Photo via Wikimedia Commons
Some consider him the greatest chess player of all time, but when Garry Kasparov retired from the sport in 2005, he dedicated himself to politics and writing. He formed the United Civil Front movement and joined a coalition opposing the administration and policies of Vladimir Putin, attempting to run against him in the 2008 presidential race.
Kasparov is currently on the board of the Human Rights Foundation and contacted Out magazine about Putin's "homosexual propaganda" laws, explaining that "As a lifelong professional sportsman (chess is my preferred field), I believe it is an error to endorse or call for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Games. Instead, I am hoping that we can powerfully bring into being an effort to 'Boycott Putin, Not Sochi.'"
As Kasparov's letter to Out explained: "I have protested Russia’s bid from the very beginning. Hosting the Games will allow Vladimir Putin’s cronies to embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars and it will lend prestige to Putin’s authoritarian regime, which masquerades as a democracy while denying its citizens fundamental human rights."
He went on to explain that:
"The 'homosexual propaganda' law is only the most recent encroachment on the freedom of speech and association of Russia’s citizens. Yet, the European Union and other governments have largely ignored the fact that Russia has signed various international conventions that categorically forbid this sort of discrimination. In the face of silent complicity by governments, it is up to artists, activists, and individuals like us to speak up against Putin’s human rights abuses."
Out Olympic hopeful Blake Skjellerup is currently raising funds to make sure he can potentially compete in the games despite fears that out athletes may suffer some sort of criminalization. Several other athletes, including out Olympians Greg Louganis and Johnny Weir (also a 2014 Winter Olympics hopeful), have also expressed their opinion that a boycott of the Sochi Games would be the wrong course of action, Weir stating that he would risk jail time in order to compete at the Games. As Kasparov explains:
"A boycott of the games themselves will unfairly punish athletes without any regard for their personal views. The power of sport to inspire and bring different peoples together is too positive to be sacrificed; I firmly believe the athletes should be able to go to Sochi and compete for Olympic victory. It is up to us to embrace this opportunity to transform Putin’s self-congratulatory pet project into a spotlight that exposes his authoritarian rule for the entire world to see."
For more information on the Human Rights Foundation, visit the website.