This Post…Isn’t So Much Fun

Sochi is upon us.

By now, it is no secret from the world that aggressive persecution of Gay and Lesbian citizens of that country is virtually sanctioned and not-so-subtly encouraged by the Putin government. Gangs of thugs, often joined by or even made up of Russian Police, lure, ambush, torment and torture random men and women suspected of being gay.

The LGBT population of the US and the West has been aware of what is taking place in Russia and has been calling for official action about this for several months. Only recently has the US mainstream media been reporting and shining light on these egregious violations of basic, human rights and with that finally brought what is happening to the awareness of the mainstream.

In recent weeks, numerous world leaders have announced plans to not be attending the Games in Sochi; sending lesser officials, if anyone at all, to represent their respective countries.

Our own President is not attending, and has appointed a number of Gay and Lesbian athletes as part of the US Official Delegation. These “snubs,” while offering a token bit of tarnish to Putin’s Shining Victory of hosting the Olympics, will ultimately be lost in the spectacle and excitement of the Games, themselves.

When push comes to shove, I don’t know that President Putin will care over-much that a few Presidents and Prime Ministers didn’t show up at his party. After all, he will have hosted the Olympics: how many people get to do that?

It remains a win for him.

Early on, there was a brief call for moving the Games to Vancouver; the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Mayor of Vancouver announced, to very little coverage, that Vancouver was ready to host; to no avail. It didn’t catch momentum, imho, because our press was looking the other way in an oblique attempt to suppress the growing violence against a segment of the Russian populace and (again, imho) protect their huge, already-sunk investment in the Sochi Olympics.

With an unaware public and resulting vocal support, it seems the financial interests of those already invested in the Sochi Olympics remaining in Sochi prevailed and the Games remain in Russia.

This, while our global brothers and sisters continue to be threatened and hurt. Their allies, our allies in support of human rights for all, are in virtually as much danger; as to even voice support for LGBT rights in Russia is cause for persecution.

As the Olympics approach, the silent sponsors of those Games – global corporations the likes of McDonalds and Coca-Cola – are coming under fire in social and niche media (if one could call LGBT and liberal publications “niche”). McDonald’s #CheersToSochi Twitter campaign has been globally co-opted in protest of that company’s funding of the Sochi Olympics and concomitant silence on the issue.

Other institutions have declared moratoria on the selling of these Olympic Sponsors’ products during the Sochi Games in recognition of the exhibited cowardice and spinelessness exhibited by these profit-makers.

As business people, as creatives, as professionals of integrity…indeed, simply as human beings inhabiting the same planet; what is our responsibility to these fellow humans?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about speaking truth to power in the context of shooting-straight with one’s client.

This is about speaking truth to power in a far larger context and with far greater risk.

To be fair and objective (though not to imply that “fair and objective” is how the world works), Russia has never been a shining example of treating all people with dignity and showing a commitment to Basic Human Rights for all. I don’t know what were the politics behind granting the Olympics to Sochi; though, I can only imagine how the iconically-corrupt IOC was seduced into this concession. The dogged refusal of that body to address the issue, early on, speaks volumes.

If the Olympics can be held in China, the drop isn’t that much lower for them to be held in Russia…the Russia of a few years ago.

With that, the introduction of this legislation and rapidly growing, government sanctioned and encouraged hate crimes that have come along with it have effectively blindsided those involved in the mounting of these games. At least, a case can be made for that point of view.

Were the Olympics to be held in North Korea, would the contractors and subcontractors refuse to bid? Would they…would we…stand against bringing revenue into a regime with such an egregious human rights record?

I would like to think that my colleagues in themed entertainment and spectacle would refuse to support such a regime.

What, then, when the context changes, midstream?

Do we put down our tools and walk? Do we take a stand? Is there a stand to take, short of reneging on a contract? Is reneging on said contract tantamount to Civil Disobedience?

…and what do we owe our brethren?

I want the Olympic competition to continue; I believe we should preserve and protect the opportunity for which our elite, young athletes have worked their entire lives. With that, I also believe that, in essence, a loud, proud and effective act of support for the persecuted is vital to Integrity.

What if the ceremony producers, the suppliers of the seats for the stadium, all those involved in ceremony and support for things not directly linked to the competition just put down their tools? Is there another way to actually support the Competition without supporting Russia and President Putin?

Is money more important that Human Rights?

I have friends and colleagues currently at work on the Olympics in Sochi, and I have strongly mixed feelings about that. Whether to participate or continue to participate in the mounting of these Olympics is a personal decision on most levels; is it not also a professional obligation, worthy of serious consideration?

Some months ago, I was invited to present on a panel in Russia on my methodologies for the creation of spectacle and compelling experience. In accepting the invitation, I asked the organizers what was their position on the persecution of Russian LGBT citizens by the Putin regime. The invitation was immediately withdrawn.

I do know that I’d walk away from a project in Russia, the moment I learned of what is taking place there.

While I know that’s easy for me to say, given that I am not on a job, there; I also know from my own history that it wouldn’t be the first time I’d refused a project in lieu of keeping my integrity. I cannot deliver if I don’t believe in what I am doing; a lesson learned long ago.

That’s one reason I’m not rich.

At such times, is it not appropriate for the “non-political” individual, corporation or organization to step up and take a strong stand?

What of IAAPA…the TEA…entertainment, hospitality, sports and spectacle associations, worldwide: should not a stand be taken? Is silence under cover of “not political” tantamount to acquiescence?

As originally stated by ACT-UP, Silence = Death.

If not one’s own death, that of others.

Are we not all, ultimately, responsible for the well-being of others on this planet? How can we comfortably build and execute this monument to freedom in a country that has chosen to target a part of it’s population for persecution and destruction? How close to genocide is what Russia is doing?

This is a difficult question to construct or ask; far more difficult to answer. I think, though, that it is a question due to be asked and answers explored.


“IMHO” the eBook for iOS and OS remains available for free download from the iTunes Library. It contains the first 20 posts of this blog, incorporating discussions of KO’s Five Tenets for Creation of Experience along with applications and examples of those methodologies. Try it with a full, money-back guarantee.

8 thoughts on “This Post…Isn’t So Much Fun

  1. In my humble opinion: anyone working on, attending, or competing in these Olympics is on the side of Apartheid, at the very least, and probably worse.

    I might not be quite so unequivocal about it had the Olympic Games not become a vast commercial enterprise designed to make a lot of money for corporations off the backs of amateur athletes. The original spirit of the games — whether the ancient Greek ones or the present iteration, first held in 1859 — has been forgotten.

    What happened to the simple idea of the human spirit celebrated through feats of physical skill and strength? These days the Olympics are a spectacle of nationalism, technology, and opulence. Immense stadia built at a cost of billions, obsolete after a week. Promotional contracts raining like manna on the winners.

    So for me, having anything at all to do with Putin’s Olympics — even if a person desperately needs a gig — is beyond the pale. The Games are already a mess. Add in a host country with a vicious despot at the helm determined to exterminate an entire class of people…

    …They had games like that in 1936. Let’s not make that mistake again.

    • Thank you for posting this, Ben. I have received no small number of similar missives, offline; and I very much appreciate your taking the time to write and to post this. I am compelled to share with you that we are in synch on this; personally, this is what I see and this is where I stand. Alongside the unique context that has evolved in Russia is the overblown crock of illicit and misappropriated Gold that the Olympics has become. The two, together, call for a more powerful and focused conversation amongst thinking, caring citizens of the planet. Can the Olympics be rebooted, I wonder; can the world be changed?

  2. Kile — 

    Thanks for your well-thought out remarks.

    The themed entertainment community, for reasons of commerce and professional advancement, can find itself wears blinkers when it comes to matters of civic consequence.

    There’s a gentleman’s agreement: “If we agree not to talk about it, then we are free to go about our business and leave our consciences at home.” Sometimes there’s more to the bottom line than the bottom line.

  3. Dude, IAAPA and TEA are mere lobbying mouthpieces manipulated by Disney, Universal, et al to prevent meaningful progress with respect to the best. If you want real action, give Senator Markey a ring and put some horsepower behind the words.

  4. Excellent post, Kile. “Speaking truth to power,” indeed. I am hoping that some moments of quiet, safe protest and declarations in support of LGBT rights during the games will take some of “Putin’s win” away.

    You correctly contrasted the assumed universal aversion to having the Games in North Korea–and asked what would is the difference, in context, to that aversion, when keeping the Games in Russia. I would answer that, sadly, it seems we gay people are the last bastion of somehow justified discrimination.

    I am, however, seeing a ground-swell of support for LGBT rights, here in the US, as folks get to compare us…to these Russian laws. Maybe that is (hopefully) one of the silver linings of the Games going forward.

    After conversations I had at the US Nationals recently, I would offer that from here on out…I think the countries being awarded the Games in the future will have more scrutiny on LGBT equality issues before the decisions are made. (I believe that to be true–perhaps it’s just my Pollyanna-nature, though…haha!)

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