William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

IOC: Five rings and no balls. Sochi pity!

Excellence. Friendship. Respect. So whose motto is that? Boy Scouts? Alcoholics Anonymous?

Who would guess that these are the watchwords supposedly encapsulating the modern Olympic movement? Actually, says the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it’s not merely a slogan, but the organisation’s ‘life philosophy’.

Funny thing that, the gap between imagination and reality. While those three qualities might be found in athletes participating in the Games, when one thinks of the IOC itself, what pops to mind is: Greed. Bribery. Corruption. Oh, and there’s a fourth defining characteristic: Cowardice.

It is this cowardice that prevents the IOC from pulling the plug on Russia hosting the Winter Olympics, which open in the Black Sea city of Sochi in February. Russia, particularly with its recent anti-gay laws, stands in flagrant breach of the Olympic Charter, which states: ‘Any form of discrimination … on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise, is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.’

Russia’s human-rights abuses are well enough documented. The European Court of Human Rights two years ago fined it for violating the European Convention by banning more than 600 gay events and marches. The Russians paid the fine but continue the bannings and with new laws that basically equate homosexuality with paedophilia, they have fostered a climate tolerant of anti-gay violence and abuse.

Nor are Russian contraventions of the Olympian charter confined to gender rights. Religions other than Russian Orthodox, especially Muslims, are being harassed and new anti-terrorism legislation allows the state to seize as reparation the assets of the family and friends of convicted terrorists.

The IOC’s pandering to all this is disappointing but not unprecedented. It has long been afraid to negotiate the political aspect to sport. Instead, the IOC pretends that sport is some kind of vestal virgin who can be cloistered from a sullying political world. This is not about protecting the IOC’s principles, more about protecting its obscenely large revenue flows.

Which is why the IOC has a history of craven head bobbing to dictators and thugs. IOC principles were memorably tested in 1933 when Adolf Hitler took power in Germany against a Nazi choreographed backdrop of terror, then enacted a slew of racial purity legislation, targeting ‘inferior’ groups such as Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and the handicapped.

In response there were moves, especially in the United States, to shift or boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Hitler, however, disarmed the IOC with assurances that Germany would exempt from its ruthless anti-gay law prohibiting ‘lewd’ and ‘unnatural’ behaviour, all the foreign athletes, guests and media attending the Berlin Games.

The IOC acquiesced in a heartbeat and dutifully expelled the US’s delegate Ernst Jahncke for his public stance against Berlin 1936. It replaced him with Avery Brundage, later to become IOC president, whose believed politics had no place in sport. In words that were resurrected 30 years later by the IOC during the anti-apartheid years, Brundage proclaimed that ‘The Games belong to the athletes and not to the politicians.’

That’s been the IOC’s creed ever since. Nasty piece of work that he was, Brundage earned further notoriety during the 1972 Munich Olympics, when he appeared to equate as transgressions of equal magnitude the expulsion of the Rhodesian team from the Olympic movement with the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists.

Similarly, the suspension of South Africa’s Olympic membership between 1964 and 1992 was not because the IOC suddenly developed scruples. The IOC acted because of the growing influence in the Olympics movement of newly independent African countries. Unfortunately for white SA, the dour Afrikaners in power at the time lacked the canniness of Hitler to avail themselves of any of several escape routes that the IOC left open for them.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, has clearly studied Hitler’s 1933 script and knows how to placate the IOC. Foreign gays and lesbians will not suffer discrimination at Sochi, he promises. The locals, however, will have to take what’s dished out.

That’s the IOC for you. Five rings. No balls.

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    • george orwell

      There’s been a lot of media hyperbole over this new Russian Federal Law 135.


      Rather than being a blanket ‘anti-gay’ law, the new Russian law very, very specifically addresses “sexual propaganda aimed at children “. That’s it.

      It places fines on those who “promote non-traditional sexual relations to minors.” That’s it.

      We may not agree with it, we may abhor it, but let’s not exaggerate what it’s about.

      FIFA is taking the Soccer Cup to Bahrain, which is anti-gay. Where’s the outcry?

      The US and Israel’s major arms and oil friend, Saudi Arabia, is very decidedly anti-gay, as well as misogynist, far more than Russia. Where’s the outcry?

      Does Russia harrass Muslims more than the USA does, I wonder? Is there evidence we can scrutinise?

      The new Russian law which allows authorities to seize assets of family of terrorists sounds very similar to the Israeli law which allows Israeli soldiers to seize/destroy houses of family members.

      America has now caught up with Russia, since Barack Obama introduced the draconian Detention Without Trial Law (NDA) to the US.

      Pots calling kettles black?

      Aside from this, I agree with your assessment of the IOC, William. The Olympics event has drifted far from its original, meaningful roots.

    • george orwell

      Correction: Soccer Cup 2022 not in Bahrain, but in Qatar:

      “Qatar’s anti-homosexual laws have come under increased scrutiny as it prepares to host the 2022 World Cup. Qatari law considers homosexuality a criminal offense that’s punishable by up to seven years in jail (or a life term when one of the parties is under 16 years of age).”

      All those who fly Qatar Airlines, own up!

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Orwell, in Russia today there are gangs roaming around beating up African and the police will do nothing. A white person walking down the streets in Russia that practices same sex will not be bothered like a black person in Russia. Just recently a person from SA was beaten up and humiliated, but there is no cries for Putin to apology to SA. When people committed crimes on the US soil, they are brought up on criminal charges, however, these people being held in Cuba are war criminals. Why aren’t you speaking out about the Russians singers that have been sent to prison for what?

    • george orwell

      #Sterling. There may be random beatings in Russia, which is awful I agree, but there is also hectic violence in America (remember Trayvon Martin?).

      Your comment: “Those people being held in Cuba are war criminals” is incorrect.

      Of 169 held at Guantanamo Cuba, 87 were declared innocent years ago but are STILL waiting for release. ie nearly 50% are innocent.

      Don’t take my word for it – read “Kafka at Gitmo” in ‘The Washington Post':


      Obama knows the Cuban Guantanamo gulag is a stain on America’s reputation and promised to close it, pre-election.

      He broke that promise.

      I’d rather speak out about the brave whistle-blower Bradley Manning, than the Russian singers “Pussy Riot”, because I believe Manning showed more moral courage than attention-seeking girls known for sticking frozen chickens up their vaginas.

      Do your research and you will see Pussy Riot was well known for outrageous performance art – including the chicken stunt, sex orgies in museums, painting giant penises on bridges, etc. Never worked out what they were trying to say or what they stood for actually.

      I don’t agree they should be jailed, though.

      I suspect they offended Russian Christians in the same way Jewish people would be offended if Muslims disrespectfully burst into a synagogue.

      Religion is sensitive territory.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Orwell, that was her body, and this lady can do what she wants with it. As far as Matin being killed, the alleged killer was brought to court and given a trial, and many people might not agree with the verdict, but justice works like that sometimes. In Russia there is nothing done to those people traveling around Russia beating up blacks. Many of those people that were released from prison in Cuba have been recaptured and sent back for the same acts.

    • cris devit

      I have been to gay clubs in Russia and never found the same degree of resentment against gays as in western nations, even those that have many laws to protect gays. The law against not teaching alternate sex in schools is a good one, the child sex industry is a multi billion $ international industry, a good look at it in Thaland would turn anyone against it, where poor children are are for hire to foreign men, for no other reason than being able to eat.
      The wealthy nations through their funding of the U.N. and other orgs. want to promote this, we are not all rich, it is more important to protect poor and defenseless children. Gays are only about 2% of the population, there are many more starving people, we don’t need a placebo that only helps a few and fools us into believing that these useless rich politicians are doing something for the world.



      This program of promoting the interests of a few above the majority is simply another means of the corrupt subverting democracy, the money should be spent on protecting people, gay or otherwise.

    • george orwell

      @Sterling – pots calling kettles black, is all I’m saying.

      Journalists should be impartial, but they show their unconscious bias towards Designated Enemies, like Putin -who’s fair game to be designated ‘the new Hitler’ – always a favourite trope of the Washington Consensus crowd.

      Because the anti-gay Qataris are a US-UK client state and thus Designated Buddies, no protests about World Sport going there – no sirreee…

    • george orwell

      @Sterling, I’ve a feeling you’ll get this:

      The male version of Pussy Riot …

      Testicle Tantrum..

      “Artists Nails Testicles to Red Square”


      Pity poor Putin who has to deal with the Pussy Riot/Testicle Nutters.

      I think Putin does an admirable job drawing a line on certain behaviours, otherwise it could all get out of hand,

      Sterling, please post me some evidence of the black people getting beaten up all over Russia? You keep asserting this without providing any supporting evidence.

      I’d like to scrutinise this evidence for myself and compare it to the numbers of dark people currently being beaten up in the UK, USA, France and Germany.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Orwell, you can go online into key words and type in racism in Russia, and you will find a large source of information. Prior to the fall of the Soviet Empire, Russia was run like a police state, and people didn’t have the freedom to express themselves openly like today. There are many groups led by the skinheads that have been attacking the blacks and other minorities in Russia. Many blacks went to Russia from the US in the 30s and had children with Russians and their grandchildren are catching hell in Russia today. Most Russians aren’t racist, but they are afraid to say anything because these group will attack them. This is just like the KKK in the US the whites was afraid to condemn the violence by this group in the US.

    • http://www.mambaonline.co.za Luiz

      Hi Orwell,

      While you are correct that the law deals with “sexual propaganda aimed at children” you fail to grasp the implications.

      The concept of “propaganda” is not defined in the law which means that any mention or the mere discussion of homosexuality may be deemed illegal – as has already happened.

      It also means that any article that deals with LGBT issues must carry an age restriction and faces censorship as it could be read by a minor.

      It means that any LGBT public event that a minor might witness could be banned – no matter how academic or otherwise inoffensive it might be.

      Even the holding of a rainbow flag can lead a person to be arrested (as has already happened).

      The law has been used to justify bans on Pride events in Russia as well as peaceful and dignified efforts to protest the law. People have even used the law to try to block concerts by Lady Gaga and Madonna.

      The law is in essence an infringement of freedom of speech, the right to assembly and freedom of association of the highest order.

      In addition, the less obvious implications of this kind of law is that by demonizing “non-traditional sexual relations” this fosters a climate in which extremists feel justified in boldly attacking LGBT people. After all, they are dangerous to children!

      There has already been a spike in hate crimes again LGBT people in Russia.

      The Russians are justifying the law just as you have – failing to clarify what the implications of it really are…

    • http://www.mambaonline.co.za Luiz

      The Russians are justifying the law just as you have – failing to clarify what the implications of it really are. There is no exaggeration

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Orwell, South Africans are in denial about racism in Russia and Cuba because the ruling part has been spreading this myth. The Russians feel that they didn’t have African slaves so why import the problem from overseas. In Cuba, Castro has been able to brainwash many blacks in SA to believe that there is no race problem in that country.