July 27, 2012

Icon609 gay athletes missing from London Olympics

Rikke Skov (handball)

Rikke Skov (handball)

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)
Maartje Paumen (field hockey)

Maartje Paumen (field hockey)

Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel (field hockey) and Edward Gal (equestrian)

Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel (field hockey) and Edward Gal (equestrian)

Marilyn Agliotti (field hockey)

Marilyn Agliotti (field hockey)

Germany’s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics

  • Judith Arndt (cycling)
  • Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (cycling)
  • Imke Duplitzer (fencing)
Imke Duplitzer (fencing)

Imke Duplitzer (fencing)

Judith Arndt (cycling) and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (cycling)

Judith Arndt (cycling) and Ina-Yoko Teutenberg (cycling)

France‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics

  • Jessica Harrison (triathlon)
  • Carole Péon (triathlon)
  • Alexandra Lacrabère (handball)
Carole Péon (triathlon)

Carole Péon (triathlon)

Jessica Harrison (triathlon) Alexandra Lacrabère (handball)

Jessica Harrison (triathlon) and Alexandra Lacrabère (handball)

Sweden‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics

  • Lisa Dahlkvist (football)
  • Jessica Landström (football)
  • Hedvig Lindahl (football)
Jessica Landström (football)

Jessica Landström (football)

Hedvig Lindahl (football) Lisa Dahlkvist (football)

Hedvig Lindahl (football) and Lisa Dahlkvist (football)

The USA‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics

  • Seimone Augustus (basketball)
  • Megan Rapinoe (football)
  • Lisa Raymond ( tennis)
Seimone Augustus (basketball)

Seimone Augustus (basketball)

Megan Rapinoe (football) and Lisa Raymond (tennis)

Megan Rapinoe (football) and Lisa Raymond (tennis)

Australia‘s gay athletes at the 2012 Olympics

  • Natalie Cook (beach volleyball)
  • Matthew Mitcham (diving)
Matthew Mitcham (diving) and Natalie Cook (beach volleyball)

Matthew Mitcham (diving) and Natalie Cook (beach volleyball)

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)
Mayssa Pessoa (handball)

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?

Carl Hester (equestrian)

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

7 Responses to 609 gay athletes missing from London Olympics

  1. bekka iraheta says:

    I feel we should base a person on how the person does in sports not their sexuality. I am a lesbian and I played sports and I never got left out. These bummbling boobs need to realize that all should have a chance at their chance and keep out of their personal life. LGBT commumity is sticking behind all of them. thank you for this news.

  2. Ffion says:

    Loved this piece! I find it weird as when I was at uni, and obvs played hockey for uni too, about 80% my friends in my ‘gay friend’ circle all played sports, from netball (my mrs) to hockey to football to rugby to bar sports! I think it’s more about culture and media than sports itself… I’ll always be a gay athlete :)

  3. Angel says:

    Well i personally know of around 10 lesbian athlete´s coming to London representing their country in which they are openly Gay but they are not aloud to say the are Lesbians in public when representing their own country… And they are European!!! What a sad story..

  4. Mani Kochar says:

    Terrible journalism, a look at the Team GB team, and looking at their significant coverage, you’ll have found out that some of the womens team are openly gay!

    • Milly Shaw Milly Shaw says:

      I haven’t seen anything other than rumour about any of the Team GB team, but if you can supply links to reputable sources I’ll happily update the article.

  5. Garbie says:

    Wow, I know of way more in the hockey world (not naming anyone!) plus several other women footballers (Team GB included), a few women tennis players (even the ‘Martina effect’ doesn’t seem to enable them to be out) and a few from the athletics. I heard too that Grindr (the gay man finding app) went down as soon as the athletes moved into the village (but that was in some tabloid so not sure it’s entirely true). I know sexuality has nothing to do with sports in my life currently playing hockey with several lesbians but when I was an athlete, as a youngster, it was entirely frowned upon to be a lesbian and show it. That was many years ago and in Northern Ireland so I’m not sure how it can even compare to 2012 in London. Hmmmm I’m torn between wanting gay people to be out and proud but also I don’t think it should define them i.e “Lesbian wins gold!” in any tabloid newspaper.

Milly Shaw


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