Although athletes are taught to respect one another, the world of sport has not always been the most welcoming for LGBT people. While women’s sports appear to be more tolerant than men’s (there’s a significant amount of out female athletes and less than a dozen openly gay male ones) across the board there are issues.
And this is obviously a massive problem. Not only can a hostile community inhibit athletes from being at the top of their game (the mental stress of staying closeted is surely enormous on the world’s sporting stages) but it fosters the viewpoint that being L, G, B or T is anything but ok.
The IOC (International Olympic Committee) has recently made strides to eradicate LGBT intolerance, having recently amended the Olympic Charter to be more inclusive. However, out gay ski legend Anja Paerson (who had amassed an Olympic gold and seven world championship titles before she retired in 2012) says that the IOC isn’t doing enough.
Speaking to CNN’s Alpine Edge, Paerson explained that one example of the IOC’s failing is with the Sochi Winter Olympics that took place in Russia earlier in the year. Back in 2013, Russia passed a series of anti-LGBT laws that not only made coming out illegal but it made supporting LGBT rights a criminal offense too.
“The Olympic Committee had a huge responsibility in Sochi and they didn’t stand up for human rights. They were hiding from the difficult questions. I think at that point they made a lot of wrong choices.
I think a lot of athletes were very uncomfortable [about going to the games]. I even figured if I should go or not. But I made a choice to go. And I stood for being a gay person and I had my family there, I had my son and my wife. I didn’t feel like Russia should choose the way I live.”
Many have argued that the games should have never taken place due to the country’s intolerance and were not satisfied by the IOC’s assurances that LGBT athletes or attendees wouldn’t be affect by these laws.
Paerson also added that “Hopefully [the IOC] have learned from Sochi Olympics and will get better in the future” before also calling on her own sport to freshen up their views and create an accepting culture for LGBT athletes too.
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