Will There be a Pro-LGBT Display at the 2014 Sochi Olympics?
Russian LGBT people are in dire straights. As Putin’s regime continues to pass laws supporting “traditional” voter’s values, including silencing Pride Parades through anti-propaganda laws, a high level of violence against LGBT people continues to make headlines.
The 2014 Winter Olympics are set to hit the slopes of Sochi, Russia, and there has already been concern expressed by the International Olympic committee over Russia’s harsh stance on LGBT issues. Gay Star News reported the IOC reiterated their long-standing commitment to equality and nondiscrimination saying ‘The IOC is an open organization and athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the Games.”
The Olympics are an International event, and have a complicated history with their role in politics. The Olympic Charter specifically bans any political displays involved in the games, but that hasn’t stopped heroes from emerging, breaking the rules in the name of what is just or right. What if, in some dramatic, but incredible turn of events, a pro-lgbt stance was taken by one of the winning athletes?
The Post WWI 1936 Olympic Games were awarded to Germany with Hitler and the Nazi’s very much in power. But the Fuhrer’s hopes of showing racial superiority were dashed when Jessie Owens beat out Germany’s Luz Long in track and field events. While there was no overt display, it did show the world the inaccuracies of the ruling party.
In 1976, several African nations boycotted the Montreal Olympics after News Zealand rugby team was allowed to compete after they had just played in still-segregated South Africa. This would not be the last time cultural tensions played a role in a country’s choice to compete, and there is one incident that stands out as an incredible, and possible option for the 2014 games.
In 1968, the US was struggling with African-American civil rights. Mexico City played host to the Summer Olympics, and numerous black US athletes participated in the events despite a lack of equal rights back home. Tommie Smith, a native of Clarksville, Texas, practiced hard and showed the world something they had never seen before by winning gold in the 200 meter dash in 19.83 seconds, the first time anyone had broken the 20 second barrier. In third place, for the same event, was John Carlos, another black athlete from the US.
During the medal ceremony, when the National Anthem began to play, honoring the winning US competitors, instead of placing their hands on their chests, or saluting the flag, the two athletes instead raised a fist in their air and lowered their heads in solidarity. Falsely labeled a “black-power” fist, Smith later wrote in his memoirs, Silent Gesture, that the action was a “human rights salute.”
This simple act of solidarity sent shock waves through the Olympics world, with the head of the IOC demanding the two athletes be banned from competing. Team US fought back, but in the end, Smith and Carlos were expelled from the Olympics.
Could we see an athlete in 2014 support LGBT rights in a country doing everything in its power to stamp them out?
Will snow-boarding legend Shaun White wear a rainbow pin alongside his Team USA patch? Will figure-skating champ Ashley Wagner honor her LGBT fans by raising a “human rights salute” when and if she gets the gold?
We’ve got a while before we’ll see anything, but hopefully one of Team USA’s finely tuned athletes will stand tall when they win the gold, and stand even taller to support equal rights for LGBT individuals around the world.
Tim is a writer, video game nerd, and music fan. You'll see him at shows, or you wont really see him at all.
“In the eyes of God, they’re just as good as we are.”September 26, 2014
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