Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford

Copyright ©2013 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Russia is pledging that the 2014 games will be free of discrimination despite its new anti-gay laws. Frank Deford isn't buying it and says Olympic officials need to be accountable.

FRANK DEFORD: Let's see now. That self-proclaimed fortress of liberty and fellowship, the International Olympic Committee, awards the Winter Olympics to Russia for 2014. After all, China worked out so well as an exemplar of freedom of the press at Beijing in 2008. Then Russia, duly a signator of the Olympic Charter proclaiming the preservation of human dignity, trots out an anti-homosexual law that would have made Ivan the Terrible have second thoughts.

Now, in response to this injustice, we've had some suggestions. One idea, widely advanced by the estimable Tony Award winner Harvey Fierstein, was to have our athletes boycott the Games. But imagine, Mr. Fierstein, if your friends in the theater only had a Broadway season every four years, would you deny actors that chance - maybe the only chance of a lifetime?

Another idea: Put pressure on NBC, the Olympic network - poor NBC, which is so comatose it still hasn't recovered from the Ann Curry debacle. Or call upon major Olympic sponsors like Coke and McDonald's, those bastions of idealism, to wave the LGBT banner instead of working up super Olympic buy-one-get-one-free deals. Hey now, that would bring Putin to his knees.

Or refuse to purchase Russian vodka, particularly like the popular Stolichnaya, only there's that darned inconvenient globalism. Turns out Stoli is owned by some folks in Luxembourg and brewed in Latvia.

But wait a minute. Why should any of us be leading the charge? It was the IOC that got us into this mess, lying down with fleas. Has the outgoing IOC president, a cipher named Jacques Rogge, stuck his neck out? There're six men running to succeed him, including Thomas Bach of Germany, the odds-on favorite. Only one has had the guts to speak out for gay rights, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico.

If there was any courage or decency in what is so smugly called the Olympic movement, there is one noble way to handle this. Simple: Every country which opposes Russia's ugly anti-gay laws should refuse to send its officials to the Games in Sochi.

Oh, the Games will go on, all the athletes will be there to compete. NBC will still get its ratings. Big Macs will still roll over the counter. Everybody outside of Russia will enjoy the Games.

But Vladimir Putin and his thuggish cronies will be sitting alone, shamed, rejected by the decent nations of the world. Would our own USOC have the guts to lead that way? Well, I'll drink to that dream - a double Stoli with tonic and a lime, if you please.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Frank Deford, he joins us each Wednesday.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Sweetness And LightSweetness And Light The Score On Sports With Frank Deford