With a little more than two weeks until the opening ceremonies, the Brits are hard at work putting the finishing touches on preparations for the Olympics. London won the 2012 summer games with a promise of diversity, and The London Organizing Committee (LOCOG), is trying its best to live up to that promise. LOCOG has recruited gay, lesbian and transgender staff, who in turn have hired gay, lesbian and transgender volunteers, all of whom underwent training on how to handle problems from intolerant fans. Expect to see some rainbow flags in the parade of nations. And with pin trading always a big Olympic pastime, there will be an official rainbow pin this year.
Although London has striven for LGBT inclusiveness, members of the LOCOG have been openly critical of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on that account. In the past, the IOC has been vocal about human rights abuses, even banning South Africa due to its Apartheid government’s discrimination against blacks, but the current IOC has been almost silent on the plight of many gay athletes. One gay right’s activist called them “hopeless.” Some LOCOG members think the 78 countries where homosexual acts are considered illegal should be barred from participating. Others think at a minimum the five countries who execute their gay citizens, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, and Mauritania, should be banned. One LOGOC member, former NBA basketball player, John Amaechi, who came out after he retired said of their silence, “It’s absolute cowardice on the part of the IOC.”
In the wake of the IOC’s head-in-the-sand approach, gay rights activists are urging athletes still in the closet to come out at the games. Some, like Mark Stevens, the high profile British lawyer who represented Wikileak’s Julian Assange, are going even further. Stevens has been telling gay and lesbians athletes from countries where homosexuality can get you arrested to come out , and then to demand asylum in England on the grounds they will be targeted for their sexuality if they return home.
In 2010 the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled that anyone seeking refuge from persecution due to sexual orientation in their own country was entitled to asylum. In an op/ed he wrote in The Guardian, Stevens told gay athletes considering asylum, “The British government will have to hear your application and in doing so they will have to engage with the human rights abuses perpetrated against the LGBT communities across the world.” He is hoping a large number of LGBT athletes requesting asylum during the games will focus the world’s attention on the human right abuses suffered by LGBT members every day. “People talk about legacy in terms of the regeneration of a few acres of London” Stevens said, “when in reality, the legacy should be a human legacy.”
The Olympics begin July 27th. It remains to be seen what its LGBT legacy will be
.Jean Ann Esselink is a straight friend to the gay community. Proud and loud Liberal. Closet writer of political fiction. Black sheep agnostic Democrat from a conservative Catholic family. Living in Northern Oakland County Michigan with Puck the Wonder Beagle. Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter at @uncucumbered.
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