South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is floating the idea that the U.S. boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi if Russia doesn't send Edward Snowden back to us. "I would just send the Russians the most unequivocal signal I could send them," Graham said of an Olympic boycott on Tuesday, according to The Hill. "It might help, because what they're doing is outrageous."
This is horrible. The Olympics are about strength and beauty and sports—"building a peaceful and better world through solidarity, team spirit, joy and optimism in sport." The last American president to boycott a Russian Olympics? Jimmy Carter in 1980. And Lindsey Graham is no fan of Jimmy Carter. Carter was protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Did the Soviets leave Afghanistan? Yeah, eight years later. And then we ended up invading Afghanistan.
A Sochi boycott could mean Russia would do what the Soviet Union did in 1984—boycott our Olympics. Or those of our allies. The next summer Olympics is in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, and the 2018 Winter Games are in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Which might mean we'd have to call in Mitt Romney to save them.
Don't do this to us, Lindsey Graham! You would know what consequences this not-very-effective-tactic would have if you'd spent hours trying to parse the terribly grainy footage of the 1984 Alternate Games. In the photo above, that's Mary Lou Retton, 1984 Olympic all-around champion in gymnastics. In the GIF at right, we see the great Soviet gymnast Olga Mostepanova, whose signature performances at the Alternate Games are barely decipherable. These two did not challenge each other for the title, because of politics that didn't even work.
Luckily, Graham's usual ally, Sen. John McCain, is aware of this history. "There’s many things we can do, but I think the experience of cancelling the Olympics the last time around wasn’t very good," McCain said.