German President Joachim Gauck made headlines on Sunday when his office announced that he would not be attending the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. The decision was immediately seen as a boycott over Russia’s recent ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors”, but Gauck’s decision may not be as politically motivated as the media wants you to believe.
Shortly after making the announcement, Der Spiegel ran a story making it seem as if Gauck’s decision was a clear boycott against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the country’s supposed anti-gay legislation. The international press took this as an official stance and ran the story that Gauck was boycotting the games.
Guack’s decision not to attend the Sochi Winter Olympics may have been influenced by the recent human rights issues in Russia, but his office has come out speaking against the allegations that the German president is not attending in protest. In fact, a spokeswoman for the president made it clear that the decision is in line with past German presidents who also decided to not make an official presence at the Winter Olympics during their own time in office.
The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) was also quick to respond after the press began reporting Gauck’s decision as being a boycott, with an official statement made by director general Michael Vesper. Vesper told the dpa news agency that someone “who doesn’t travel doesn’t automatically boycott something. It’s certainly not directed against the German team.”
Back in August, Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out against any official boycott of the games in Sochi, arguing that any such stance would have a negative effect on and take focus away from the athletes representing Germany in the games.
While there has been some apparent tension between Guack and Putin since the German president took office last year, there has been no official boycott of the Winter Olympics in Russia by the German government. Any media reports stating otherwise are merely based on speculation.