The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Anti-Homosexuality Propaganda Laws, Madonna, and Hockey Pucks, Oh My!

The name says it all.

The name says it all.

Alex Gilmore '14 and Adam Curtis '14

The 2014 Olympics have many events which international audiences can look forward to; the usual competition of the world hockey superpowers of Canada, Russia, Finland, and Sweden, the anticipation of seeing people like snowboarder Sage Kostenberg fly through the air in the freestyle competition known as “Slopestyle”, and, regretfully, the chance that many proven athletes will not attend due to anti-homosexuality legislation passed in Russia in the past year.

Russia’s “anti-propaganda law” threatens anyone who promotes homosexuality (Which is defined in the law as “Nontraditional marital relations”) to minors. If citizens are found in violation of this law, they can be fined about $100-$150. Public officials can be fined $1,000-$1,500. If you haven’t heard much about this that isn’t a shock. If someone is found giving information about homosexuality via the news media (Television, Newspapers) or the Internet, the fine increases to $30,000 (Or 1 million Russian Rubles) for organizations.

In a public statement, German President Joachim Gauck said he would not attend the Olympics due to Russian Prime minister Vladimir Putin’s repeated attacks on human rights. France’s Foreign minister Laurent Fabius and president Francois Hollande also said they would not attend the Olympics, but did not provide any explanation according to Al Jazeera News. More notably, President Obama will not be attending due to his schedule, but neither will first lady Michelle Obama or Vice-president Joe Biden.

Vladimir Putin did issue a statement about the games saying that gays are welcome at the Olympics, but they must “leave the children in peace.” Most, if not all, people by the age of 15 have seen or heard about gay couples, it’s ignorant to believe that you can limit the exposure of minors to LGBT issues and opinions.

But for those who believe a boycott is in order, remember, the Olympics have seen worse. The 1936 Olympics were held in Munich during the height of the Nazi regime. China was also given the opportunity to hold the 2008 Olympics despite its killing of people held in prison camps across the country. (This was done in order to have a bank of organ “donors” who had their organs taken forcibly for China’s transplant industry because there is no widespread donation system.) This anti-propaganda law is not life threatening like the other two examples presented.

The Olympics should not be boycotted, because it isn’t the place for politics, it’s a place for athletes. Russia is not going to change their mind because athletes aren’t in attendance, even if they are some of the world’s best. Really, the athletes should stop trying to be politicians and just play the sport. Athletes have trained for years for this moment, and letting the opinions of officials of the host country stop them from achieving a lifelong dream is more harmful than following the anti-propaganda laws while in the host country. The Olympics are meant to unite all nations and allow athletes to battle it out on the slopes and ice to see who is best in the world. They need to leave the boycotting to countries’ leaders like Gauck, Hollande, and Obama.

After Madonna came through Moscow, shortly after the law was passed, she said something pro-gay during the concert and was asked to leave the country. She isn’t allowed to return either.

Luckily for American hockey fans, the most controversial event that has happened was that U.S. hockey accidentally told a 67 year old Canadian man that he was on the team when the rosters were announced (true story). He showed a lot of potential, but being a Canadian wouldn’t have worked out.

When you think of sports in America, hockey isn’t on top of the list, but just like with U.S. soccer, success on the world stage will increase hockey’s popularity at home. Hockey is about as American as maple syrup is Russian. Nonetheless, the U.S. has some of the best NHL players and earned a silver medal last time out in Vancouver. Who knows? Maybe the U.S. stands a chance against hockey powerhouses like Russia, Finland, and Sweden.

Although “experience” never shows up in the stat sheet, it’s still nice to have, and going into the Sochi Olympics, the U.S. has 13 players who have played in previous Olympics. Goaltending for the U.S. is pretty stable at this point, as Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick battle to be the starting net minder. Miller was the MVP of the last Olympics, while Quick won the Conn Smythe Playoff MVP trophy when his LA Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2012.

With mostly young and inexperienced defensemen, the U.S. is counting on strong performances from blueliners Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild and Brooks Orpik of the Pittsburgh Penguins. At forward, the U.S. is loaded with talent, with the likes of Patrick Kane, David Backes, Dustin Brown and Zack Parise to name a few. Kane and Parise were all-stars last year in the NHL, while Dustin Brown helped carry the LA Kings to the Stanley Cup in 2012. All four of them are returning to the Olympics for the second time, so stage fright shouldn’t be a problem for them.

The last time the U.S. medaled at an Olympics held outside of North America was 1972, but as the saying goes, “no Kane, no gain.” If the U.S. hockey team gets rolling in Sochi, this could be a golden opportunity for Hockey to take a place next to the most popular sports in America, football, baseball, and basketball.