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. Alpine skiing men’s World Cup preview

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:31 AM EDT

    Bode Miller, Ted Ligety Getty Images

    Austrian eyes history, while Ted Ligety, Bode Miller look to fill resume holes.

  2. Elana Meyers Taylor to drive 4-man bobsled with husband as push athlete

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:42 AM EDT

    Elana Meyers Taylor AP

    New rule allows women to compete in four-man bobsled this year.

  3. Shani Davis ‘not completely healed’ from Sochi, still eyes record

    Oct 23, 2014, 8:11 PM EDT

    Shani Davis Getty Images

    Sochi disappointment gave Davis a deeper appreciation for past success going into post-Olympic season.

  4. Allyson Felix’s patience pays off in 2014, ready to explore again in 2015

    Oct 23, 2014, 3:14 PM EDT

    Allyson Felix Getty Images

    Felix came back from torn hamstring to post the fastest 200m time since the London Olympics.

  5. Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski preview Skate America

    Oct 23, 2014, 12:58 PM EDT

    Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski Getty Images

    Several U.S. Olympians dot the field in Grand Prix series opener.

  6. Oscar Pistorius’ agent seeks prison meeting to discuss running future

    Oct 23, 2014, 11:59 AM EDT

    Oscar Pistorius Getty Images

    Pistorius is banned from competing during his sentence, even if not in jail, by Paralympic and South African Olympic Committees.

  7. Alpine skiing women’s World Cup preview

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:52 AM EDT

    Mikaela Shiffrin Getty Images

    Expect to see more of Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn than last year, but neither appears a threat to the world’s best overall skier.

  8. Serbia protests Kosovo receiving IOC provisional recognition

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:49 AM EDT

    Serbia flag Getty Images

    Kosovo, which gained independence from Serbia in 2008, could field an Olympic delegation for the first time in 2016.

  9. More Rulon Gardner items to be auctioned

    Oct 23, 2014, 9:31 AM EDT

    Rulon Gardner AP

    Gardner’s Olympic medals were sold last year.

  10. Joss Christensen skis remains of Sarajevo 1984 Winter Olympics sites (video)

    Oct 22, 2014, 5:06 PM EDT

    Joss Christensen

    Olympic ski slopestyle champion also needed rabies shots after dog bite.

  11. IOC provisionally recognizes Kosovo

    Oct 22, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE

    Kosovo has never competed at the Olympics as an independent nation.

  12. 2015 Tour de France route unveiled; favorites weigh in

    Oct 22, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT

    Tour de France

    Vincenzo Nibali, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador have mixed opinions.

  13. Russian Olympic bobsled champ Aleksander Zubkov retires

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:44 AM EDT

    Alexander Zubkov Getty Images

    Zubkov, 40, had already said he wouldn’t compete this season.

  14. Jeneba Tarmoh mulls representing Sierra Leone at Rio 2016 Olympics

    Oct 22, 2014, 9:16 AM EDT

    Jeneba Tarmoh Getty Images

    Tarmoh was part of the infamous tie at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.

  15. IOC to discuss recognizing Kosovo this week

    Oct 22, 2014, 8:54 AM EDT

    Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE Witters Sport via US PRESSWIRE

    Kosovo has yet to field a delegation at the Olympics.

  16. Watch trailers for ‘Touch the Wall’ about Missy Franklin

    Oct 21, 2014, 12:28 PM EDT

    Missy Franklin

    Film documenting Missy Franklin’s lead-up to London debuts next month.

  17. Miracle on Ice fantasy camp set for Lake Placid

    Oct 21, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

    Miracle on Ice camp

    Eight members of 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team will conduct spring event.

  18. Daron Rahlves, four-time Olympian, in lightsuit skiing video

    Oct 21, 2014, 10:44 AM EDT

    Daron Rahlves

    Red Bull video shows skiers in LED lights at night in Alaska.