Who would have thought that the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia would invite comparisons with the summer games in Berlin in 1936. 78 years ago, Adolf Hitler refused to shake the hand of Jesse Owens, the African American sprinter who won four gold medals for the United States. It would be 12 years before another Olympics took place as the world was plunged into the darkness of a global War.
Vladimir Putin is not a dreaded monster like Hitler, but his strange crusade against anyone who is not heterosexual has cast a huge shadow over the games in Sochi. Barack Obama and Stephen Harper are among the world leaders who will not attend, although both are biting their tongue as to the reason why.
Obama is sending two openly gay former athletes as part of the official U.S. delegation, as if to say “take that Mr. Putin.” Canada is being urged to make a similar kind of statement. Perhaps Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird will carry the political torch.
It is acknowledged by anyone who matters in Ottawa that Baird is gay, but the minister himself has never made a public declaration. Last summer when Russia’s anti-gay crusade first hit the headlines, Baird attacked the Putin regime in no uncertain terms.
Back to the dark days of Hitler in Europe, the Nazi reign of terror that eventually killed millions, targeted a wide range of so-called ‘undesirables’, including homosexuals. Behind the barbed wire of the camps, they were identified by the pink triangles they were forced to wear, but the larger world had relatively little knowledge of what was really going on.
Against that historical backdrop, Putin’s stand on sexual orientation is despicable in the extreme. No one wants to deny an elite athlete the chance to compete on the ultimate world stage, but thanks to the old KGB man, the Sochi games will be forever labeled in a negative way.
I’m Roger Currie