By Michael Houck
With the 2014 Winter Olympic Games starting February 7 in Sochi, Russia, the whole world is waiting in anticipation of great sportsmanship from all of the athletes attending. But these games are becoming one of the most controversial Olympic games.
One of the main issues getting the most attention from the media is the anti-gay law that was passed by the host country last summer. These laws include that no gay couple can adopt children, classifying homosexual propaganda as porn, and the most concerning law for tourists and foreigners is the law that police can detain them for 14 days if they are suspected of being gay or “pro-gay.”
The reasoning behind this campaign of anti-gay laws is that Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that he is protecting the Russian children from pedophiles, even though recent research shows that pedophiles are predominately heterosexual males. To go even further, Sochi’s mayor, Anatoly Pakhomov, has told interviewers that they do not have any of “them in our city,” referring to gay people.
Even though Putin says that “gay people have nothing to fear if they leave the children alone” it is still very concerning that if a gay athlete even makes innocuous contact with a child they have a chance to be arrested. To try to combat this issue, many athletes, along with many popular figureheads and stars, have been outspoken with the games being held in Sochi. But for me it feels like we are forgetting the whole point of the Games.
The games exist to bring athletes, no matter their race, gender or sexual orientation, together to compete in many different sports after years of training in the spirit of sportsmanship, unity and friendship. And since Russia is the country hosting this great tradition, it has to show that it is able to welcome and keep safe any athlete no matter what that athlete may be—gay or straight or of differing view.
Another concerning issue is the rise of terrorist bombings and attacks that have been happening outside of Sochi in the city of Volgograd, which is only a day drive from the host city. Even though Russia has said that they are putting a “steel ring around Sochi,” with 40,000 troops and officers and two American warships nearby to help, Russia hasn’t been the best with handling hostile situations. Back in 2002, Russian officers tried to end a hostage situation in a theater by filling it with gas and ended up killing a little over 100 people, and they didn’t even set up first aid stations or tell medical personnel about their plans with the gas.
According to some counter-terrorism experts, Russia has not gotten better with their efforts at dealing with these situations. Hopefully, knowing that they are not just protecting their own citizens, but many tourists from other countries as well, they will approach situations like the theater more cautiously and will accept help from others if needed.
In the end hopefully we will have 17 days of great sporting events that will test all the athletes’ sporting abilities to their fullest and without any prejudice about their views.