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Lindsay Graham and the Olympics boycott suggestion

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and Edward Snowden don't seem to have much in common. The International Olympic Committee seemingly tries to keep as many details as possible hidden from the public when the august group tries to get countries to spend billions of dollars, pounds, euros and other currencies for the group's two week sports and corporate orgies every two years while Snowden leaked secrets of American and England's surveillance programs to the Guardian newspaper of England.

Snowden has been seeking asylum in a number of countries including Russia and that caught the attention of the United States Senator from South Carolina. Lindsay Graham.

Senator Graham, who is a member of the Republican Party, suggested that the United States boycott the 2014 Sochi, Russia Olympics if Russia grants Snowden asylum.

The South Carolina Senator has apparently forgotten how the United States has an agreement with Russia to send whatever it takes from the military and intelligence side to secure the Sochi Games.

It seems that it would be rather difficult at this point to not only pull athletes out of the Olympic events but to unwind whatever intelligence sharing and joint planning has taken place between the two countries in the lead up to the Olympics.

But Graham is viewing the Olympics in much of the same manner as Adolph Hitler, various leaders of African countries, Jimmy Carter and the commentator on Russia state television who saw the Olympics as an opportunity to advance political agendas.

Hitler in 1936 at the Berlin Games, the African leaders who pulled out of the 1976 Montreal Games protesting the apartheid policy of South Africa and New Zealand remaining in the Games despite playing a rugby match against South Africa. President Jimmy Carter ordering a boycott of American athletes of the 1980 Moscow Summer Games as a protest against the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan and the Soviet Union communist leaders announced a pull out of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics in retaliation.

The United States Olympic Committee, a group pushing to land the 2024 Summer Olympics, immediately denounced Senator Graham's suggestion because the USOC is probably frightened of the thought that they could be put out of the Olympics business by Washington politicians. The USOC's statement condemning Senator Graham was more politically than sports oriented.

"Our boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games did not contribute to a successful resolution of the underlying conflict.

"It did, however, deprive hundreds of American athletes, all whom had completely dedicated themselves to representing our nation at the Olympic Games, of the opportunity of a lifetime.

"It also deprived millions of Americans of the opportunity to take pride in the achievements of our athletes, and in their dedication and commitment, at a time when we needed it most.

"While we acknowledge the seriousness of the issues at hand, we strongly oppose the notion that a boycott of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is in our country's best interests."

Sports spending is good as it lines the pockets of USOC officials and the public can collectively pound their chests and chant USA, USA, USA when Tiger Woods wins the Gold Medal in golf at the 2016 Rio Summer Games.

But those pesky Washington lawmakers are only good for the USOC's agenda by making sure there is no legislation to revoke the group's tax exempt status. The USOC would also like the federal government to play a role in helping the group land the 2024 or 2026 Olympics with a direct handout instead of the USOC relying on local governments to fund the Olympics. Virtually every other country that has won the right to hold the Games has national financial support for the endeavor and that has worked out so well for Greece and England in the aftermath of the 2004 Athens and 2012 London Games. Economically Greece is ruined and England has some major economic difficulties. Hosting the Olympics did neither country any financial favors.

Senator Graham picked the wrong reason to consider a boycott of the Olympics. The real reason any country should say no to the quasi-sovereign nation called the International Olympic Committee (a group which has permanent observer status at the United Nations) is financial. The IOC two week sports orgy is a drain on the economy.

The protests in Brazil which coincided with a major football competition were spurred by the incredible amount of spending by President Lula's government for sports facilities to support the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The Sochi Games cost now is estimated at $50 billion -- United States dollars -- up 400 percent from the original $10 billion estimate. Sochi is being rebuilt with the hopes that the area will become a world class destination and tourists will drop money there after massive global exposure for two weeks in February 2014. The history of Olympics spending suggests that Russians better be prepared to reach deep into their pockets to pay off the debt from the two weeks of sports.

On the surface the Olympics and Snowden have no commonality. Snowden didn't unveil any International Olympic Committee secrets although that would be an interesting read and has nothing to do with the 2104 Sochi Games. But he has spurred talk of an Olympics boycott if Russia grants him asylum.

Senator Graham's suggestion has been summarily dismissed and was greeted with laughs. Such is life when you mess with the five interlocking rings of the International Olympics Committee and the group's cash cow, the Olympics.

Evan Weiner can be reached at His e-book, "The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition" is available at www.bickley.comand and his e-books, America's Passion: How a Coal Miner's Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports are available at, iTunes, nook, versent books, kobo, Sony reader and Diesel.

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