The highly anticipated 2014 Winter Olympic Games are underway in Sochi, but not without controversy centered around terrorist threats and safety, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highly publicized anti-gay laws and questions about how gay and lesbian athletes competing in the games would be treated.
Late last year, President Obama said that he would not be attending the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in protest of Putin’s treatment of the GLBT community, and instead decided to send an official U.S. delegation, including three openly gay and celebrated athletes, tennis legend Billie Jean King, ice hockey Olympic medalist Caitlin Cahow and figure skating Olympic medalist Brian Boitano.
King has been vocal about supporting gay rights and standing up to Russia’s anti-gay laws. While there have been many calls for a boycott and criticism from human rights groups, King told mydesert.com, “It took about 10 seconds,” for her to accept the President’s invitation. “It sends a strong message that America is very diverse. We are here, and surrogates as athletes and gay athletes. We reflect part of America. Maybe we’ll be a voice for people who don’t feel they can be a voice yet.”
LGBT Members of the US Olympic Delegation
Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is an American former World No. 1 professional tennis player. She won 39 Grand Slam titles, including 12 singles, 16 women’s doubles, and 11 mixed doubles titles. King won the singles title at the inaugural WTA Tour Championships.
Brian Boitano is a figure skater from Sunnyvale, California. He is the 1986 & 1988 World Champion as well as the 1988 Olympic champion. He placed sixth in the 1994 Winter Olympics. He openly came out as being gay when he was announced as a US Olympic delegate.
Caitlin Cahow is an ice hockey player from New Haven, Connecticut. She played at Harvard for four years and won a bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics. She was also captain of the Boston Blades for the 2012-2013 season.
Weir is Johnny?
Out Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir may have announced last year that he would be retiring from the sport, but that won’t stop him from continuing to support Russia’s GLBT community during the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. In fact, the two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. figure skating champion (married to a Russian man) has not only been an outspoken advocate for GLBT Russians since the country enacted its anti-gay laws, and who also has repeatedly publicly opposed the boycotting of the games, but he will join the NBC Olympics team as a figure skating analyst.
Weir recently commented on the Today show in October 2013, “I’m a gay American. I’ve married into a Russian family. I’ve been a longtime supporter of Russia, the culture, the country, the language, everything about Russia. While this law is a terrible thing that you can’t be gay publicly in Russia, I plan to be there in full support of our brothers and sisters there and not be afraid.”
Everybody knows that the jewel-encrusted Fabregé eggs are a renowned Russian icon and they have inspired the unique shell-like design of the Fisht Stadium. The translucent polycarbonate roof will be used to project illuminations during the Games.
As reported in the January issue of Living Out, the city of Toronto has promised it will host a GLBT Pride House in the Olympic Village in order to provide a safe space for GLBT athletes. This tradition began at the 2010 games in Vancouver (below) and continued in London for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Konstantin Lablotckii, co-president of the Russian LGBT Sports Federation, had said, “We need Pride House. It’s already part of the Olympic movement, it’s not a political demonstration, it’s not a gay parade, it’s just a safe peaceful place for celebrating equality in sport.”
More Leaders Join Olympic Boycotts
In what is unfortunately being referred to as the “anti-gay games,” French President François Hollande and EU Commissioner Viviane Reding have joined the growing list of political leaders boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Citing Russia’s anti-gay laws, Hollande and Reding join German President Joachim Gauck and President Obama, who will send openly gay athletes in his place.
Conversely, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Plamen Oresharski, has said he will attend the opening ceremony. He told local media that he decided to spurn calls for a boycott because Bulgaria was “not that influential a country.”
Putin Promises Safety During Games
Days prior to the start of the Olympics, international concern for GLBT athletes’ safety was on the rise. In an attempt to assuage fears, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed no athlete would be facing discrimination. Putin promised that the games would “be held in full compliance with the Olympic charter, without any discrimination on any basis.”
Putin, previously banned all rallies at Sochi, but has since been forced to allow ‘protest zones’.
Going for Gold: Top USA Athletes We Have Our Eye On
Lifestyler, snowboarder, skateboarder, Olympian, friend, brother, son, musician…Shaun has an arsenal of titles, all of which play into his dynamic persona. He does it best, by doing it different. “Whatever it is, be yourself.” That’s what Shaun is. Shaun has had an outstanding snowboarding career. Some of his accomplishments include being an eight-time Winter X Games superpipe champion and five-time Winter X Games slopestyle champion. He has also become a four-time US Open champion and three-time World Cup gold medalist. Shaun’s Olympic experience is being the gold medalist in men’s halfpipe for the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics.
Charlie White and Meryl Davis began skating together when they were just 8 and 9 years old, respectively. Over their 16 year history they have won nine gold and two bronze medals in the Grand Prix Series. They are five-time US champions and were the World Champs in 2011 and 2013. Davis and White have also won the gold medal for the Four Continents competition three times and the silver medal once. They won the silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Gracie Gold: Figure Skating
2012 US Junior Champ Gracie Gold is a relatively new face to the competitive ice skating world. The 18 year old is bringing some serious skills with her to the 2014 Winter Olympics. In 2012, in addition to being the US Junior Champ, she was the silver medalist at the World Junior competition, World Team Trophy and the Rostelecom Cup. This past year she won the US silver medal and placed sixth in both the World Championships and the Four Continents competition.