Ice Hockey and Homosexuality at Sochi

“I am all for gay rights, and I think that it is one of, if not the most important issue of the 21st century.”

Laura is Canadian. Like most Canadians she possess an undying passion for ice hockey, a sport for which her country took home a plethora of gold medals at the recent winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. She sipped on her pint, a glow exuding from her. The sort of shine only a beautiful girl sure of herself, and her opinions, can radiate. It was an ardour that burnt like a slow ember in her belly. I knew whatever we talked about, she would meet me with an intellectual zeal comparable to the prowess on the ice her countrymen exhibited before mounting that podium to receive their medals.

“I was at a party, and I was talking to some guy that I didn't know very well. So I figured I'd bring up the Olympics as a small-talk thing. I asked him if he'd been watching them and he just answered 'no, I haven’t been watching them, nor do I intend to. After everything that's been going on in Russia? I have no interest in supporting that.’”

Her blue eyes glinted with indignation. I saw within her, an internal scoff at this poor schmuck’s opinion. You just had to look at Laura to know that should was not the sort to back away from something she felt was wrong. She peeped from under the brim her hat at me, and took a sip of her pint, as if to gauge my reaction to the statement she had just relayed to me. I took the bait. It was hard not to; “I take it you disagreed with him?” A wry smile crept it way onto her lips.

“I found it very troublesome that this person, along with countless others, refused to watch the Olympics due to the hosting country's political views when the point of focus should have been on the athletes. These athletes, who train and live to represent their home countries to the best of their abilities in the Olympic games, which pride themselves on equality and their anti-discrimination laws, should be boycotted, slighted and ignored by viewers on 'anti-discrimination' grounds seemed highly ironic.”

At this point I was faced with two options. Agree with her totally (usually when it comes to an attractive woman I find being oppositional to be counter-productive). On the other hand, I did not want to appear sycophantic. I asked if she thought that handing prestigious events to countries that hold discriminatory policies might give legitimacy to those dogmas. She sat up and leaned in, hands grasped round her glass of beer:

“I think that rather than simply boycotting the 2014 Olympics in an effort to display their 'sexual solidarity,' thereby discriminating the athletes who have dedicated their lives to games that represent peace, equality and greatness, they should be asking themselves why the Olympic committee chose Russia as host in the first place, and making strides to instate rules that enforce more diligently chosen host countries,” she said.

“Gay rights and anti-discrimination laws for homosexuals, for instance, were only just recently added into the official laws of the Olympics, I believe, which is certainly unnerving. Likely the root of the matter is that Russia might not have been the best country to select as a host for the Olympics in 2014.”

“What I do know is that despite Russia’s clearly disturbing views on homosexuality, they made it very clear and people of all sexual orientations were welcome at the Olympics.”

I knew better than to argue. Her steely resolve showed she was a girl clearly settled on her opinions. In truth, though the pomp, ceremony, and national pride of the Olympics, not many of us really followed through on our opinions over Russia’s LGBT laws. It’s hard for most of us in London, and England as whole to imagine a community where your sexuality formed a significant bias in the eyes of your government and the law. When Russian troops crossed the boarders of the Ukraine they have arguable unpicked a lot of the good patch work they did on an already shaky relationship with the international community.

Reporting by Andrew Gale