Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Is the IOC having a 1968 moment?

The International Olympic Committee was asked by Gay Star News if they were going to 'make sure the LGBT community in Russia can have a visible, proud, safe presence at the games.'

The response from the IOC was 'Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.'

Rule 50 states:

No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.

The penalty for violating this clause is “disqualification or withdrawal of the accreditation of the person concerned” without appeal. This is what happened to Tommie Smith and John Carlos for making their Black Power salute on the podium in Mexico in 1968 after the men's 200m.

However, near the start of the Olympic Charter are the fundamental principles of Olympism, I'm highlighting just a few of them:

  1. Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the
    qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism
    seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good
    example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles
  2. The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development
    of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the
    preservation of human dignity.
  3. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of
    practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which
    requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
  5. 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
  6. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter
    and recognition by the IOC.
My question to the IOC would be where is the preservation of human dignity by the hosts of the XXII Winter Olympic Games. The practice of sport and spectating is a human right, which should be defended for all without discrimination of any kind. Yet where does a same-sex couple whether a competitor of spectator stand if they are caught holding hands, or maybe kissing their partner after successfully winning a medal?

The IOC itself allowed for a Pride House at both the 2010 Winter Olympics and in London last summer. They had a place where LGBT athletes and supporters could be highlighted and supported in the end to discrimination. As I wrote on the lead up to the Games there was a Team LGB that was visible in London. There is a Team LGB that is hoping to be selected for Sochi.

There will be LGB athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, some may like Matthew Mitcham after Beijing 2008 been seen with their partner after they have competed. There are also LGBT spectators from around the world who are Olympic-philes, people such as myself. Some will go to any length to watch a Games, or to be in the area where the Games are taking place to soak up the atmosphere. How are the fundamentals of Olympism, going to help them should the new laws in Russia with such a loose definition of propaganda? The talk of coming down on 'non-traditional sexual orientation' does not offer much hope.

Is it time to add coherently sexual orientation into the list of discrimination listed in the Olympic charter rather than including it under 'or otherwise'?

The IOC is heading towards  a repeat of 1968. Remember their banning of the two athletes who gave the black power salute didn't prevent their message from being heard, it is heard loud and clear even to this day. Do we have modern day martyrs ready to show the IOC and the Russian National Olympic Committee that such a prejudicial and discriminatory law has not place in a member of the Olympic movement?


  1. While we await Sochi ...the IAAF W A Chmps are taking place in Moscow. Mo Farrar draped in a Rainbow Flag rather than (or as well as) a Fly Mo UJ would have been "Interesting"

  2. Indeed S B and if I had been 20 years younger and at the height of my powers I wonder if I could have been there and what I would have done.