subscriber help

such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

will you be watching any of the Sochi Winter Olympics?


My fellow film critic and online friend Wesley Lovell, of Cinema Sight, told me yesterday on Facebook that he’s boycotting the Olympics because of Russia. I get the moral impetus behind that, though I don’t quite see how simply not watching the Games on TV — if one would otherwise be interested in doing so — has any impact. Boycotting the advertisers, like by refusing to buy Coca-Cola, seems like it would make more of a statement, if still only a negligible one in the grand scheme. But unless your TV is connected to some sort of rating-measuring service, like Nielsen in the U.S., neither Vladimir Putin nor the IOC nor Coca-Cola (or any other advertiser) is going to be hurt by your tuning out.

I’m not criticizing Wesley’s decision, by the way, just framing this weekend’s Question:

Will you be watching any of the Sochi Winter Olympics? If not, is it because of some particular objection to this Winter Olympics, or are you just not interested in sports? If so, what events are you looking forward to?

I always look forward to the ice dancing at the Winter Olympics, so I’ll make a point of watching that, time and schedules permitting. Other than that, I don’t have much interest in sports of any kind.


(If you have a suggestion for a Question, feel free to email me.)

  • Wesley Lovell

    Since I’m the cause of this discussion, let me explain more. For several years, the Russian government has been using its financial boon to install and strengthen its Orwellian grasp on the nation. Putin, even through his puppet Medvedev, hasn’t wanted to release the control he had during the Cold War as part of the KGB. He has steadfastly and incrementally weeded his way into control not unlike a certain charismatic leader of another European nation.

    That power and control has led to the current state of affairs, which includes anti-LGBT laws that prohibit “gay propoganda,” which includes standing up for and protecting gays within the nation. This has led to violent and horrendous treatment of gays all over the country. The police don’t get involved and the violence continues to escalate each year. The parallels to the first days of the Holocaust are frighteningly staggering.

    Establishing that before going further is important to establishing my mindset for speaking out against and publicly supporting a boycott of the entire Olympic machine.

    The Sochi setting was selected before this round of anti-gay rhetoric and lawmaking was established and billions had already been poured into the endeavor. That shouldn’t have prevented the Olympic committee from speaking out against the violence in the nation. Not only did they not, but they made comments consistent with the treatment of the subject of Germany’s treatment of Jews in the 1930s, including the controversial Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936.

    Just because your organization is on the hook for billions should not mean you ignore the people. They say that sports should be universal and exclude politics, but what better place to stand up against oppression than with a global audience?

    Russia itself stands to make billions from the Olympic games, pumping funds into its massive effort to dehumanize and criminalize homosexuality in the nation. They say they have only laws against spreading the propaganda to children, but small steps lead to big issues.

    By not watching the Olympics and not supporting sponsors of said Olympic games, even the smallest audience down-tick could say to the Olympic committee that it will not tolerate totalitarian, villainous treatment of any peoples. Advertisers support the Olympics by paying for advertisements that they hope will turn into revenue. Advertiser messages show up in the arena as you watch.

    My voice may never be heard. Nor may the voices of my friends who have also agreed to boycott the games. However, speaking up, making a stand and forming a protest, regardless of how small, is still important. If you reach just one mind, influence one person, it makes a difference. The games have now brought more attention to the plight of gays in Russia than it might have otherwise, but that still does not prevent Russia from profiting mightily and filling its coffers so it can continue the abuses it has been enforcing.

    I watched the Olympics for years, I’ve never been a fan of the Summer games, but there are parts of the Winter games I love to watch, mostly the artistry that abounds in figure skating. However, I cannot in good conscience contribute to, even if my failure to contribute goes unnoticed, a set of games hosted by a nation who stands to profit by its very existence.

    I’m sure I could say more, but I hope my thoughts and opinions on this matter are clear enough to be understood and informed enough to be taken to heart by any who read it.

  • Seems reasonable to boycott something you’re against, even if nobody will ever know. But that’s unlikely, as it’ll be a topic of conversation for a few weeks and explaining why he’s not watching will probably shed some light on the situation in Russia to people who never even bother to think about stuff like that. But even if it doesn’t, I would think if he just watches it because he feels like nobody will notice if he doesn’t, would be pretty intellectually dishonest. So bravo for someone who has the courage of his convictions.

    As for me, I think the Winter Olympics are dumb. I respect the hell out of the kids who work their whole lives to compete; they’re our best and brightest in a lot of way. But yeah… pretty dumb. Then again, so is most of the shit I do.

  • Patrick Rogers

    Although I know it is effectively useless for me to boycott the Olympics, I am so distracted by the taint when I try watching it this year that I cannot even enjoy it. So, for the first time, I will not be watching the only sporting-related thing I care about in any way.

  • althea

    “I’m sure I could say more, but I hope my thoughts and opinions on this
    matter are clear enough to be understood and informed enough to be taken
    to heart by any who read it.”

    Wesley, I respect your right to whatever opinions you hold on any subject. But having scrolled down such a long post, and not being inclined to spend the time reading through it, I’m not the one to take your opinions to heart. Which is kind of a parallel with the boycott/protest issue. I don’t think that if I don’t watch the Olympics on TV it will have any impact on policies in Russia, nor will Putin be impacted by what I do.

    As for the Games, I am a diehard Olympics junkie and will watch everything that I can manage to stay awake for. Heavily engaged with figure skating. The ice dancing, that will be riveting because of Davis and White being the front runners, and this new team competition is interesting. But dadgum almost everything else is great, too, even hockey, although I don’t get too worked up about the sports that take a lot of rounds to complete.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    A couple of things for Mr. Lovell.

    First, you write as though Putin’s policies towards Russia’s LGBT citizens were somehow a secret. The run-up to every Olympics becomes a media frenzy of all the scandals, problems, and failures of the host country/city to prepare. This has been, if not the top story for Sochi, certainly in the top 3.


    not unlike a certain charismatic leader of another European nation.

    Dude, don’t do this. If you want to compare a world leader to Hitler, and their government and policies to the Nazis, then do so. Especially if it’s a legitimate comparison, not just a rhetorical hyperbole. You make your meaning abundantly clear in the next paragraph, and again in paragraph four. Being too-clever-by-half here makes it look like you don’t really believe the comparison. Alternatively, if you’re uncomfortable with the prospect of potentially Godwinning, we are talking about Russia here: no need to invoke Hitler when you’ve got Stalin, who criminalized homosexuality in 1933, right there.

  • Tonio Kruger

    No. But then I don’t have the ability to watch live TV right now, anyway.

    I’m tempted to say more, but Dr. Rocketscience has already said what I’m tempted to say more efficiently and effectively than I could ever say it.

  • I don’t have any interest in sports, either, but for some reason I always look forward to the Olympics. I usually watch it off and on. I have no interest in any particular event. Just the Olympics as a whole.
    We watched most of the opening ceremonies last night. Some of it was pretty cool, and well done. I actually felt bad for them when one of the rings didn’t work, like in your picture.

  • Chloe

    I’m watching the Olympics and, as usual. enjoying events that I never thought I could be interested in. The dedication and discipline that the athletes exhibit in all the events are things that can be appreciated and applauded without considering the political machine of the host country. It’s the human story that I find interesting and inspiring without regard to their country of origin.

  • RogerBW

    No TV, less than no interest in sports. No country had the guts to keep its teams at home. IOC/FIFA/Russian government? It’s a perfect storm of corruption.

  • Kathy_A

    I’ve never been athletic at all, but I do enjoy watching pro American football on tv and all of the Olympics, both summer and winter. Being born in 1966, I vaguely remember the Munich Games (more for Olga Korbut than the scary men in black hoods, which I’m not sure if I really remember seeing or have imposed them onto my memories). However, the first Games I avidly watched were in 1976–Dorothy Hamill (had to have her haircut afterwards!), Franz Klammer (my first-ever crush, for both his looks and the sheer insanity of his amazing downhill run, and he’s gotten even better looking in the past 38 years), and then Nadia Comenichi and Bruce Jenner in the Summer Games. Oh, and the scandal of the East German female swimming team–the first doping scandal I can recall.

    It isn’t all athletic prowess that comes to mind when watching the Games, and it never has been.

  • David C-D

    I never heard of slope style before, but I am very much enjoying watching people spinning and flipping through the air. amazing stuff.

    I appreciate Wesley’s post as I wasn’t aware quite how bad things are getting in Russia. It’s dark here under my rock. Since I won’t be boycotting my television, I will have to think on what else to do. At least I can get better informed!

  • LaSargenta

    I agree both Wesley and MAJ. But, I’m sorta boycotting. Not watching, but I do check out the results in the paper. I do wish that Billie Jean King had been able to go. I think the IOC continues to be pretty damn sleezy, this time about having the games at Sochi.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This