British Prime Minister David Cameron has rejected a plea from Stephen Fry to ban Russia from hosting the Winter Olympics, stating that while he “share’s [Fry’s] deep concern about the abuse of gay people,” he believes “we can better challenge prejudice as we attend.”
Fry’s open letter drew the Prime Minister’s attention to the dramatic rise in attacks on gay people in Russia after the country’s parliament passed a bill that would effectively make it illegal to equate homosexual and heterosexual relationships or supply information about homosexuality to anyone under eighteen. Stories and footage of individuals being interrogated and tortured by vigilante gangs over their perceived sexual choices is emerging every day, and recently a peaceful protest against these human rights abuses being woven into legislation meant to represent the population resulted in police beating and jailing activists.
Cameron does, of course, have a point. Those shaven headed fascists with their baseball bats and big talk would think twice about kidnapping, intimidating and torturing young effeminate men if we were standing next to them at the bus stop. The police would almost certainly not have been as twitchy with their truncheons if, instead of twenty protesters, there had been twenty thousand. It’s unlikely that a TV audience (top) would have acted with such disgust towards a young man whose father had beaten him repeatedly if we’d have been there too.
But we’re not going to be, are we? Those of us who go to Sochi to watch, compete, commentate and enjoy the Winter Olympics aren’t going to be in those places. We’ll be in the stadia buying over-priced confectionary, taking photos of each other wearing amusing Russian hats, and if we happen to be David Cameron, glad-handing politicians and praying no one asks any awkward questions that may potentially damage relations and trade with a socially regressive regime.
Personally, I would prefer it if instead of neatly deflecting Fry’s request into the long grass like the polite English gent he is, Cameron had a look, fixed both eyes on the ball and took an almighty swing at the damn thing. Make a statement. Question whether it’s appropriate to be tacitly endorsing the kind of behaviour that, as many more learned than me have already pointed out, looks disconcertingly like that of a dictator who’s caught a sniff of absolute power and quite likes the bouquet. Make a bloody stand. Alright, he’ll probably end up looking like a pillock as the ball sails past his lofted bat and smashes the stumps, but imagine if he connected. Imagine watching the ball our Prime Minister hit gather momentum and rise into the sky, other world leaders following suit, the IAAF and IOC buckling under the rising international pressure and actually stopping to consider what power they wield in the unseen lives of millions.
Don’t hold out much hope. If there’s one thing our beloved PM knows without watching these videos, it’s what standing out from the crowd gets you. A good, solid truncheon across the bridge of the nose.
If you’re lucky.