Boycotting the 2014 Olympics is Pointless For Gay Athletes Like Me
The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius – Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger." Pierre de Coubertin announced that motto upon the creation of the International Olympic Committee in 1894. The aesthetics of sport being intangible, Coubertin said that these three words represent a program of moral beauty. Later, he offered another motto: "The most important thing is not to win, but to take part."
These mottos encapsulate the reasons why I do not support boycotting the Olympics in Sochi in response to the discrimination of the LGBT community in Russia – even as a gay woman and four-time Olympian. Why? Making a point by punishing those that have worked so hard to represent their nation in an Olympic games, and not holding those countries accountable for their discrimination, is pointless.
As an Olympian, I lived my dream. But if you had asked me to make a choice between my sexuality – part of the core of my very being that goes to who I will love – and my love of my sport and the dream I had held since I was a child, I would ask, “Why me?” “Why take away my dream?” “Why must I be made to take a stance that, on both fronts, is so deeply personal?” “I have done nothing wrong. Why don't you take away their rights and their dreams?”
By them, I mean, the host cities. The host cities in the countries that adhere to discrimination. The host cities that the IOC selected. I ask, why was China given an Olympics? Why didn't we boycott there – where human rights violations are occurring daily? Why was Russia given an Olympics when their tolerance for the LGBT community is so unforgiving, callous and discriminatory? After all, it is possible a gay athlete will hug or kiss their partner in winning a medal. Could that gesture potentially have them imprisoned?
To me, the big picture question isn't whether athletes should boycott. It is whether the host cities are ‘fit’ enough to host. And, just like people, are they ‘fit’ to win? More importantly, would they learn from losses and ask themselves why they lost and what they could do better next time – especially if they were told why they lost.
We need to hold the IOC members accountable for their choices in host cities and countries. Why aren’t they asking, “Is that city higher in its stand on discrimination than other cities in the ballot wanting to host? Is it faster in its progress to getting there? And is it stronger in its fight for equality?” Many countries have spent millions and millions of dollars trying to host an Olympics, yet have lost out to countries that have obvious human rights violations, including towards the LGBT community.
I say to IOC members, next time you put your ballot in the box, remember why we love sport and remember the words of Pierre de Coubertin.
Sport doesn't discriminate. So don't allow a country that does to become a future host. Don't make the athletes sacrifice their dreams to inspire a change. Don’t stop them from taking part. An athlete doesn’t care if the person next to them is gay or straight. They only care whether they are faster, higher or stronger.
If we take this stance, then maybe, just maybe, the torch that gets lit every two years in the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games can become a symbol that truly burns brightly in its fight for equality.