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International Olympic Committee May Disqualify Athletes For Publicly Supporting LGBT Rights

by David Badash on August 7, 2013

in 2014 Winter Olympics,Civil Rights,News,Politics

Post image for International Olympic Committee May Disqualify Athletes For Publicly Supporting LGBT Rights

“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.

UPDATE: Obama Canceled Russia Meeting In Part Over Putin’s War On Gays

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?

International Olympic Committee Charter



Breaking: Obama Cancels Russian Summit With Putin

Stephen Fry Calls For ‘Absolute Ban’ On Olympics: Putin ‘Eerily Repeating’ Hitler’s ‘Insane Crime’

Obama On Russian Olympics: ‘I Have No Patience For Countries’ That Try To Harm LGBT People (Video)

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danadler August 7, 2013 at 12:06 pm

That's nonsense. If they followed the rule about "No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas", then the athletes wouldn't be permitted to wave the flags of their home countries (aside from the designated flag bearer), which many of them certainly do. Waving small flags constitutes a "demonstration" under any definition.

Novagain August 7, 2013 at 12:12 pm

The IOC's talk of non-discrimination is lip service. The one and only thing they care about is if the hosting country/city has paid their bribes.

richkadams August 7, 2013 at 12:28 pm

So if athletes can wear the logos of clothing manufacturing, maybe NIKE should temporarily change it's white swish logo to a rainbow swish for the olympics.. Just a thought.

Aaronpoohbear9 August 7, 2013 at 12:42 pm

I am appalled at the American governments blatant descrimination, and ignorance to the violations of Human Rights going on in Russia. Our government is more concerned with a "whistle-blower" than innocent Human Beings being arrested, assaulted, and in some cases murdered! And what was their horrendous crimes against humanity…..the mere "accusation" (in most cases, no proof) of being gay, stating the word "gay", being sympathetic to the plight of homosexuals, or "walking with a limp, wearing a blue shirt, on the wrong side of the street while talking to a monkey" (being sarcastic). The Russian government is going to be rewarded for this behavior by all the revenue from the network (NBC) covering the games, all the sponsors, and from all the tourists! So, in the grand scheme of things, Russia is coming out pretty good by committing Human Rights violations AND they are going to make a lot of money off it! And no one is protecting out Team USA, instead, they are being threatened that if they blink the wrong way, they will be suspended and sent home. Go USA! Makes me proud to be an American!
Where are the sanctions? Where is the worldwide outrage? Am I the only one who thinks something is wrong here?

BJLincoln August 7, 2013 at 12:46 pm

BOYCOTT the games. But then if they toss out the whole American team, maybe the world will be aware of the problem of anti-gay laws and the terror the LGBT population in Russia feels.
This HAS to be an all or nothing thing.
This is 2013 and we still can't get along as humans. I was truly hoping the future would be better than this when I was young and watching the original Star Trek. What a HUGE disappointment.

scottsteaux63 August 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

That tears it. It is time for the USA and every nation that has a conscience to stand up and say "WE'RE NOT GOING." Any country that sends its LGBT citizens into what has become a war zone will have blood on its hands, you mark my words.

As my late father, a man whose wisdom I grow to cherish more each day, would have said, "Hit 'em where it will hurt the most: IN THE POCKETBOOK."

BobAdler August 7, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Why is anyone surprised? Simply review the history of the IOC and the words and deeds of the officials, particularly in this country,regarding bigotry and nationalistic jingoism. Leaders who think they are elite create an elitist organization. (Reference the Boy Scouts!)

Llantha August 7, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Simple. Make one arm or leg of the US marching in uniform rainbowed :p

MiddleGrounds August 7, 2013 at 2:42 pm

In one way I would be more than happy to say "Hey, let's not participate and stand up for human rights and equality for ALL."

But on the other hand, I don't think it's fair to say "Hey, we're not going, so all that hard work you did to get to this point is now going to waste."

It's a double-edged sword, but something HAS to be done.

LOrion August 7, 2013 at 7:35 pm

MEANWHILE from Stephen Fry's letter to UK's DAVID CAMERON:

2 Paras FROM HIS LETTER: I write in the earnest hope that all those with a love of sport and the Olympic spirit will consider the stain on the Five Rings that occurred when the 1936 Berlin Olympics proceeded under the exultant aegis of a tyrant who had passed into law, two years earlier, an act which singled out for special persecution a minority whose only crime was the accident of their birth. In his case he banned Jews …
Putin is eerily repeating this insane crime, only this time against LGBT Russians. Beatings, murders and humiliations are ignored by the police. Any defence or sane discussion of homosexuality is against the law. Any statement, for example, that Tchaikovsky was gay and that his art and life reflects this sexuality and are an inspiration to other gay artists would be punishable by imprisonment.


pwrblnc August 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm

The Olympics committee may just be out looking for a new position, if they keep this stance. The Olympics will continue but these narrow minded bigots will not be winning any medals and will eventually be out.

cplantin August 7, 2013 at 11:45 pm

Favored option: boycott.
Second option: mass Bruni-esque demonstration by as many countries as possible. If many demonstrate, it would be unlikely that they'd all be sent home. If they were sent home, then it'd amount to a very dramatic boycott.
Third option: crowdsource among athletes from as many countries as possible a customized for the event way of showing solidarity for oppressed GLBTers in Russia. Could be a certain gesture, a certain shaped handkerchief in a color mating the team's colors, or some other act — maybe something like obvious same-gender PDAs among team members in front of cameras.

Master Adrian August 8, 2013 at 6:56 am

Two comments:

1. Personally I do not think that the IOC would dare to go that far, sending home athletes who show the Rainbow Flag (either at the official presentation or opening ceremony nor at any other event or moment).

It would show support for the position of the anti-gay attitude and law in Russia, and that would be devastating to the principles of the IOC……. it would make an even more political statement then when athletes would show colors!

2. I think the IOC is in a complete and total social, ethical and moral dilemma at the moment!

The IOC knows that worldwide there is a strong objection present, and growing, against the OG as they are, being held in an anti-gay Russia, then there is the position of the IOC economically and financially..

When the OGs are canceled the IOC will be held accountable for all the losses of sponsors, the IOC will be asked to pay up for the costs of the facilities in Russia, and no doubt the Russian government will claim loss of goodwill …………

And then, and perhaps the most important aspect of it all, the IOC is in itself not pro-gay!

With all the representatives from (sometimes very) conservative NOCs the IOC as institution is conservative!

If the President of the IOC states that he is against the anti-gay laws in Russia, he gets whipped by the other members of the IOC, except the western reps probably (although one can question the position of some western IOC members too!).

And that would be positive for Putin and his clique of thugs!

So, what is the IOC to do? Cancel the OG?

Impossible, as then the athletes would loose out on a sports-event they have trained four years for, and loose out on development!

Impossible also as it would be construed as a political statement and possibly act, against a sovereign country, Russia!

Impossible also as when canceling the OG, the IOC would possibly go bankrupt!

On the other hand, the IOC must do something, to make clear that it does not support the anti-gay law in and of Russia, and then thus make also a statement they are pro-gay, a statement they can not make as it is construed as a political statement!

What to do?

Well, the easiest solution would be to change the rules……. while the game is on…… explicitly declare all non-sport statements illegal, and reason for expelling from the OG……

It would frighten the athletes to open their mouth, as they are there to do their thing, BUT it could also at the same time disqualify the athletes because at home they are then accused of being anti-gay themselves!

Or.. when it concerns a gay athlete, he or she is performing under an immense stress, and that is not good for results!

What to think if a gay athlete wins? He or she must be careful not to hug his or her teammates, as that could be construed as expression of affection, gay affection, and land him or her in a Russian prison!

No showing happiness over a win also is idiotic, as that is a normal reaction!

Yeah,,, Putin and his thugs have created a real problem for the world, for the IOC, for the governments, for the athletes, and the gay community!

Perhaps best solution is to start a war against Russia, and put the constitution of Russia, and its subsequent laws out of order…… and then re-instate the Russian Constitution after the OG……………..

Pinksixty August 8, 2013 at 8:04 am

By wearing the official rainbow pins produced and authorised by the IOC for the London Olympics, competitors can demonstrate their solidarity whilst operating within IOC rules. They can't be sent home for wearing an authentic, licensed Olympic pin, which can still be purchased here:

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