In less than 30 days from now, the Sochi Winter Olympic Games will make history. Not because it's the first games in post-Glasnost Russia. Not because of widespread national corruption. Not so much because it's the first winter games to have women ski jumping. It's because no Olympic games has ever been more about sexual orientation than this one. Vladimir Putin deserves all the credit. Though, I'm pretty sure it's not what he had in mind.
Putin's anti-gay "propaganda" laws have been no secret and, despite the glib tone of this post, are no joke. Just read a little of The New Republic columnist Julia Ioffe's indispensable writing on the subject (or on anything about Russia) to understand how it's become open season on gays or suspected gays at a level of unspeakable brutality and with complete impunity. Think Kristallnacht. Think the Salem Witch Hunts. That's how bad it is.
Yet as we get closer and closer to the moment where the rest of the world sends their official athletic delegations to this place, Russia, more and more logs are being added to the fire of imminent conflagration.
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun wishes it weren't so. Read this excerpt from Q&A this week with Blackmun in the Colorado Gazette:
Q: [Billie Jean] King recently was quoted as saying, "Sometimes I think we need a John Carlos moment." Do you agree with King's view?
Blackmun: You know, no. I don't agree with that particular statement because, again, if you believe in what the Olympic movement is supposed to be about, which is bringing people together for competition ... I just don't think that the Olympic Games are the appropriate platform for that because that steals the attention away from the athletes, their stories and their efforts to win a medal for their country. It should be about the athletes and what they are striving to be.
What if they're striving to be openly gay? Well, believe it or not, this Olympics might just help them.
It appears the place that was once the Iron Curtain is now the Irony Curtain. The law Putin established ostensibly to eliminate any external expressions of gayness in Russian society has served to only amplify the issue of gay rights in Russia and is manifesting a cascade of expressions of support for gay rights around in direct relation to the Sochi games itself.
Obama finally took the opportunity to throw a little dirt in Putin's eye. After being globally humiliated by the Russian president with the Snowden affair, Obama is the first president not to send himself or a VP, instead he sent two openly gay American athletes as part of the official U.S. delegation, Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow. Ten hours later, the third athlete on the delegation, Brian Boitano, publicly announced he was gay. The German skier Felix Neureuther -- not gay -- won the World Cup Slalom, and took that moment to criticize the Russian anti-gay law. Bob Costas says NBC won't limit talk about the anti-gay law. Protest demonstrations around the world and in Russia during the games are being openly threatened. Athlete Ally is selling t-shirts highlighting the IOC Charter Principle 6 "no discrimination" clause. Sales have been decent. Anyone in the world can buy one.
It not hard to predict that for the run-up to the games and all during the games themselves all the talk on MSNBC, FOX, CNN and talk radio will be about issues gays, gay rights and gays in the Olympics.
Here's another prediction: the Sochi games will not pass without a Juan Carlos moment. I don't know what it will be exactly. It could be a lapel pin on the medal stand, a mass protest, same sex kissing on television... And then WHAM! Sochi goes down as the games where gay rights took over.
And this watershed moment for global gay rights, is all thanks to one man, arguably the biggest swinging dick on the planet: Russian president and anti-gay legislator Vladimir Putin. Go figure.