International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach lit into "politicians" in an address this week for daring to put "politics" above more noble matters, by which, of course, he means the IOC itself. The "politics" at issue is President Obama’s decision not to attend the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, this week in protest of Russia’s oppressive anti-gay laws. The official U.S. delegation instead includes three openly gay former athletes, including Billie Jean King.
"Please understand what our responsibilities are and what your responsibilities are," said Bach in a statement. "Have the courage to address your disagreements in a peaceful, direct political dialogue and not on the backs of the athletes. People have a very good understanding of what it really means to single out the Olympic Games to make an ostentatious gesture which allegedly costs nothing but produces international headlines."
One can only smirk at the arrogance and gall of the IOC. The United States has sent a full contingent of athletes to compete in the games. There has been no official protest, there is no boycott. There is simply the President declining an invitation to attend the opening night folderol.
President Obama is not alone. The leaders of several nations, including Great Britain, Germany and France, are taking a pass on the IOC’s night of self-congratulatory pomp and circumstance as well. The nerve, pouts Mr. Bach, of nations choosing not to kiss the glittering gold asses of the IOC and its good buddy Vladimir Putin before a worldwide television audience.
"This is the United States of America's response to an issue that is not very much under control in the United States either?" whined IOC member Dick Pound in support of President Bach. "I thought it was an unfortunate response and frankly not fair to the members of the delegation.
"You have the chardonnay folks, sipping, saying, 'This is an issue for me. Sip. And I want you to go over there and be my soldiers. Sip. I'll be watching it on television with another glass of chardonnay.' It's kind of cheap."
"This is how the United States of America, the world's most important, influential nation handles this issue? In an Olympic context, at a time when you're thinking about bidding for the Olympic Games?"
A threat, perhaps? The United States is among the bidders for the 2024 Olympic Games.
Well, I say hooray for President Obama and screw you, Mr. Bach. Same for you, Mr. Pound. The Olympic Games have always been a political set piece, often with the direct involvement of the IOC itself (one word: Taiwan).
Gay rights are human rights. Many of the athletes at the Olympics are gay. So are many of the people who buy tickets to your games or watch them on television. And if a little passive-aggressive protest on behalf of the diverse world of athletes Mr. Bach claims to represent is going to put his unitard in a twist he's just going to have to shut up and get over it – him and his whole self-aggrandizing, bid-hustling, bullying organization.