Russia Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on Thursday said that the rights of all athletes competing at the '14 Sochi Games "will be respected," according to Raf Casert of the AP. However, Mutko "did insist that athletes would 'have to respect the laws of the country'" during the Games. Mutko said that the issue had been "blown out of proportion by a groundswell of protest and unease outside Russia." Mutko: "I want to ask you to calm down" (AP, 8/8). In Chicago, Philip Hersh writes the IOC "would not take the 2014 Winter Olympics away" from Sochi, and moving them "at this late date is impossible." A boycott "punishes no one but the athletes deprived of the chance to compete." The IOC should "back off its comfortably defensible position of not interfering with national sovereignty and shout for Russia to repeal the law rather than just refrain from enforcing it during the Winter Olympics." One can hope the IOC "will be smart and do or say nothing about reasoned protest, even if an athlete unfurls a rainbow flag at the Opening Ceremony or a medal ceremony." Hersh: "Silent acceptance of injustice is wrong. But silent acceptance from the IOC of the right to free expression and to be who one is would speak volumes" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/9).
FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT: In Chicago, Rick Morrissey writes, "The IOC hides behind the ideal that it is a sports ambassador, not a political activist." But this "isn't politics; this is life." It would be "nice to see some competitors display a social conscience during the Games, but it's not up to them to make a stink." It is "up to countries such as the United States" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/9). SI.com's Michael Rosenberg listed four reasons why a boycott "would be an awful mistake." Rosenberg writes boycotts "don't work" and they "punish the wrong people." This boycott "would really punish the wrong people." And finally, a boycott "would miss the whole purpose of the Olympics" (SI.com, 8/8). In Winnipeg, Gary Lawless wrote NHL players are "the most high-profile athletes at the Olympics," and they can "have the most effect." NHLers can "say no to Putin's law and force the IOC to apply pressure" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 8/8).