There are growing calls among gay rights activists in western nations that the games should be boycotted -- or at least the threat of a boycott should be used to nudge Vladimir Putin to have the law repealed. I think the threat of a boycott should be taken seriously, in part because of the danger to the safety of gay athletes sent to the games.
The would-be boycotters seem to be in the minority at present. For every voice arguing for a boycott, I have come across several counter-arguments suggesting that athletes and media should go and protest. (One example might be this interview with Adrian Hilton at RT.com, where he specifically takes issue with Stephen Fry's brief calls for a boycott).
The strongest "go and protest, dare them to arrest you" type Op-Ed I've seen is Rosie DiManno's piece published in the Toronto Star on August 13:
I defy any Russian government authority to drag an athlete off the medal podium or a lesbian personality out of the broadcast booth for the crime of making a pro-gay gesture or statement.
It won’t happen. The imbecilic legislation passed in June will be not merely ignored but exposed for all its ridiculous, draconian ambition. The athletes, primarily, will see to that. Throughout the history of the modern Games, they have always been the ones who’ve rescued the Olympics from politics, ideology and craven greed.
The most iconic image of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin — the Nazi Games — is Jesse Owens accepting his gold medal, on four occasions, even while German rivals gave their “Heil Hitler” salutes. A black man put the boots to Aryan racial superiority, with a sour-faced Hitler looking on.
While too much of a burden is routinely placed on athletes to exemplify something other than their sporting pre-eminence, in Sochi they will once again transcend the rhetoric and ranting on all sides with memorable performances. That’s as it should be. There will be no boycott, no moving of the Games to another city, as some have promoted. Logistically, it’s impossible. Morally, it’s on slippery turf.
The Olympics cannot be expected to define any principle beyond the human right to participate in sports, as codified in the International Olympic Committee charter. If condemnation of homophobia were to be the guiding light of interaction among nations, then no country would do any business or maintain diplomatic ties with states — in Africa, in the Muslim world — where homosexuality is a grievous crime, in many cases subject to the death penalty, and persecution heavy-handed.
It’s only the Olympic brand that has stirred so much passion. Few of these boycott boosters had otherwise bestirred themselves to slam Russia for its pre-existing monstrous human rights record. (link)