Are sporting boycotts of events like the Winter Olympics effective, or just empty gestures? Engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with guests including Michael Portillo.
On Friday hundreds of millions of people around the world will tune in to watch the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics in the Russia. International games like these are as much about being a showcase for the host nation as they are about sport. And the Russians are determined to impress. At a reported 51 billion dollars, these are the costliest Olympics - summer or winter - ever staged. But the spotlight has also fallen on Russia's laws on homosexuality. This week more than 50 current and former Olympians have called on the Russian authorities to repeal recently introduced anti-gay laws that forbid "gay propaganda" aimed at under-18s and that are said to have led to a wave of homophobic attacks. The athletes have also been joined by a coalition of 40 international human rights organisations which have criticised the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and multinational sponsors for not doing more to force the Russian president Vladimir Putin's administration to scale back the legislation. The Russian refusal to move on the issue has led to calls for a boycott of the games. Should we use sporting events to make a principled stance on issues such as this? Or are they just an empty gesture designed more to parade moral superiority than in any expectation of changing the law in Russia? If the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa was effective why not apply the principle more widely, or are we as viewers too addicted to the spectacle and athletes too addicted to their own glory? When it comes to boycotts and the Winter Olympics where do we draw the line between moral principle and cultural relativism?
Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Melanie Phillips, Michael Portillo, Giles Fraser and Matthew Taylor.
Witnesses are Dr Lincoln Allison, Peter Tatchell, Dr Andrew Fagan and Martin Cross.