Actor, writer and broadcaster Stephen Fry has called a boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics in Russia 'simply essential' in the wake of the country’s new homophobic legislation.
The Russian government under Vladimir Putin, a former officer in the notorious KGB, has introduced a series of new laws that make it a crime to inform under-18s about homosexuality.
It is also illegal for not only gay couples to adopt children, but for any single parent living in a country where same-sex marriage is legal.
Prime Minister David Cameron has acknowledged Fry’s grievances, but has shut down any hope of a boycott. Protests continue, however, and any sanctions must surely be applied to the 2018 FIFA World Cup, also to be staged in Russia.
FIFA’s initial decision to gift Russia the tournament was a bone of contention, although at the time it was due to fears of corruption within football’s governing body.
Last year’s Euros were overshadowed by concerns over racist groups within Poland and the Ukraine, and Russia’s new “propaganda” laws may render the tournament a no-go area for LGBT fans.
Boycotts can be trivial, inconsequential phenomena. At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet Union and the USA stayed away from each other’s Games, but the move was rejected as irrelevant political posturing.
But they can also have immense power, such as that of Rosa Parks in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
Within sport, too, an international embargo on South African sport was crucial in bringing about the end of apartheid.
Britain is unlikely to boycott the Games alone, and any move would have to be that of a collective international community.
But before the issue slips from the agenda, the matter must be addressed within the football community. Cameron may have ruled out any action, but it remains within FIFA’s remit to send a message to Russia about stamping out discrimination.
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