2014 Sochi Olympics: What Human Rights?

Human rights are defined as "rights... regarded as belonging fundamentally to all persons."

Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, have a reputation for discriminating and even persecuting gays. Their sentiments bled into the 2014 Olympics.

Getting off on the wrong spoon

Chobani yogurt sponsored the USA team at the 2014 Olympics. Yet, no Chobani yogurt was permitted to enter Russia for the hungry champions. For many years, Russia has had strict regulations on US dairy that enters the county, and Russia prevented the yogurt from entering because it lacked "proper customs" certification. Even after negotiations, the hungry USA athletes were denied their yogurt, and it was instead donated to food banks in NY and NJ. Many have argued that Russia was trying to wrong-spoon the USA team from the very beginning.

Exploitation of workers

Who's Working?

  • More than 70,000
  • Predominantly foreigners/migrants

What are they doing?

  • Building about 136 new Olympic sites
  • Illegally dumping construction waste
  • Working on sometimes illegally seized land

What are the workers' conditions?

  • Deadly, unsafe conditions
  • Passports are confiscated
  • Minimum 12 hour shifts
  • 1 day off per month
  • Low wages (often cheated out of money)

Citizens' Rights violations

  • Pollution from illegal waste dumping contaminates drinking water
  • New power lines caused landslides - destroyed homes
  • Damage to Sochi National Park
  • Forced evictions of some 2,000 families (often without fair compensation)
  • Media silenced/censored - no independent journalists allowed

LGBTQ Discrimination

Russia has long upheld laws and policies that allow discrimination (especially against gays) to continue.

  • June 29, 2013, Putin banned the promotion of information about “non-traditional” sexuality, violating the Olympic Charter
  • Many were worried about LGBTQ athletes and supporters
  • Ironic - many prominent gays Russians attended Olympic opening and a (probably) lesbian duo sang

The Reaction

  • PROTESTS and campaigns
  • Pressure on sponsors
  • Pressure on IOC (International Olympic Committee)
  • Absence of prominent world leaders from opening ceremony

Discussion: who is to blame?

How have Olympic sponsors, participating athletes, supporters/fans, and governments played a role in the human rights violations during the 2014 Sochi Olympics? Is there one party that is the most at fault?


The FIFA World Cup is going to be hosted by Russia in 2018. Imagine you are the head of an international committee working to improve the image of athletic competitions, especially by trying to cut down on the infringement of human rights during the games. You know that citizens of the host country being mistreated, worker exploitation, and discrimination (especially against gays) were all big issues from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. However, your committee can only focus on fixing one issue for the next World Cup. Which would you choose to focus on? Why? What would your game plan be?

Funny Closure