FIFA president Sepp Blatter warns against boycott
Swiss says boycott would be a form of "surrender"
Blatter says Brazil 2014 World Cup "misused as platform for political disputes"
Protestors have voiced opposition to Russia's anti-gay laws
U.S. President Barack Obama and his vice-president, Joe Biden, won’t be there.
As a matter of fact, neither will the heads of state from France or Canada.
But the good news for Russian President Vladimir Putin is that FIFA president Sepp Blatter will be at the Sochi Winter Olympics.
So far only Lithuania’s president, Dalia Grybauskaitė – an outspoken critic of the Russian government – has openly said that she is boycotting the games for political reasons.
The Winter Games have been bedeviled by allegations of corruption leading to cost overruns and Russia’s attitude towards homosexuality
However Blatter, who heads world football’s governing body and is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), believes threats to skip the Games over Russia’s anti-gay laws would be counterproductive.
Gay rights activists have been protesting against the law which was passed in June 2013 which prohibits talking about homosexuality in front of children.
The law has been widely criticized by Western leaders who have called it archaic and discriminatory, leading to politicians from around the world deciding to snub the Games.
But Blatter, whose own organization is facing criticism for holding the 2014 World Cup in Brazil amid protests and domestic unrest says the opportunity for dialogue outweighs a boycott.
“These two events (Sochi and the World Cup in Brazil) have one thing in common: they have both been misused as a platform for political disputes,” he said in his column in FIFA’s weekly magazine.
“In the case of the Winter Olympics, this dispute is coming to a head with threats to boycott the Games.
“Such a boycott would change nothing. On the contrary, it may be interpreted as a refusal to establish a dialogue on the issue, as was the case with boycotts of the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980 or in Los Angeles in 1984.
“I believe that such a major event presents a perfect opportunity to strike up conversations and cultivate contacts.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has already stated that no athlete would face discrimination at February’s Games while protestors will have designated zones in Sochi to make their protests.
Blatter, the man who infamously said that racism on the pitch could be settled by a handshake, believes that by traveling to Sochi, it will allow issues such as homosexuality to be discussed in front of a larger audience.
“It is also likely that unpleasant issues will be addressed, because FIFA’s fight against discrimination does not end with the anti-racism campaign,” he added.
“We must fight every form of social exclusion. Anyone who decides to boycott the Winter Olympics in Sochi will be surrendering on this important issue, just as anyone running away from a problem will never be able to resolve it.
“This reason alone is why it is important for me to travel to Russia.”