“Imagine this: it’s the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. A huge television event, watched the world over. The American Olympians join the proud march of nations. They’re our emissaries, our exemplars. And as the television cameras zoom in on Team U.S.A., one of its members quietly pulls out a rainbow flag, no bigger than a handkerchief, and holds it up. Not ostentatiously high, but just high enough that it can’t be mistaken.
“Another American follows suit. Then another, and another. Within minutes the flags are everywhere in the American delegation, subtly recurring bursts of color and of honor, a gay-rights motif with a message: we’re here in Russia to compete, but we’re not here in Russia to assent. We have gay sisters. Gay brothers. Gay neighbors and friends and fans and probably teammates, and we reject the laws of a land that deems it O.K. to arrest them for speaking their truth or us for speaking up for them.”
That beautiful fantasy, above, is the beginning of New York Times‘ opinion writer Frank Bruni‘s Monday column, “Striking Olympic Gold.” What Bruni leaves out is that that act of political defiance would disqualify each participating Olympic athlete from the Games. In short, they would each be sent home.
And the International Olympic Committee (IOC) could very well be sending home a great many Olympic athletes from the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia six months from now, if any of them show support for LGBT civil rights. While the IOC has not made a public statement, their 103-page charter (published below) is very specific:
No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.
The bylaws clarify this rule:
No form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes or other participants in the Olympic Games, except for the identification – as defined in paragraph 8 below – of the manufacturer of the article or equipment concerned, provided that such identification shall not be marked conspicuously for advertising purposes.
So, if any Olympic athlete pulls out a gay flag, as the Times’s Frank Bruni suggested, or of they wear the tiniest rainbow pin on their uniform, they could be disqualified from the Games and sent home.
Curiously, the charter is also very specific on matters of human rights, posing a contradiction for the International Olympic Committee.
Fundamental Principles of Olympism:
6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.
Mission and Role of the IOC:
10. to oppose any political or commercial abuse of sport and athletes;
1.3 The IOC admits its new members at a ceremony during which they agree to fulfil their obligations by taking the following oath:
“Granted the honour of becoming a member of the International Olympic Committee, and declaring myself aware of my responsibilities in such capacity, I undertake to serve the Olympic Movement to the very best of my ability; to respect and ensure the respect of all the provisions of the Olympic Charter and the decisions of the International Olympic Committee, which I consider as not subject to appeal on my part; to comply with the Code of Ethics; to keep myself free from any political or commercial influence and from any racial or religious consideration; to fight against all other forms of discrimination; and to promote in all circumstances the interests of the International Olympic Committee and those of the Olympic Movement.”
So, now what?
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