Bill Carmichael: A gold medal for hysteria

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IT is that time in the cycle of sporting events when the pundits get excited for a couple of weeks at the sight of grown men, dressed in skin-tight Lycra, sliding down icy mountains on little more than a tea tray.

Yes, the lavish opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics takes place in the Russian city of Sochi tonight.

But this time the sport has so far been overshadowed by the politics – specifically controversy over widespread corruption and an anti-gay propaganda law introduced by President Vladimir Putin.

Corruption in Russia? Who knew? Look, if you give the Olympics to a gangster state run by an ex-KGB hard man, what do you expect?

Neither should we be much surprised that Russian attitudes towards homosexuality are different than what you would find in the tolerant West.

The new law, which is widely popular among the Russian population, bans the promotion of homosexuality to children.

There have so far been few prosecutions, but that’s not to say life is easy for gays in Russia. The new law has been blamed for a spike of homophobic violence and there is routine bullying and discrimination.

This is despicable, but the reaction from some quarters in the West has verged on the hysterical.

Comedian Stephen Fry, for example, accused Russia of “making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did the Jews”.

He added that Putin was repeating the “insane crime” of Hitler, “only this time against LGBT Russians”.

Let’s try to keep a sense of perspective. The bullying of gay people in Russia is wrong, but comparing it the slaughter of millions in the Holocaust is just hyperventilating silliness.

And it is not as if Russia is alone in its attitude towards homosexuality. Many socialist and ex-communist countries, along with much of Africa and virtually every Islamic state, have draconian anti-gay laws.

There aren’t many Gay Pride marches in North Korea or Iran.

And let’s not forget that the highly conservative Gulf state of Qatar has somehow secured the 2022 World Cup, despite Islamic laws that punish gays with prison sentences of up to five years.

When England are inevitably knocked out in the quarter finals, probably on penalties and almost certainly to Germany, and a couple of British male fans stop in the street for a kiss and a cuddle to console themselves, what do you think will be the attitude of the Qatari police? They won’t be handing out rainbow flag badges, that’s for sure.

The simple fact is that if you want low levels of corruption, respect for human rights and equality before the law then there is only one place you will find it – in the capitalist countries of the West, and more specifically in the Anglosphere.

Facts and figures

According Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton, people in her constituency are facing hunger on a daily basis because of Government cuts.

She was speaking as the local food bank revealed it had distributed more than 6,000 kg of food to 741 people in its first three months of operation.

Yet data released by Public Health England this week suggest that Doncaster is one of the fattest towns in England with an incredible 74.4 per cent of the population classed as either overweight or obese.

Nationally, 64 per cent – or nearly two-thirds of adults – are obese or overweight.

So, are people starving to death or eating themselves into an early grave?

It depends whether you believe hard statistical data from a respected source, or anecdotal statements used for political purposes by left wing campaigners.

In truth the figures – in every sense of the word – don’t lie.