Sochi Olympics Sponsors Refuse Relocation

Olympic sponsors Coca-Cola and McDonald's have said they will not back relocation of the 2014 Winter Olympics, after Russia raised ire over its anti-LGBT laws.

Sochi 2014 Olympics logo

The 2014 Winter Olympics will likely remain in Sochi, Russia, thanks to corporate backing. (Sources: IOC/Coca-Cola/McDonalds)

Recently, people have been up in arms about the passing of a Russian law that criminalizes "propaganda" that supports "non-traditional families," i.e. homosexual relationships.  Russia's hosting of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the summer resort town of Sochi received particular ire, with many pushing that the International Olympic Committee should relocate the Winter Olympics elsewhere in response to this attack on the LGBT community at large.  Now, that effort seems to have likely failed.  The Olympics' two largest corporate sponsors, Coca-Cola and McDonald's, have made clear that they are not interested in a relocation of the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, essentially ensuring it stays.

Various members of the press inquired both companies on their thoughts of the Russian anti-LGBT laws.  Both responded quickly.  A McDonald's spokesperson told PinkNews that, while "there's no room for discrimination under the Golden Arches," it supports the IOC's current stance on the situation, which is to stay in Sochi.  Coca-Cola spokesperson Kate Harman referred to the company's history with the Olympics, emphasizing that "we have seen firsthand the positive impact and long-lasting legacy [the Olympics] leave on every community that has been a host."

While ostensibly, the IOC is an independent agency backed by the nations of the world, McDonald's and Coca-Cola hold incredible power over the IOC as primary corporate sponsors, especially due to the need of private funding to run the Olympic Games.  Their words would greatly influence any decision the IOC makes, which is why several advocates, including Human Rights Watch president Kenneth Roth, pushed to target these companies.

However, corporate interests for these companies trump LGBT rights.  This is especially true of McDonald's, which is seeking to double its presence in Russia in the next three years to more than 300 restaurants.  More importantly, though, the issue of timing makes the case for relocation very weak:  The passing of the law happens less than a year before the Winter Olympics in Sochi, when most of the Games infrastructure is in place.  To suddenly move it elsewhere, even to a previous Olympics host such as Vancouver or Turin, would not only cause problems by leaving the current host out in the cold and paying a heavy tab, but also burden the previous host with quickly assembling a Games with far less time than is actually required, even with the infrastructure in place.

If the IOC were truly doing something in its interests, and were clever, they should just let Russia host the Games, but not let them participate.  But that's unlikely.