The office of German President Joachim Gauck announced on Sunday that the president won’t be attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
While initial reports are claiming that Gauck’s decision is an act of protest against the controversial law banning “homosexual propaganda” passed in Russia earlier this year, Michael Vesper, the general secretary of the German Olympic Sports Federation, downplayed the connection and cautioned against the use of the word “boycott”:
Just because somebody doesn’t travel somewhere doesn’t make it a boycott. As far as we know, there was never a plan for Mr. Gauck to visit Sochi (Deutsche Welle).
Vesper’s comments did not deter Markus Loening, the German government’s human rights commissioner, from celebrating Gauck’s decision, calling it a “wonderful gesture of support for all Russian citizens, who fight for freedom of opinion, democracy and citizens’ rights.” Loening continued:
It is important that the world watches and realizes the things that are happening in Russia and what a great disappointment to democracy and human rights Russia is (Reuters).
Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the idea of an all-out boycott earlier this year, saying that such a political tactic would only harm the athletes.