Many athletes made clear before traveling to Sochi how unhappy they were about how the LGBT citizens of Russia are being abused, particularly with its law banning gay “propaganda.”
But now in that they are actually in Sochi, the silence is deafening from the 2,870 Olympians at their venues and especially at Friday nights opening ceremony when that same day over 60 Russian LGBT activist were arrested and some of them beaten by Russian police for standing up for their human rights
Now that they are actually in Russia many Olympians and coaches are now citing multiple reasons why they feel these Olympics are neither the place nor time – at least not early on in the 17-day games – to make a stand.
We’re all so focused on the task at hand,” said U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner. In the United States, Wagner spoke eloquently against the Russian law. In Sochi, she still is happily and patiently answering questions on it but not bringing it up herself. She said she has also “discussed it with some athletes.”
“We have a great platform to really speak out about what we believe in, but also we’re here to compete,” she said. “I did my part as an athlete, and did enough to make myself feel good at the end of the day.”
Skating coach Brian Orser, who is gay, said: “I’ve avoided most of these questions about it. I don’t want to come across as a hypocrite but I also just want to be here for my athletes, just be here doing my job. ” he said. “So I am kind of torn.”
Some athletes worry that taking a strong stand will draw swarms of reporters, which could break their focus.
“I just don’t want to stir the waters and don’t want to comment on any side of it. Then that’s something that can turn into a distraction if you get hounded by the media,” said cross-country skier Jessica Diggins.
“So I’m keeping myself out of that.”
Then we have bromantic five-time Olympic skiing medalist Bode Miller who is competing at his fifth games and who in interview with the Associated Press while still in America before the games Miller didn’t hold back any punches when asked about Russia’s anti-gay laws saying:
‘I think it’s absolutely embarrassing that there’s countries and there’s people who are that intolerant and that ignorant,” Asking an athlete to go somewhere and compete and be a representative of a philosophy and … then tell them they can’t express their views or they can’t say what they believe, I think is pretty hypocritical or unfair.”
Now that Miller is in Russia competing his tune has changed:
“I don’t really feel like the Olympics is a place for that kind of politics,” said U.S. skier Bode Miller, competing at his fifth games. “It’s a place for sports and a place for cultures to kind of put aside their differences and compete.”
“It’s easy to get caught up in all the other stuff and forget what the Olympics is about.”
(Bode you are hot but you are definitely a hypocrite.)
And what about other countries athletes?
Well Canada our ally to the north a country which has a very progressive LGBT rights stance don’t want their athletes involved at all.
“We don’t participate in any political debates and any controversy and anything else but sport,” said Canadian Olympic Committee President Marcel Aubut.
Canadian Olympians get “a lot of training” on how to answer reporters and are made “aware of any trigger points,“ said Mike Slipchuk, who heads Canada’s figure skating team.
“They’re here to answer questions about their performance and what they’re doing here,” he said.
But on gay rights, “wars” and “everything,” he said: “We’re not here to be a spokesperson for those things.”
But there is still a chance some brave athlete might stand up and say and or do something by the time the Olympic are over according to outspoken LGBT straight ally and Hudson Taylor, a wrestling coach at Columbia University who has traveled to Sochi to campaign. Taylor said he knows of “a handful of athletes who are interested in speaking out.” and that once athletes are done competing, gloves could come off, especially if these are their last Olympics.
Now that’s Olympic courage and bravery.