July 27, 2012
609 gay athletes missing from London Olympics
The 2012 Summer Olympics in London will feature 21 athletes who are openly gay or bisexual, and 18 of those are women.
While it is encouraging that there are some gay sportspeople who are out, the number is incredibly, ridiculously, painfully low.
There are 12,602 athletes competing in the Olympic games. According to the 2010 Integrated Household Survey, approximately 5% of the UK population is lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Assuming this figure is representative of other countries, and that sports stars’ are no more or less likely to be queer than the general population, statistically speaking we should expect 609 of the competitors to be lesbian, gay or bisexual.
The list of 21 athletes, compiled by Outsports, only includes sports people who have come out publicly. It doesn’t include sports men and women rumoured to be gay.
The Netherlands’ gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Marilyn Agliotti (field hockey)
- Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel (field hockey)
- Maartje Paumen (field hockey)
- Edward Gal (equestrian)
Germany’s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Judith Arndt (cycling)
- Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (cycling)
- Imke Duplitzer (fencing)
France‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Jessica Harrison (triathlon)
- Carole Péon (triathlon)
- Alexandra Lacrabère (handball)
Sweden‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Lisa Dahlkvist (football)
- Jessica Landström (football)
- Hedvig Lindahl (football)
The USA‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Seimone Augustus (basketball)
- Megan Rapinoe (football)
- Lisa Raymond ( tennis)
Australia‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Natalie Cook (beach volleyball)
- Matthew Mitcham (diving)
Denmark‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Rikke Skov (handball)
Great Britain‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Carl Hester (equestrian)
Brazil‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics
- Mayssa Pessoa (handball)
Of the 21 out athletes, 15 are from Europe. Some contintents – North America, South America, Australia – are barely represented. Entire continents – Africa, Asia – do not have a single out gay competitor.
It’s no coincidence that the continents with zero out athletes are home to the most homophobic countries. “In 150-plus countries, gay athletes have to hide their sexuality to get selected for the Olympics and are at risk of imprisonment and even execution,” explains human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
It’s not just countries that still criminalise homosexuality which are the problem. No country in the world is truly represented by gay athletes.
Even in the countries which have some out sportspeople they are clearly centred around specific sports, most notably team sports such as field hockey in the Netherlands and soccer in Sweden. In these instances it seems as though when one player is brave enough to come out, their gay team mates do the same.
Athletics does not have a single out gay competitor from any country.
Why should we care if sports stars are gay or straight?
But does it really matter if an athlete is gay, bi or straight? Surely the important thing is how well they play, not their sexual orientation?
The problem with that argument is that actually we do know the sexuality of many athletes. Dull moments in sports are the time for the cameras to zoom in on family members in the crowd. But while the camera will always pick out a husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, it never seems to zoom in on a same-sex partner.
It’s not that we want to pry in gay athlete’s private lives, we just want them to be visible. The world will be watching the London Olympics, and it’s important for those watching to know that some of these these incredible sportspeople are straight, and others are gay.
Sport can be an incredibly homphobic environment – just look at the issue of homphobia in men’s football. The more gay sports people who come out, the more courage they’ll give to the ones who want to be honest with their fans but who are too nervous to fully step out of the closet.
Here’s hoping that by the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro the number of out gay athletes will be a little closer to the truth.
Want more Olympics? Read our guide to the women worth watching in London 2012
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