Why I Will Watch the Olympics

I’ve watched every Olympics since 1984–when I was 6. Summer. Winter. I’m a fan of the whole thing. I wrote an Olympic short story. I heart the Olympics. This is the first year that my decision to watch feels like a political thing and is something I’ve wrestled with for months now. Russia is doing a terrible job as host, has deplorable human (and animal!) rights issues, and the IOC and USOC have both failed to push them hard enough on the LGBT issues. But can a viewer boycott help?

That’s the question I’ve struggled with. I’ve come down on the side of our athletes who have worked for 4 years to prepare, most of whom wish it were anywhere but Russia. I won’t watch the opening or closing ceremonies–I don’t need to see Russia celebrate itself or pretend that it is a bastion of peace and love. But I will watch the individual events. I will cheer on our athletes because I feel they deserve the support and you’ll see me posting tweets about the events. But know that I do so with a heavy, conflicted heart.

But the more I think about it the more I feel that supporting our athletes is the right thing to do. Disagreeing with Russia’s policies and their handling of the games and their human rights record and, indeed, their being picked in the first place, doesn’t mean taking it out on our athletes. I worry about our athletes, about their safety, about the heavy burden on those in the closet and out. It is a brave group that has traveled to Sochi and I think they deserve our cheers, even if the IOC as a whole does not. How the international community puts pressure on Russia after the Olympics–that is the real place where change will occur.

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