Skip to content

Senator Lindsey Graham says U.S. should consider boycotting Sochi Olympics over Edward Snowden

Jul 17, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

Lindsey Graham Getty Images

U.S. senator Lindsey Graham told NBC News that the U.S. should consider boycotting the 2014 Sochi Olympics if leaker Edward Snowden is granted asylum in Russia, making a reference to Adolf Hitler and the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

“I love the Olympics, but I hate what the Russian government is doing throughout the world,” Graham, R-S.C., told NBC News on Tuesday. “If they give asylum to a person who I believe has committed treason against the United States, that’s taking it to a new level.”

Graham says that playing host of the Games gives Russia a propaganda platform to promote itself at a time when, he contends, the Russians are responsible for enabling Iran’s nuclear program, threatening Israel and supporting Bashar Assad in Syria.

“If you could go back in time, would you have allowed Adolf Hitler to host the Olympics in Germany?” Graham said. “To have the propaganda coup of inviting the world into Nazi Germany and putting on a false front?

“I’m not saying that Russia is Nazi Germany, but I am saying that the Russian government is empowering some of the most evil, hateful people in the world.”

The U.S. has participated in every Olympics in the modern era except for the one Games it boycotted — the 1980 Moscow Summer Games after Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.

The U.S. Olympic Committee, not the U.S. government, makes the final decision regarding the possible boycott of a Games.

UPDATE: USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky offered this statement Wednesday:

“If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work. 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.”

House speaker John Boehner also rejected Graham’s opinion, saying he was “dead wrong.”.

“Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who’ve been training for three years to compete in the Olympics over a traitor who can’t find a place to call home?” Boehner told reporters.

Russian politicians responded to Graham’s statements Wednesday.

The head of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee, Aleksey Pushkov, said that Graham’s statements were “pulling us back to the distant past, the time of mutual boycotts when our two states were looking at each other through nuclear sights,” according to RT.com. “I am sure that these times are over and difficult periods in relations must not bring the nations to the worst times of the Cold War.”

1984 Olympic champion skier taken off life support

Latest Posts
  1. Japan’s prime minister wants to hold Robot Olympics in 2020

    Jul 23, 2014, 4:12 PM EDT

    Mideast Iran RoboCup AP

    Hopes to create a “robotic revolution.”

  2. Brazil eyes 27 to 30 medals at Rio Olympics

    Jul 23, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    2012 Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony Getty Images

    Brazil has never won more than 17 medals at an Olympics.

  3. USOC to meet with leaders from 2024 Olympic bid candidate cities

    Jul 23, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    USOC logo Getty Images

    Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington D.C. in the running.

  4. London Olympic cauldron plagiarism dispute settled

    Jul 23, 2014, 12:02 PM EDT

    London Olympic Cauldron Getty Images

    LOCOG acknowledges U.S. firm submitted designs that ended up being part of the cauldron.

  5. Stella McCartney to design Rio 2016 uniforms for Great Britain

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:46 AM EDT

    Stella McCartney Getty Images

    Fashion star also created Team GB kits for London 2012.

  6. Vin Baker’s gold medal from 2000 Olympics set for auction

    Jul 23, 2014, 9:10 AM EDT

    Vin Baker Getty Images

    Opening bid much higher than final price for another Olympic basketball medal.

  7. Usain Bolt not happy with Tyson Gay’s reduced ban

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:21 PM EDT

    Olympics Day 15 - Athletics Getty Images

    “It is sending a bad message,” Bolt said.

  8. Gabby Douglas helps girl’s dream come true with Make-A-Wish

    Jul 22, 2014, 4:58 PM EDT

    Gabby Douglas

    Amarissa, 13, is a former gymnast who suffers from lupus.

  9. David Boudia ponders a third diving event leading to 2016

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:24 PM EDT

    David Boudia Getty Images

    Olympic champion finished his season in Shanghai last week.

  10. Guide to the Commonwealth Games

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

    Usain Bolt Getty Images

    Top sprinters from Jamaica, swimmers from Australia and more gather in Glasgow.

  11. First Olympic golf qualification rankings released

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT

    Rory McIlroy AP

    U.S. stars would not make the Olympic field if it was determined today.

  12. Big 12 commissioner says men’s Olympic sports could be cut

    Jul 21, 2014, 3:13 PM EDT

    Bob Bowlsby AP

    NCAA’s current lawsuits may cut funding.

  13. Dutch cyclist cheats death twice, avoids both Malaysian Airlines flights

    Jul 21, 2014, 2:11 PM EDT

    Maarten de Jonge `

    “It’s inconceivable,” Maarten de Jonge said.

  14. 90-plus-year-old men set 3 world relay records at USATF Masters

    Jul 21, 2014, 10:43 AM EDT

    Champion Goldy

    Extraordinary men include war veterans, longtime NASA worker, Methodist minister.

  15. Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics chief quits

    Jul 21, 2014, 8:33 AM EDT

    Kim Jin-sun AP

    Kim Jin-sun had been the committee’s president since October 2011.

  16. Mariel Zagunis wins silver at World Fencing Championships (video)

    Jul 18, 2014, 3:09 PM EDT

    Mariel Zagunis Getty Images

    U.S. Olympic flag bearer returned to the podium after missing medals at 2012 Olympics, 2013 Worlds.