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.
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