On the heels of my column last week where I discussed my deep-rooted love of the Russian motherland and hatred of her government and its newly passed anti-gay laws, I want to discuss my opinion, as an Olympian and an athlete, concerning the Olympic Games to be held next February in Sochi, Russia.
One of the most depressing headlines I’ve read in the past week was “Obama to Consider Olympic Boycott.” The last, and only, Olympic Games that the United States and several other nations boycotted was the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow while The Soviet Union was waging war in Afghanistan in the midst of the Cold War and spy games. Despite the boycott being heralded as a bold and almost righteous maneuver, the people that were hurt most were the athletes who’d dedicated their lives to possibly having their lone life-changing moment in Moscow, in front of the world, where they could display their sporting expertise and themselves as personalities. The Soviet Union wasn’t hurt by the boycott; the games went on, in spectacular fashion for the time, with The Soviet Union winning 80 gold medals of the possible 204. American athletes could simply sit at home and watch, as their competitors enjoyed Olympic glory, and dream of what might have been.
I have dedicated countless hours of my life to a sport and to competing in the most prestigious and respected event in the world: The Olympics. I watched my family struggle to make ends meet, endure personal struggles with raising an Olympian and often times forgo their own happiness so that I could have a chance at my dreams. When I qualified for my first Olympic Games, my family sold one of our cars to be sure that my mother, father and brother could attend the event and see me skate for the world. If there is anyone that understands the sacrifice that myself and others like me make as young people to attain a dream so few can comprehend, it’s the family of an aspiring Olympian. Rich or poor, a family goes through everything with you. To have a boycott would not only negate the career of some athletes who have only one chance at competing at the Games, but also the over-time shifts an exhausted father takes to make ends meet, or the social acclimatization of a brother who can’t go on spring break because his brother needed another costume, or the mother who works part-time at a job far beneath her, just so she can afford to watch her first born perform for the world. The Olympics are not a political statement, they are a place to let the world shine in peace and let them marvel at their youthful talents.
As the athlete, I had all the pressures of being the flag bearer in my sport, I also had all the rewards. The Olympics made me a household name and therefore helped me afford to live in a world where I forwent university studies so that I could train. The Olympics are what made me Johnny Weir, and gave me the ability to write a column like this where someone could actually access it and read it. I lived, cried, and bled for the Olympics. Had they been in Pyongyang, North Korea, somewhere in The Ivory Coast or at a small ice rink on Mars, I would have gone.
The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority and violating Human Rights all over the place is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions, but I still will compete. There isn’t a police officer or a government that, should I qualify, could keep me from competing at the Olympics. I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof. I beg the gay athletes not to forget their missions and fight for a chance to dazzle the world. I pray that people will believe in the Olympic movement no matter where the event is being held, because the Olympics are history, and they do not represent their host, they represent the world entire. People make their own futures, and should a government or sponsor steal that future, whether it be the Russian government or American government, it is, as an athlete, the death and total demolition of a lifetime of work. Support the athletes.