEFA, the ITF and the IAAF to urge further boycotts?

Secondly, boycotts of this sort are collective actions and, as a result, prevent people who may want to participate in the event from doing so. Stephen Fry hasn't spent every waking hour over the last four years perfecting pirouettes at a tatty ice rink in South London or hurtling ever faster down dangerously steep alpine slopes in pursuit of fame and success. Any boycott should be a matter for these people not for self-appointed spokesmen for 'civilized society' such as Stephen Fry. These athletes, in most cases, get just one or two chances to compete in an Olympic Games - wrenching this chance from them in pursuit of a political point, even one as important as gay rights, seems wrong to me. And we should remember that it's the IOC that chooses the venue not the athletes - and in Russia's case did so some long while ago.

If individual athletes want to boycott that is fine and perhaps Stephen Fry might direct his attentions to such gentle persuasion rather than grandstanding.


1 comment:

Barman said...

Boycotting the Olympics while buying their gas seems somewhat pointless...