Graham: Boycotting Olympics would get Putin’s attention
July 17th, 2013
10:43 AM ET
1 year ago

Graham: Boycotting Olympics would get Putin’s attention

Updated at 3:04 p.m. ET on 7/17

(CNN) - It was a suggestion made quickly to a reporter in a Capitol hallway.

But now that Sen. Lindsey Graham is on the record as suggesting a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the South Carolina Republican says it could be a consideration if Vladimir Putin allows NSA leaker Edward Snowden to remain in his country and continues supporting Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

"I would consider anything to change Russia's behavior," Graham told CNN Wednesday. "What I want to do is get people focused on what Russia's doing to the world."

Part of that effort should also include a change in venue for September's Group of 20 meetings, slated for Saint Petersburg. Saying he wanted to "change Russian behavior, not boycott the Olympics," Graham told CNN's Jake Tapper later Wednesday that President Barack Obama should reconsider his upcoming trip to Russia.

"In September, the G-20 meets in St. Petersburg. Mr. President, President Obama, should you go to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G-20 Summit, if they give Snowden asylum and they don't change their policy toward Syria and continue to help Iran, should you go? My advice to you is I wouldn't go to St. Pete. I would ask for a change of venue," Graham said. That interview is set to air at 4 p.m. ET on "The Lead."

Asked about the summit Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said it was still Obama's intention to travel to Russia for the G-20 - and that any talk of an Olympics boycott was premature.

"We are continuing to work with the Russian government and other nations on this matter and we hope to see Mr. Snowden return to the U.S. I'm not going to engage in speculation about that and the Olympics are a long way off," Carney said.

Graham told CNN earlier in the day he was introducing a resolution in the Senate this week calling on Russia to refuse Snowden asylum. The former government contractor remains holed up in the Moscow Airport transit lounge, and Russian authorities have said in the past they would consider an asylum request but that it will take months.

Graham's resolution won't include any mention of the Olympics, but he said Wednesday that as long as people are talking about ways to grab Putin's attention, a boycott could remain on the table.

"It's something I was asked about, but now that we're talking about it, we're going to have to find a more effective way of dealing with the Russians," he said. "They're wreaking havoc. Their allies in Iran are keeping Assad in power. They're giving Snowden asylum. That's a real slap in the face to our country."

Long a vocal critic of Putin's, Graham wondered about the message it would send to other countries if United States athletes head to the Russian mountains next winter.

"Let's say a year from now there are 200,000 people dead in Syria...Snowden's given asylum in Syria. What are we supposed to do, say 'Let's go to Russia for a party?'" he wondered.

The last time the United States boycotted an Olympics, Moscow and Washington were also at odds. Americans, along with athletes from more than 60 other nations, skipped the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow as retaliation for the then-Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan a year earlier.

A boycott was proposed in 1936, when Hitler-run Germany hosted the games. When black and Jewish athletes were barred, some Americans suggested the U.S. refuse to participate, though after the ban was lifted Americans did attend.

Graham, raising the history of those Games, didn't go as far as comparing modern Russia to the Third Reich.

"I'm not saying Russia is Nazi Germany, I'm saying it's a rogue regime that's aligned itself with some of the worst actors in the world stage," he said.

Graham's suggestion wasn't met with much enthusiasm from fellow Republican, House Speaker John Boehner, who called an Olympics boycott "dead wrong" on Wednesday.

"Why would we want to punish U.S. athletes who have been training for 3 years over a traitor who can't find place to call home?" he wondered.

The U.S. Olympic Committee, mindful of their members' long training schedules, also came out against Graham's suggestion of a boycott.

"If there are any lessons to be learned from the American boycott of 1980, it is that Olympic boycotts do not work," USCO spokesperson Patrick Sandusky said. "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."

But Graham insisted that even talking about the move could raise awareness of Russia's intransigence on world affairs.

"Women I've met who have been gang-raped by Assad's forces in refugee camps, that doesn't make a whole lot of news. Maybe talking about sports will," he said.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh, Lisa Desjardins and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.


Filed under: Lindsey Graham • Olympics • Russia
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. just sayin

    Rudy NYC
    If GZ could not prove his story to meet the SYG standard, then why was it so readily accepted as *fact* in his murder trial? People cannot reconcile that hypocrisy.
    -–

    because you and the rest of your ilk are blind to the facts, especially the testimony of a prosecution witness (the only eye witness besides zimmerman & martin) which stated that zimmerman was on the ground and martin was on top of him, straddling him, and pummeling him 'ground & pound style' while zimmerman was screaming for help.

    there is no hypocrisy, only people blindly believing lies that people like you throw out there. as usual, you and your ilk prey on the low intelligence voter using racism as your smoke and mirror show to keep the truth hidden.

    July 17, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  2. Get Real

    All boycotting the olympics does is hurt the athletes who worked hard to compete.

    July 17, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  3. David

    I'm Putin my foot down on this – stop with the crazy political pipe-dreams – you can't get a bloody budget passed, you can't decide if you want healt care reform or not, you can't decide who should represent what agences that HELP the American people – so we boycott the Russian olympics? Someone slap that boy and give him a tablespoon of reality on what really matters.

    July 17, 2013 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. Flagship, NC

    It is a childish idea, a reflection of a childish mind.
    Sports is at least ONE place where there ought not be politics.
    This is an adult world.

    July 17, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  5. Donna

    Brian
    Yeah, because escalation of tensions is really the way to make friends. Really worked well in the 2nd half of the 20th Century. Gave us the Cold War. Brilliant suggestion.
    ---

    Obama has bent over backwards to be Putin and Russia's friend. Where has it gotten him and us? Nowhere. And yet you think Russia wants to be our friend? Haven't you been paying attention? Russians value and respect strength. Obviously Obama does not exude strength because Russis and Putin are using him for a door mat.

    July 17, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  6. rick7809

    Lindsey, I have a great idea for punishing the Russians. Let's send both houses of Congress over there for a year. It will really tick off the Russians and it will be status quo in the US. Since they don't do anything anyway.

    July 17, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  7. Vince

    How about some work on a jobs bill for once?

    July 17, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    just sayin wrote:

    because you and the rest of your ilk are blind to the facts, especially the testimony of a prosecution witness (the only eye witness besides zimmerman & martin) which stated that zimmerman was on the ground and martin was on top of him, straddling him, and pummeling him 'ground & pound style' while zimmerman was screaming for help.
    ---------------
    That does not prove that Martin started the confrontation, not hardly. All that it means is that Martin was on top at that point in the fight. They were rolling around on the ground, the positions may have switched from on moment to the next, to the next.

    Like I said, if GZ could have proven that TM started the fight, then he would have asked for a SYG hearing and walked away. He didn't go for a SYG hearing because he couldn't. He could not prove that TM started the fight, and so he was charged.

    July 17, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. Rudy NYC

    just sayin wrote:

    there is no hypocrisy, only people blindly believing lies that people like you throw out there. as usual, you and your ilk prey on the low intelligence voter using racism as your smoke and mirror show to keep the truth hidden.
    -----------------–
    I haven't mentioned race. The only person throwing racism charges around is you. I've stuck to the facts, and the problem is that you do not like the facts, nor the truth. You need to stop projecting what you're doing onto me. It's pretty obvious, you know.

    July 17, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  10. California

    Rudy NYC

    California wrote:

    We have enough problems in our own country like racists rioting in the streets.
    ---––
    Oh, do you mean those Tea Party rallies? Bait and switch, again. Okay, I'll bite.

    The George Zimmerman was not a SYG case. GZ could not make that claim because he could not demonstrate that TM attacked him. That's why he was charged with murder. And, that's why so many in the minority community are troubled by the jury's decision.

    If GZ could not prove his story to meet the SYG standard, then why was it so readily accepted as *fact* in his murder trial? People cannot reconcile that hypocrisy.
    --–
    It's obvious you can't handle the truth. Most liberals can't.

    July 17, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  11. 1alien1

    as always not a day goes by without some ignorant politician saying something like that. it seems the republican party is filled with palins

    July 17, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  12. Don

    Shades of Jimmy Carter....maybe Graham should revisit some history-the boycott of that Olympics did nothing to help anyone. He should keep his nose to the grindstone to fixf the real problems in the country and leave the athletes –the one group who are great ambassadors for our country–alone...What a moronic idea.. from a lifelong (69 years) conservative...

    July 17, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  13. eyesalve

    "that’s aligned itself with some of the worst actors in the world stage" - how about the actors you're aligned with Mr. Graham - I'll take Assad over Satanic Kingdom of Saudi Arabia any day of the week!!

    July 17, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  14. Mandor

    Right because really what turned Gorbachev around was the cold war patheticness of the olympic boycotts, and the "russian judge" and the "american judge" deliberately giving low scores to athelets of the opposing nation. I'm sure that's really what brought the USSR around to a more free market system. #sarcasm off

    July 17, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. Fair is Fair

    Rudy NYC

    "That does not prove that Martin started the confrontation, not hardly. All that it means is that Martin was on top at that point in the fight. They were rolling around on the ground, the positions may have switched from on moment to the next, to the next."
    -------
    And here we were, thinking there were no eyewitnesses to the case. Why weren't you called to the witness stand? Oh? You WEREN'T there and all this is conjecture on your part? Thought so.

    July 17, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  16. cbp

    Sen. Graham has been out of the limelight for a week or so and has found a way to get to center stage. We did boycott a summer olympics for a more important reason and that really did not bring about the desired outcome. The olympics will go on whether we are there or not. The only people we hurt are the athletes. The media outlets will find a way to make money off them.

    Can we just leave SEn. Graham out of the picture until he really has something important to say. .

    July 17, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  17. just sayin

    Rudy NYC
    I've stuck to the facts, and the problem is that you do not like the facts, nor the truth.
    --

    you have no facts, only fabrication and lies. anybody that watched the trial can easily show you know nothing about the facts of the case.

    so just how do you think martin and zimmerman ended up in the same place at the same time after zimmerman had lost sight of him? maybe because of instead of running home where he would have been safe, martin doubled back, or lay in wait to ambush zimmerman in the pitch dark? martin was clearly upset (his cac remark) and knew he was being watched. he probably thought he could get away with assaulting zimmerman. i guess he wasn't expecting an armed victim? this is my theory on how this went down.

    July 17, 2013 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
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