It is just a few days into the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and my anxiety is at an all-time peak for two main reasons: the Russian anti-gay "propaganda" law and the threats of terrorists attacks. And, that's to say nothing of the questionable accommodations and unprepared infrastructure that we're now getting daily reports of.
I am writing this article as a diary entry because my thoughts stem from anxiety, not studies. Although, being married to Johnny Weir, who is on the ground in Sochi, I do know more than the average Joe about the Olympics. And, I am not immune to sensationalized reports in the media.
With all of that said, the first issue I want to discuss is the anti-gay "propaganda" law. From a political standpoint, this is Russia moving 10 steps backward in the global progress toward equality and human rights. Its justification for passing a law like this baffles me — especially just prior to the Olympics, when the whole world is watching. As much as I want to boycott the games, my issue is actually that my husband — an openly gay, very high-profile Olympian who now corresponds for NBC — is out there. I do feel somewhat confident in his safety. For the most part. I have heard Putin's statements about how homosexuals will not be harmed during the games, but this "selective enforcement" just gives me one more reason not to trust him. So, do I fear for my husband's safety while in Russia? Maybe. I know he is in good hands and working with a team that will protect him to the best of their abilities, but Putin is a thug and no amount of protection can be enough. Will he make a statement during these Games? Only time will tell. And, I can only pray that my husband is not the subject of such a statement.
The second and more pressing issue that I want to address is what the news has been calling the "Black Widow" situation. Basically, Chechnya and Russian have had a complicated relationship featuring unspeakable acts of terrorism for years now. But, in recent weeks, the violence has escalated. We've seen reports that female suicide bombers executed two terrorist attacks in Volgograd, the largest city in Russia in proximity to Chechnya. The Chechen Rebels have already posted videos assuring that there will be efforts to terrorize the games in Sochi. And, with training and assistance from Syria, they are well suited to execute an attack. Putin has assured us all that the Games are safe and every possible security measure is in place to prevent these attacks, including the presence of over 100,000 Russian Police officers and 40,000 military personnel. However, as we know, plans to avert a terror attack are not always successful. This seems like a prime opportunity for a militant group to make a point because, for the most part, the world at large has no clue about the conflict. And, the proximity between Chechnya and Sochi is unnerving. Mere Miles. It feels...terrifying.
Ultimately, I am scared. Instead of this being a time when we celebrate athleticism, partnership, and truly, the human spirit, I feel anxiety every single day. My friends are there. My husband is there. Innocent people are there. Gays are there. Terrorists are there... I am not a scholar, and my information comes from the news and on-the-ground sources. I hope I am wrong in all my worries, and I hope I will get to follow up this article with one that admits that was the case.
I guess we will have to wait and see. Let the Games Begin.