Ideally, the Olympic Games engender a spirit of good feeling. Ideally, the Olympics bring people of different nations and beliefs together for honest athletic competition that is free of political influence or intrigue.

That is the ideal.

History has shown that the Olympics have fallen short of that ideal. There was the Summer Games of 1936 in Berlin, where Hitler intended to use the Olympics to showcase the superiority of the Aryan race; American track athlete Jesse Owens put a dent in those plans. There was the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches in Munich in 1972. Eight years later, the U.S. led a 65-nation boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow because of the Soviet Union’s military invasion of Afghanistan (of all places).

On Feb. 7, the Winter Olympic Games will open in Russia, which in the past year has stepped-up its anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) position as a matter of national policy. Free-speech activities, such as writing about LGBT issues (lest a minor see it) or staging gay-pride rallies are outlawed.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 — conviction used to bring prison terms of up to five years — but the government’s official hard line against gays has only emboldened perpetrators of murders and assaults on gays and those suspected of being gay.

Regarding the Olympics, the sports minister of Russia, Vitaly Mutko said that all athletes’ rights would be respected — but also that athletes must respect Russian law. “An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi, but if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”

(Dubuque) Telegraph Herald

Dec. 27

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