An Open Letter to Olympic Committee

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Dear Prime Minister, M Rogge, Lord Coe and Members of the International Olympic Committee,

I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, two years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews from academic tenure or public office, he made sure that the police turned a blind eye to any beatings, thefts or humiliations afflicted on them, he burned and banned books written by them. He claimed they “polluted” the purity and tradition of what it was to be German, that they were a threat to the state, to the children and the future of the Reich. He blamed them simultaneously for the mutually exclusive crimes of Communism and for the controlling of international capital and banks. He blamed them for ruining the culture with their liberalism and difference. The Olympic movement at that time paid precisely no attention to this evil and proceeded with the notorious Berlin Olympiad, which provided a stage for a gleeful Führer and only increased his status at home and abroad. It gave him confidence. All historians are agreed on that. What he did with that confidence we all know.


Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law. Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment. It is simply not enough to say that gay Olympians may or may not be safe in their village. The IOC absolutely must take a firm stance on behalf of the shared humanity it is supposed to represent against the barbaric, fascist law that Putin has pushed through the Duma. Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realise that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don’t connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong. Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for “politics” is simply the Greek for “to do with the people”.

An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 on Sochi is simply essential. Stage them elsewhere in Utah, Lillyhammer, anywhere you like. At all costs Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilised world.

Written By: Stephen Fry
continue to source article at stephenfry.com

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    • In reply to #1 by mmurray:

      Outstanding letter. I wish I thought it would do some good. We will no doubt be told that sport is above politics.

      Michael

      Sport is well above politics, but both are seemingly well below decency here.

  1. Putin did some good things for his country, but he is cozying too much to the Russian Orthodox Church. Not only did this ridiculous anti-gay law get passed, but also recently some kind of blasphemy law as well. Russia is becoming similar to Iran in those respects.

      • In reply to #6 by GOD:

        In reply to #4 by Fouad Boussetta:

        Putin did some good things for his country

        This is good news for me. Like what? In what way is Putin’s Russia better than Yeltsin’s Russia?

        Yeltsin was an alcoholic who didn’t even try to fix his country’s economy.

        I’ve traveled not so long ago to Russia: Putin is immensely popular among many Russians, who are more prosperous than ever thanks to his many economic reforms. They travel a lot now abroad. Russia is now a big capitalist country. Putin is authoritarian but not an ideologue. He increased the pensions for the elderly and did other good things.

        So while I do NOT like SOME of the things he has done, I am not ready to demonize him like our western press quite often does.

        • In reply to #22 by Fouad Boussetta:

          In reply to #6 by GOD:

          In reply to #4 by Fouad Boussetta:

          Putin did some good things for his country

          This is good news for me. Like what? In what way is Putin’s Russia better than Yeltsin’s Russia?

          Yeltsin was an alcoholic who didn’t even try to fix his country’s economy.

          I’ve traveled not so…

          They loved Stalin too. Many of them still do.

          Hitler did lots of good things, he cut unemployment from 40% to zero, built the autobans, loved animals, set an example by being almost tea total, improved the physical fitness of the German nation……do you get my point?

        • In reply to #22 by Fouad Boussetta:

          Yeltsin was an alcoholic who didn’t even try to fix his country’s economy.

          Just days after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin resolved to embark on a program of radical economic reform. Unlike Gorbachev’s reforms which sought to expand democracy in the socialist system, the new regime embarked to completely dismantle socialism and fully restore capitalism—converting the world’s largest command economy into a free-market one. During early discussions of this transition, Yeltsin’s advisers debated issues of speed and sequencing, with an apparent division between those favoring a rapid approach and those favoring a gradual or slower approach. (Wikipedia)

          As for being an alcoholic, was he drinking more or less than Churchill?

    • In reply to #4 by Fouad Boussetta:

      Putin did some good things for his country, but he is cozying too much to the Russian Orthodox Church. Not only did this ridiculous anti-gay law get passed, but also recently some kind of blasphemy law as well. Russia is becoming similar to Iran in those respects.

      You’ve hit the nail on the head there – it is the influence (effluence more like) of the Orthodox Church that is pushing Russia (and many other countries in Eastern Europe) down this road. Putin is simply going where the power and the votes are…

  2. It is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You are going to have a large number of alcohol and testosterone fueled athletes and spectators eager to spit in Putin’s face. You are going to have Putin absolutely refusing to be scoffed at. He will happily round up thousands and send them to Siberia. It will be an international incident of monumental proportions. Partly, it will look at if Putin arrested athletes simply because he was afraid they would defeat Russian ones.

    Nobody wants to blink as we head to this craziness.

    Putin will save more face if he says the laws will not apply to foreigners, but only during the Olympics.

    I think the best solution is to host it in 10 countries simultaneously. This puts relatively little burden on any one country and allows a rapid last minute switch in hosting.

    We should not look the other way, any more than we would if Putin were doing this to blacks or Jews.

    I am disgusted by the athletes who almost unanimously call for pretending not to notice what Putin is doing and make no protest. All they care about is their personal medals. I learned on the CBC that they are motivated purely by personal glory. Unlike people in other countries Canadians and Americans are not motivated by patriotism.

    • In reply to #5 by Roedy:

      I think the best solution is to host it in 10 countries simultaneously. This puts relatively little burden on any one country and allows a rapid last minute switch in hosting.

      Notice that in the letter, Stephen specifically used the examples of Lillehammer or Utah. I suspect that he chose those examples NOT because of any particular preference for those locations (Its not as if Utah is all that friendly to gay people either), but specifically because of the short notice. He was listing places that had held the winter olympics in the recent past so they’d already have the proper facilities built. (Although why not Vancouver then? Maybe because it would be twice in a row for them?)

  3. Very much doubtful politicians who are usually opportunistic oleaginous spineless masters of doublespeak can be counted on so much as to “express their concern®” – the standard issue platitude rolled out to hide doing nothing behind being seen saying something.

    What would be really nice and much more powerful spectacular and effective: if at least the top if not all athletes banded together to tell that KGB -legend in his own mind -thug that they’re not showing up unless he rescinds the law, apologizes to his LGBT subjects and passes a law criminalizing their discrimination and mistreatment accompanied by a nationwide educational campaign explaining why this is necessary.

  4. It might be worthwhile to go after corporations who advertise at the Olympics, though that would depend on the country. For all I know, many people may choose to support corporations who advertise in a country that persecutes the LGBT crowd. But perhaps in some countries, people can put a lot of pressure on businesses not to support Russia, especially if they’re threatening Olympians with this new law as well.

    • In reply to #9 by Kim Probable:

      It might be worthwhile to go after corporations who advertise at the Olympics, though that would depend on the country. For all I know, many people may choose to support corporations who advertise in a country that persecutes the LGBT crowd. But perhaps in some countries, people can put a lot of pre…

      That’s a good idea. With the London Olympics there were strong exclusivity deals with various companies. Do we know who they are in Moscow yet ?

      Michael

  5. While I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of Stephen’s letter, I think it is rather unrealistic to call for the games to be staged somewhere else at this late stage. A better option would be a call to boycott the games, although I’ve always thought that forced boycotts are unfair on the athletes so the decision to boycott should be left to the athletes themselves and not their respective national governments or athletic bodies.

    • In reply to #13 by I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing:

      A better option would be a call to boycott the games.

      I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that at least half of the world’s male figure skaters will probably wind up doing just that, not only to make a political statement, but for their own safety. This could easily turn into a repeat of the 1972 summer olympics, except this time, instead of Islamic terrorists carrying out the slaughter, it will be the police of the host country.

      • From what I remember the German police in Munich in 1972 bore almost as much culpability for the deaths of Israeli athletes as the heroic Islamic martyrs. Plus there was no interruption to the games. Athletes not being too concerned with politics.

        From the athlete’s perspective there would have been more food available at the food hall, less queues for the toilets, and slightly enhanced prospects of a medal in some events otherwise contested by Israelis. Keep in mind that this was only a little over 20 years after WW2 and jews still weren’t popular with most Germans – what with accusations of having caused the holocaust and the attempted vexatious litigation from holocaust survivors attempting to recover stolen assets.

        In reply to #14 by IDLERACER:

        In reply to #13 by I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing:

        A better option would be a call to boycott the games.

        I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that at least half of the world’s male figure skaters will probably wind up doing just that, not only to make a political statement, but for their own safety…

    • In reply to #13 by I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing:

      While I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments of Stephen’s letter, I think it is rather unrealistic to call for the games to be staged somewhere else at this late stage. A better option would be a call to boycott the games,

      I suggest hosting the games in 10 cities. The burden on each city would be minimal. No construction would be needed. There would be plenty of hotels, restaurants, taxis at each venue.

  6. There’s some precedent for an Olympics boycott:

    The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow was subjected to an international boycott in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan. Only issue is that only about 20 years following the boycott invading Afghanistan and propping up peculiar political leaders became an internationally accepted practise.

    • In reply to #16 by Pete H:

      There’s some precedent for an Olympics boycott:

      The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow was subjected to an international boycott in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan. Only issue is that only about 20 years following the boycott invading Afghanistan and propping up peculiar political leaders b…

      I thought also that a lot of the athletes went anyway and the boycott was a bit of a fiasco. But I might be remembering it wrong.

      Michael

    • In reply to #16 by Pete H:

      There’s some precedent for an Olympics boycott:

      The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow was subjected to an international boycott in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan. Only issue is that only about 20 years following the boycott invading Afghanistan and propping up peculiar political leaders b…

      The 1984 Olympics was boycotted also.

  7. In 1933 there were just over half a million Jews in Germany. There must be many more LGBT people in Russia and its colonies. The state of play with the LGBT community in Putin’s Russia, is about the same as that of Jews was at the time of the Berlin Olympics. Whether or not they move to a program of forced labour/extermination in Siberia, is unknown – we can’t predict the future – but we can confidently predict that things will become much, much worse, in a very short time after the Games are over.

  8. You don’t even need to look to Hitler’s treatment of the jews to find direct parallels…

    [Wikipedia] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_Holocaust)

    “Upon the rise of Adolf Hitler, gay men and, to a lesser extent, lesbians, were two of the numerous groups targeted by the Nazi Party and were ultimately among Holocaust victims. Beginning in 1933, gay organizations were banned, scholarly books about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, were burned, and homosexuals within the Nazi Party itself were murdered. The Gestapo compiled lists of homosexuals, who were compelled to sexually conform to the “German norm.”

    Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, of whom some 50,000 were officially sentenced. Most of these men served time in regular prisons, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 of those sentenced were incarcerated in Nazi concentration camps. It is unclear how many of the 5,000 to 15,000 eventually perished in the camps, but leading scholar Rüdiger Lautmann believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60%. Homosexuals in the camps were treated in an unusually cruel manner by their captors.

  9. If saying that Tchaikovsky was gay can send you to prison, imagine what will happen to you if you say Putin is a dickhead. You’ll rot away in Siberia for the rest of your life. Very good letter.

  10. Thank you so much, Stephen! As a young gay man, I’m appalled that more action hasn’t been taken against Putin and his thugs.

    We homosexuals are unique among groups which can be persecuted since we never really go away. A tyrant can kill a generation of homosexuals, but there will always be another generation of us born. A tyrant may force us into closets or to take refuge underground, but they’ll never force us to change our very natures because that is an impossibility. Since there will always be new generations of us, we can always be relied upon as an exponential source of hatred and fear, ripe at any time for abuse and oppression.

  11. At least in the UK Stephen Fry’s initiative is gathering some momentum. I don’t think this persecution of minorities in Russia can be ignored or swept under the rug. The BBC’s anchor for 100-plus hours of Games broadcasts will be Clare Balding, a famously “out” lesbian.

    If the Olympics are not moved from Russia (there’s still time to do so), Britain should boycott the games.

    Failing that, I shall write personally to every UK athlete competing, once teams are announced, asking why they personally are going and urging them not to do so.

    We should also take note of which western corporations are sponsoring the Games, and urge them to reconsider. I don’t doubt they will have contractual difficulties pulling out, but failing to pull out amounts to aiding and abetting.

    At some point we have to say enough, and draw a line in the sand.

  12. In reply to #29 by Steven Mading:

    […](Its not as if Utah is all that friendly to gay people either)[…]

    It’s true of course, that the Mormon church has a disgusting legacy of activism against marriage equality. (Although it must be said that – for mostly PR reasons – they have tried to offset their bigotry by publicly backing other pro-gay rights initiatives, like bans on housing and employment discrimination.)

    But. however ugly the LDS record on gay rights, Utah is more than the Mormon Church. (In fact, many Utah Mormons themselves openly criticize their Church’s position.)

    In particular, Salt Lake City – the official host city for the 2002 games. – is surprisingly gay friendly. It scored 87/100 points in a 2012 Municipal Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign. (Only 25% of US Cities scored over 80.) Salt Lake was even rated the “Gayest City in America” by The Advocate in January 2012. I have many gay and Lesbian friends who live here very openly and happily.

    We have a long way to go of course (gay marriages and civil unions are banned by a State Constitutional Amendment, which passed in 2004 and cultural attitudes can be abhorrent, especially among older generations), but in many ways, Utah (at least in the environs of SLC) is friendlier to gay people than our wider reputation acknowledges.

  13. While I hope laws discriminating against homosexuality will be as rare as the article implies before the next Olympics, I think it mighty disingenuous, hypocritical and well a dick move pretty much. I would venture to guess that the majority of the countries participating have the same views and laws as the Russians. This boycott is really being proposed to punish them for defending the actions of Snowden. Why would you have them in Salt Lake instead of Sochi when homosexuals were still being arrested and ticketed in Salt Lake City in 2009 and its the home of the Prop 8 funding. It doesn’t make sense to boycott them for doing what the majority of the participating countries are doing, but wait they aren’t kneeling before American Imperialism like the rest of the world are they?

  14. The Canadian NDP is calling for visa bans on all Russian politicians who were involved in passing the anti-gay bill, and I agree with them completely. All Western nations must use their collective voice to pressure this Hitlerian despot, Putin.

    I also have a very short fuse for those who race to the microphone in an attempt to assure the public that no Olympic athletes will be affected by these tyrannous laws. This is NOT about the athletes (who would, at most, be thrown in jail for a short duration and then deported back to the safety of their home countries). This battle should be about providing a voice for those LGBT Russians who have either been silenced into terror by roving gangs of fascist vigilantes, or outright killed. Do it for Vladislav Tornovoi and the other victims who have only a minuscule chance of escaping their hellhole.

    • In reply to #34 by WaffleWolfer:

      The Canadian NDP is calling for visa bans on all Russian politicians who were involved in passing the anti-gay bill, and I agree with them completely. All Western nations must use their collective voice to pressure this Hitlerian despot, Putin.

      I also have a very short fuse for those who race to th…

      I totally agree. As I said in #19, the position of LGBTs in Russia, from what I read, is not much different from that of Jews in Germany in 1933. The Brownshirts are roaming the streets, and Kristallnacht is on the way. Such is the level of homophobia, that anything is possible, it’s time to make a stand.

  15. I totally agree with every sentiment conveyed in this letter, and think that every effort should be made to back up this call for the games to be relocated.

    Apart from all the good that it would undoubtedly achieve, perhaps it’s time for this particular tin god to be renderded a dent or three.

    Must go; suddenly there appears to be a tank on my lawn and someone’s smashing down the door!

  16. Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for “politics” is simply the Greek for “to do with the people”.

    Wrong. “Politics” is Greek for “city affairs”, “polis” is Greek for “city”. If you want to make a statement about Putin’s despicable politics, make a political statement and leave sports alone. Every Olympic Games is the same: “lets boycott the games!”. This is non-sense. Press your government to impose economic sanctions to Russia, THAT’s the way to do this. And remember to do so every day of the year, not just when some supposedly depoliticized international event is about to happen. It’s exhausting, it’s useless and it’s wrong. The time to interfere with the Olympic Games in Russia has passed, the Olympic Committee has made their decision, now it’s just sports.

      • In reply to #42 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #41 by Mr. Rolf:

        Everyone knows politics interconnects with everything for “politics” is simply the Greek for “to do with the people”.

        Wrong. “Politics” is Greek for “city affairs”, “polis” is Greek for “city”….

        Wrong root

        Politics (from Greek: politikos, meaning “of, for, or relat…

        The root for politikos is polis. The suffix means “that of”, so the right translation is “city affairs”. Politis is “citizen”, which in classic Greece wasn’t just “anybody”, so in no way you can relate the meaning of “politics” to “everything and everybody”. We’re always referring to the management of a city and its citizens. The greek root for people is “demos”, like in “democracy”: “rule of the people”.

        • In reply to #44 by Mr. Rolf:

          In reply to #42 by phil rimmer:

          I don’t think offering the root of politikos is good argument. I think in consequence offering “city affairs” is likewise a poor reflection of the initial use of politikos.

          “Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature and that man by nature is a political animal.”
          -Politics, I

          “The adjective that Aristotle used to describe man in Greek is ‘politikos’ which is where we get the English word political. For this reason, ‘politikos’ is often translated as political, however the actual Greek meaning was a little deeper. ‘Politikos’ came from the Greek word ‘polis’ meaning city-state. To be ‘politikos’ was to be a member of the ‘polis’ or a citizen.”

  17. No one I knew who was selected for the Moscow 1980 team actually complied with the boycott.

    One of my neighbours was even the team manager for the entire national team, they were prepared to go to Moscow anyway even if no athletes went along. Which was just more proof to me at the time that there wasn’t really much of a connection between sports administration and actual sport.

    The government of the day, NZ that is, were very much eager to please the US government, which was promoting the Olympics boycott as a tactical manoeuvre in the cold war. There were various penalties threatened to be imposed against athletes who intended to participate, which was more of a sinister issue for the athletes to protest against by actually attending the games despite the ostensible reason for the boycott. It was the beginning of the end for the US-NZ relationship. Shortly afterwards US nuclear ships and weapons came to be banned in NZ ports and NZ was effectively no longer in a relationship with the USA. The US government preferring to have military alliances with more enlightened and cooperative nations like Pakistan in future.

    International sports boycotts reminds me of a similar situation with the soldiers who invaded Europe in the 1940s. Most soldiers were very young and had little idea or interest about the underlying politics of the situation. They would have invaded anyone anywhere that they were sent. Olympic athletes aren’t all that different. They’re pretty young and naive about politics and they just want to compete, and hopefully win some glory and maybe get laid as a result. They would have probably as eagerly taken performance enhancing drugs if it meant they could kill more nazis, or french, british, russians, or even other US soldiers who happened to be negroes etc. whoever they were pointed at.

    A better approach to a sports boycott is to focus on the real issue. I can’t imagine Stephen Fry participating in any of the regular winter sports events, like speed skating or the ski jump and bob-sledding. But I can visualise him watching the TV coverage. A boycott of the TV coverage would have much more effective impact on the core beliefs of the Olympic Committee than anything that might directly affect the actual sport or the athletes themselves.

    Certainly the mass arrest and imprisonment of all gay athletes attending the olympics would really define these Russian Winter Olympics and provide an excellent public spectacle and show the world what the Russian people are all about. The show trials where proof of gayness is determined should be entertaining at least. Would make for very lucrative TV coverage. Possibly the IOC could secure the rights to this coverage, as part of their overall games deal. So it might be better to let it all play out rather than sweep it under the carpet via a boycott.

    There’s something similar happening with the next Soccer World Cup. Being held in a place where pretty much everything is illegal, not merely being gay, but being female, non-Muslim, and possibly even including playing soccer, being an un-Islamic activity. No serious talk about a boycott there.

    In reply to #17 by mmurray:

    In reply to #16 by Pete H:

    There’s some precedent for an Olympics boycott:

    The 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow was subjected to an international boycott in protest against the invasion of Afghanistan. Only issue is that only about 20 years following the boycott invading Afghanistan and propping up…

  18. What is the actual science of homosexuality? I hear it constantly quoted that exactly 10% of the population is gay. But that is scientifically absurd, no other attribute amongst a varied population is constant despite variations in environment and genetic make-up. Both Kinsey and Freud believed that Homosexuality was mutable and effected by society, so why do we not believe now that homosexuality is not itself an unscientific religious belief like polygamy or a mental illness like depression or anorexia?

    I think some people are concerned that if normal biological pairing and the consequent property ownership by families is not protected (in some way) then the state will gain control of too much of our lives, a fear which has been shown to be validated many times throughout history. This would surely be the case if governments become the sole arbiters of who can have children (after all they are the ones that choose which gay couples are fit to be parents).

    There is some evidence for this idea, as marriage is in decline and although the rich are not that adversely affected by frequent divorce, the children of the poor are massively more so, which we do not see in the popular media. If young adults, who are scientifically proven to be chemically confused by their hormones through their age of majority, are bombarded with homosexual ideation through the media then are we that sure that it will not lead first to an anti marriage majority and then to an anti straight / anti monogamy majority?

    I see a potential in the spread of homosexuality misinformation by the liberal elite, for creating an unstoppable momentum behind the flow of children from those whose biological parents have had their resources pulled away from them by impossibly unfair governments, to the those who have been chosen as state approved as parents. It seems to me to be the subversion of the poor by the rich for the rich’s own selfish and often sexually perverted pleasures.

    The fecundity of society has to be a moral issue surely if it is to have consequences on our children?

    Can we ever actually have some unbiased science on the subject?

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