Tag Archives: International Olympic Committee

Gay Ski Legend Anja Paerson Says IOC Needs to Do More for LGBT Athletes

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.

Paerson says:

“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.

International Olympic Committee Moves to Protect LGBT Athletes

The world of sport is going through a revolutionary period at the moment. In basketball, we saw Jason Collins become the very first gay NBA player whilst the WNBA’s #1 draft pick Brittney Griner came out and became the first openly gay athlete to be sponsored by Nike. The US Women’s National Team in football had three star players come out (including striker Abby Wambach who married her partner last year) and Michael Sam looked set to be the first gay NFL player before the promising young star was cut from his team.

But for all of these coming outs there are still many places where athletes risk being persecuted for this same honesty. Take Russia for example, where its LGBT propaganda laws prevent people from ‘promoting’ LGBT identities or ‘lifestyles’.

As the home of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia came under fire for the discriminatory laws, with some asking for a boycott of the event. It also raised concerns that out LGB athletes would be persecuted under the law too but now the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made moves so that this won’t happen in future.

Earlier this week, the IOC voted unanimously to add ‘sexual orientation’ to the list of things that Olympic athletes cannot be discriminated against. The following text has now been added to the 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism:

“Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

According to a new 40-page initiative by the IOC, called Agenda 2020, the group is working to “promote the Olympic values” and “strengthen sport in society”. Sadly though, the new ruling is still exclusionary to trans athletes or those who are gender non-conforming.

Athlete Ally, an organisation that is also working to make sports a more inclusive place, noted that this is progress but work still needs to be done. It’s a sort of two step forwards, one step back situation, although it’s unsurprising given that the IOC discriminated against South African athlete Caster Semenya because she’s intersex.

You can read the full Agenda 2020 document at the source link.

Source: International Olympic Committee