Wrong to Call for Boycott That Sees Athletes Punished

Article excerpt


ALLAN WELLS calls Moscow's Olympic Stadium 'a special place'.

'I felt at home in it straight away,' says the man (pictured) who won Olympic 100metres gold in the Grand Arena of Moscow's Olympic Complex in 1980. 'There was no other stadium like it. It's such a big, expansive arena -- a bit like the Olympic Stadium in London. It's a special place for me.' Some have claimed we should not be back in this impressive stadium for the World Athletics Championships; others that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi should be boycotted. Their gripe is the law Russia passed in June, which imposes heavy fines for those providing information about homosexuality to under 18s.

The country is 'making scapegoats of gay people', said Stephen Fry in his open letter to David Cameron, the International Olympic Committee and Lord Coe, another of Britain's 1980 gold medallists, drawing comparisons with the 1936 Games in Nazi Germany.

To boycott either competition, however, would be to make scapegoats of the people central to their success: the athletes who wait two or four years to perform in global championships. It is important to address the troubling issue of Russia's anti-gay laws but unfair to ask sportsmen and women to forfeit their dreams for every worthy cause that comes along. They are not pawns in some political game. And where do you draw the line? You would fast run out of suitable venues.

'I don't think (boycotts) achieve what they set out to do,' said Lord Coe. 'They only damage one group of people, and that is the athletes. It is an issue that needs to be addressed, but not with a boycott.' Wells, now 61, was sent a picture of a dead child to encourage him to join the United States-led protest over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. It proved to be the catalyst for his decision to run and reach a 100m final that produced the 'most significant event' of his life as he won gold in 10. …