Vocal Athletes, Protests, Continue to Mar the 2014 Olympics As the Torch Begins Its Journey
The 2014 Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia and but the county’s very visible anti-LGBTQ laws have created roadblocks for the international sporting event.
When the Olympic flame passed through the city Acropolis, Greece, gay rights activists orchestrated a peaceful protest holding rainbow flags and others holding banners including, “Homophobia is not in the Olympic Spirit” and another “Putin’s victims” being ridiculed for being gay. The flame will travel through Greece and all 83 regions of Russia, finishing in Sochi for the opening day of the games on February 7.
Russian officials assured International Olympics Committee (IOC) President, Thomas Bach during his trip to the Olympia flame ceremony that no discrimination will occur at the games. “As a sports organization we have to protect the athletes,” Bach told the Russian agency R-Sport.
Monday, Bach said the Olympic Charter will most definitely support of the LGBT community, however the Charter cannot interfere with the hosting countries’ government and their laws. Bach is replying this way after All Out, an LGBT advocacy group in August presented over 300,000 signatures for the IOC “to condemn Russia’s anti-gay law before the Olympic Games, denounce the laws and [urge] Russia to ensure the security of all visitors, athletes, and Russian people before, during, and after the Games.”
The “Fundamental Principles of Olympism” currently states “any form of discrimination … on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”
The newest member and U.S Chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Larry Probst, has said he would vote to amend the forms of discrimination to include sexual orientation in regards to the Olympic games in response to the Russian government’s anti-gay laws. However, if an amendment is to be made, it will be at a future IOC meeting.
Olympians and athletes have voiced their opinions on the Russian anti-laws in regards to the Winter Olympics and many support and urge for the safety the LGBT community.
Olympic gold medalist of men’s alpine skiing, Bode Miller has been extremely vocal on his opinion on the anti-gay Russian laws in regards to the Olympics. “…I think the idea being that sports can be a tool to transcend the stupidity of different cultures and you know it’s happened in the past and I think it can really be a great tool to use for bridging those gaps, because you know because they certainly need to be bridged,” Miller said in an ESPN interview.
Founder and Executive Director of Athlete Ally, Hudson Taylor observed homophobic behavior in his adolescent years and wanted to make a change for the sports arena in terms of the LGBT community. Athletes in the Athlete Ally program include Kenneth Faried, NBA Nuggets forward, Kristi Toliver, WNBA player, and Nick Symmonds, Olympic Middle-Distance Runner.
“I want to stand in solidarity with Athlete Ally and the rest of the LGBT community to show that Russia’s policies are archaic, and a violation of human rights everywhere. This issue is much bigger than athletics, but if I can help change minds and open doors through the platform of sport, that is what I will do,” Olympic speed skater, Blake Skjellerup said.
“We want to lead by example and advocate internally to make sure we, as a family, are sending the message that we don’t tolerate discrimination,” U.S Olympic Committee CEO, Scott Blackmun said. Blackman has made it aware that the Olympic Games is not an organization for advocacy, however they will advocate for change within the games.
With the talk of the Olympic Games and Russia’s laws, the attention has surged to Paris winning the 2018 hosting bid of the Gay Games. The 2014 Gay Games will be in Cleveland, Ohio. The Gay Games were founded by gay athlete, Tom Waddell who placed 6th place broke 5 of his own personal records in the Mexico City Olympics who wanted athletes of the LGBT community to have their own Olympics which was started in 1982 in San Francisco, California.
The Gay Games where once called the Gay Olympics until 1987, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) won a suit against Weddell for the usage of “Olympic” and the Supreme Court of the United States ordered Waddell to pay legal fees to the USOC and to change the name.
It is understandable of how the LGBT community would want their own games in order to feel safe of being open with their sexuality, however it is also important to not separate the LGBT community from society and the international sports arena. We are all individuals that deserve to be in the same sports organization and to be able to participate without hiding who we are as individuals.
Ashleigh Boisseau is a feminist and a student at Virginia Commonwealth University, majoring in Mass Communications with a concentration in Print Journalism and minoring in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies. She plans on using her passion for writing to educate others and to reach as many people as she can. Diversity & equality for all is very important and get’s her fired up. She enjoys shopping, nannying, and the little things in life-- no cliché. If she can inspire a few, she’s happy!
Over 20 sporting events will be held around the Gateway City. St. Louis will be the first U.S. city to host the North America OutGames.November 2, 2015
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