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4 Reasons We Were Right Not to Boycott the Olympics

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, are on their way to becoming the most corrupt of all time. And considering how corrupt the games usually are, that's like winning an Olympic gold medal in ... Olympic corruption. Then there are the infamous anti-gay laws Russia recently enacted, leading many people to call for boycotting the games altogether. And while it was a tempting idea, it would have been the wrong decision. Here's why.

#4. It Gives Us a Chance to Beat the Bad Guys

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If the U.S. had boycotted the 1936 Games (and we almost did), they would be remembered as the Olympics where the Nazis won everything. Germany benefited from the host country bump and managed to walk away with an impressive 101 medals, 38 of them gold. But the U.S. came second, getting 24 golds and 57 medals overall, thanks in large part to the decidedly not-Teutonic runner Jesse Owens.

Underwood Archives/Archive Photos/Getty Images
And his three clones.

If we hadn't shown up, every one of those medals would have been up for grabs. If all the countries that threatened to boycott had followed through (Sweden, Great Britain, France, Czechoslovakia [ask your parents], and the Netherlands), the Nazis would have had a shot at a whopping 137 additional medals.

Let's say that, theoretically, Germany had won every single one of those boycotted medals. Then the only Olympic Games that featured the Nazis, a self-proclaimed superior race of people, would be in the Guinness Book of World Records today as second on the list of countries to win the most Olympic medals in a single games. Hitler would have been able to use that utter domination to his advantage, and the Nazis would be remembered as, at the very least, being quite good at sports. But because we showed up, the narrative was about the Nazis losing to a black man. Jesse Owens showing up in Berlin and kicking some Aryan ass is a lot better than Jesse Owens sitting at home being oppressed in his own country and never making the history books.

The New Yorker
Here's a "Jewish stereotype" beating the blond Germans. Because we were the tolerant ones.

And just in case you think that theoretical medal onslaught would never have happened, the current second place country is the USSR, which won 195 medals in the 1980 Summer Games, also known as the Olympics that half of the world boycotted, allowing the Soviets to win absolutely everything. America had the chance to show up and turn those games into a real-life version of Rocky IV, only for every sport there is, and we blew it.

Speaking of the 1980 Games, American athletes are still suffering from our decision not to compete. Rule changes made at the 1980 Olympics that wouldn't have passed if America had been there are hurting our athletes to this day. Just because some countries didn't show up, it didn't stop the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from conducting business as usual at the games. And one of their decisions was that each country could only enter two swimmers in any given event (events involving pools, that is; there was never a point where you could enter swimmers in the fencing competition).

Gary Faber/Photodisc/Getty Images, Adam Pretty/Digital Vision/Getty Images
*sigh* Someday.

Suddenly the number of competitors a country could enter dropped by one, meaning no country would ever be able to sweep the medals in swimming again. This was most likely directed at the U.S. specifically. Michael Phelps wasn't a fluke; America has always been really, really good at swimming. Before 1980, we had swept the medals in 12 different events over the three previous Olympics. And if we had bothered to show up at the 1980 Olympics, we would still be doing it today.

#3. It's Not a Badass Statement; It's a Boring Tradition

Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The people asking for a boycott of the Olympics did so because they believed that, by not attending, we would really show those homophobic Russians what's what. It is completely unacceptable to open-minded individuals like us that anyone would stereotype gay people as pedophiles, especially those vodka-drinking, fur hat-wearing, borscht-eating commies. And if America doesn't show up to your two-week snow and spandex party, how will it ever be a success? People only boycott something as big as the Olympics when they have a really important reason to, like trying to end the Cold War.

Marili Forastieri/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Or demanding more condoms in the Olympic Village.

Except boycotting the Olympics is far more likely to get a response of "Ugh, again? OK, get in line," from the IOC. Boycotting the games is almost as great a tradition as the games themselves. Virtually every Olympics has had a boycott or a serious threat of a boycott from at least one country or group of athletes. It's actually less common for no one to have a problem with the games. And it didn't take long for athletes to get savvy to the idea that not showing up would make a statement to the world that they were mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
"You just try to hold your fortnight of sport without our rock and brooms."

While there is evidence of boycotts in the ancient Greek Olympics, things really started heating up during the modern era. The IOC managed to hold three whole Olympics before anyone boycotted. But then at the fourth official games, held in London in 1908, the Irish refused to show up. At the time, they were under British rule and wanted to draw attention to the fact that the "luck of the Irish" was the most cruelly ironic statement ever thought up. After that, countries or individual athletes boycotted the 1936 and 1956 games, followed by every single Olympics between 1960 and 1992. Boycotts were seriously threatened in 2008 due to China's human rights violations. India almost stayed away from London in 2012 over a chemical spill that happened in 1984. So boycotting the Sochi Games would have been less of a dramatic statement that would have changed history and more of a boring return to form.

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Kathy Benjamin

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