Elliott Denman has an issue with the word, boycott. He makes a fine argument, using recent history and not so recent history, that boycotts have not really worked, when the Olympics are involved.
Moscow Diary 2013: A word we do not like to consider by Elliot Denman
MOSCOW – Hate that word. Hate it, hate it, hate it.
Does awful things to my digestion. Wrecks my breakfast. Ruins lunch. Destroys dinner.
Sure wish it would just disappear, vanish, vamoose.
Maybe they could just expunge it.
From the English language. And all others.
That’s what I think of b-o-y-c-o-t-t.
Oh-so-very-very-very sadly, it’s rearing its discredited head once again.
The Olympic Winter Games are still six months away, but horror of horrors, they’re using that word again.
Sochi, in southernmost Russia, just north of the Georgia border, it will be, next February.
But the no-goers are already at it, trying to leverage the lifeblood of athletes – their right to participate – for a cause totally unrelated to them and surely unsolvable by even their most stalwart efforts.
The skaters, schussers, slalomists, et al, are being thrown into the fray – homophobia is the primary issue these days – because their politicians see them as the handiest of pawns.
Hasn’t the world learned?
Haven’t we progressed from the idiocy of drawing innocent civilians into frays not of their making?
Have we forgotten the repercussions of all such past mis-cursions?
Just look back.
All the way to 1908, for starters. To all that Anglo-American animosity at the first London Games. To Wyndham Halswelle of Britain winning the 400 meters by “walkover” when aggravated Americans elected to sit it out.
To 1936, when Dr. Patrick O’Callaghan of Ireland would have been the strong favorite to win a third consecutive hammer throw title – only to stay home, caught in the middle of the British-Irish federational squabble.
To 1956, to the withdrawal of seven nations angry over the Suez Crisis and Hungarian Uprising.
To 1976, and 22 African nations’ late withdrawal from the Montreal Games over the issue of a New Zealand rugby team’s tour of apartheid-ruled South Africa.
To 1980 – of the USA-led stay-at-home from Moscow and Luzhniki Stadium over the state of affairs in Afganistan.
To 1984 – of the Soviet Union-led snub of the Los Angeles Games as retaliation for the American-led snub of Moscow.
To 1988 – of the North Korean refusal to a make the Seoul trip south, and the support of their Cuban ideological cousins, along with Ethiopia and five more.
For some happy reason, this nasty word in question has never afflicted the Winter Games. Maybe because too many tongues were frozen shut in the frenzy of frigid climes.
But now it’s being spoken – again – in a rising tide of voices.
Most fortunately, most intelligently, the U.S. Olympic Committee’s voice is one of reason.
The official USOC stance:
“We fully support the comments today from President Obama rejecting calls to boycott the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Russia. The Games bring people together. They unite the world and break down barriers. The Games demonstrate how it is possible to compete fiercely but respectfully. They demonstrate how people with disparate views can come together and celebrate what they have in common, most notably the will to be the best you can be. As the President suggested, the diverse group of athletes representing our nation next winter makes us a stronger and a better Team USA.”
Despite many calls to stay home, the then-American Olympic Committee looked at it the same way back in 1936.
Instead of staying home, Jesse Owens, John Woodruff, Archie Williams, Cornelius Johnson got to put it to Adolf Hitler and Nazism in a far better way – by proving their superiority at Berlin Olympic Stadium. Only regrets were that Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, the only Jewish Americans on that 1936 track and field team, didn’t get chances of their own.
So, fast forwarding, we are brought straight back to Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, for the 14th edition of the World Track and Field Championships, now commencing a nine-day run through to Aug. 18.
The scene of those 1980 Olympic Games has been refurbished in all possible ways. All is clearly in readiness. The seating scheme, from trackside on up, is painted brightest yellow, orange and red. For the final weekend’s windup events, the place is expected to fill to its 78,000-plus capacity.
Glorying in it all, International Association of Athletics Federations president Lamine Diack happily guides what he properly calls “the world’s biggest sporting event of 2013.”
The delegates of 206 nations are here.
Obviously, this event is huge-huge.
Maybe in the eyes of all but Americans.
Betcha-bottom-ruble that 99.22 percent of all Americans calling themselves sports fans aren’t even aware these Worlds are taking place.
Which is awful-awful-awful.
But maybe good-good-good nevertheless. So good that is so far off most Americans’ radar screens that that word – b-o-y-c-o-t-t – doesn’t even rate a whisper around Luzhniki Stadium and environs.
By humble request of my nervous system, let’s keep it that way.