By John Mack Freeman
It seems like the Winter Olympics cannot be discussed without noting the problematic stance of the hosts on GLBT rights. In 2014, we covered extensively how the gay propaganda law in Russia caused an intense backlash against that country, the Olympics, and its sponsors. This turmoil led to a handful of documentaries as was part of setting the stage for increased tensions between Russia and the United States. And it looks like the 2022 Winter Olympics might be another round of the same kind of stuff.
Right now, Kazakhstan has a bid in to host the 2022 Olympics. Kazakhstan also has a bill pending in its legislature that is virtually identical to the Russian anti-gay propaganda law. Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter (as amended in December 2014) does not allow for discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at any Olympic events.
In response to the development that Kazakhstan has put in a bid to host the games, 27 athletes have sent a letter to the IOC requesting that the site be disallowed. The letter is as follows:
Dear President Bach,
The Olympic movement is built upon the fundamental principles of respect and inclusion and the belief that the experiences of athletes and fans should be free from discrimination of any kind. As current and former Olympic, Paralympic and professional athletes, we believe in the fundamental principles of Olympism and that maintaining the integrity of the Olympic movement requires potential host countries to abide by these Olympic ideals.
Under your leadership, non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been enshrined in the Olympic Charter and placed in the Olympic Host City contracts. The Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms you championed are a powerful step forward for the global sports community. However, implementation will be key.
In light of Kazakhstan’s aspirations to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games and their recent consideration of legislation prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation,” we urge the IOC to reiterate to Kazakh authorities that discrimination with regard to sexual orientation is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.
The IOC is in a unique position as the global leader in sport to communicate to the Kazakh authorities that no discriminatory legislation should be adopted or implemented.
We were extremely proud to see the leadership of the IOC amend Principle 6 of the Olympic charter to include sexual orientation and believe these changes in principles will strengthen the Olympic movement for generations to come. It is now time to call on Kazakhstan and any other country wishing to host the games, to put those principles into practice.
Together in Sport,
Signers include Martina Navratilova, Greg Louganis, Megan Rapinoe, and Caryn Davies.