The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, Russia will forever be remembered as the biggest boycott by countries in Olympic history. Led by the United States, sixty-four nations boycotted the games because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Thirty-four years later, there was once again talk that countries should have boycotted the Olympic games, for any of a number of reasons. The biggest reason is Russia’s stance against homosexuality and the LGBTQ community.
I think Canada made the right decision by not boycotting again because it would have hurt more people than it would of helped.
Back when Canada boycotted in 1980, they ignored all of the people it would hurt. Athletes were the biggest victims of the boycott, losing the chance to compete in the games. They had given their whole lives to mastering their sport for that one shot at glory on the world stage. The majority of athletes get their hearts broken during the games when they do not receive a medal. These athletes got their hearts broken before even getting a chance to compete.
Most of those athletes look back at the 1980 Olympics and consider it the worst moment of their athletic careers. Some athletes from the United States even sued the United States Olympic Committee who voted to not participate in the games under the order of U.S. President Jimmy Carter, but lost the case.
In an interview with USA Today, American swimmer Craig Beardsley, who had set a world record ten days before the Moscow games started talked about what is has been like dealing with never getting to compete.
“People asked if I went to the Olympics. It’s never an easy answer. The last thing I am looking for is sympathy. I just try to change the subject,” Beardsley said.
Beardsley is just one of the many who had a very realistic chance at realizing a life goal of winning an Olympic medal, but who never had the chance. He missed out on the next Olympics by just .36 of a second.
Canadian gymnast Elfi Schlegal is another example. In 1980, she was just sixteen years old and had been training for years to compete in the games before she was told she couldn’t. The sixteen year old was crushed. Since then, she has participated in eleven Olympics as a commentator, but never competed. Talk of another boycott makes her feel sick.
“I feel so sad for the athletes because I was one of them, you have to live with people saying you were never in an Olympics for the rest of your life,” said Schlegal in an interview with the Toronto Star. These are just a few examples of the heartbreak it caused the athletes.
Do we really want to see this happen again? Athletes like the three Dufour-Lapointe sisters might have never had the chance to compete in the Olympics together, and their chances of winning gold and silver medals are almost nonexistent.
And then, there is the question of if the boycott would really even make a difference in Russia. The Soviets did not pull their troops out of Afghanistan because of the boycott, staying for the next nine years. Why would it be different this time? It is hard to think that Canada pulling out of the Olympics would have any effect at all in what Russia does in the future to its queer community.
The fact is, the Sochi Olympics are not just about Russia, they are about the whole world. If you boycott, it takes the games—which only happen every four years—away from the fans, the families of the Olympians, and it even compromises the historic moments that happen every Olympics.
The Olympics are one sporting event that everyone understands and cares about. This is especially true in Canada, considering how big an impact the 2010 Vancouver Olympics made on the country.
I can remember sitting in my living room on Feb. 27, 2010 with my entire family watching the gold medal hockey game. Most of my family does not follow sports, but they were all there watching because of how much it meant to them and their country Luckily, we all ended up happy when Sidney Crosby put the puck past Ryan Miller to clinch our last gold medal of a magical Olympics that made Canada swell with pride.
Dealing with the human rights problems in Russia (and in many other places) is something that the world needs to do, but boycotting is not the right way to go about it. It was amazing to see the two Russians standing up against their country’s laws to kiss on the podium, and that the United States’ two flag bearers were homosexual. The issues of not accepting the LGBTQ communities is something that’s not only a problem in Russia, but also all around the world. I loved seeing National Football League prospect Michael Sam come out last week, making him one of the first athletes to do this.
There are better ways of dealing with the obscene ways that Russia treats their people than boycotting the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. I am glad that this time, Canada decided not to boycott and gave the athletes, their families and the fans the chance to experience the greatest two weeks of sport there is.