Louganis: Olympians should dedicate performances to gay relatives and friends

By : Wire Report
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Washington, D.C.- When Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis competed as a diver, he traveled the world, but experienced little of it.

“I went to countries and I saw the pool and the hotel,” he said. “That’s all I saw.”

Decades later as an advocate for gay rights, Louganis sees much more.

On Dec. 13, Louganis went to Capitol Hill to help shed light on anti-gay legislation and the hostile environment faced by LGBTs in Russia.

With the Winter Olympics beginning Feb. 7 in Sochi, Louganis and other activists are urging the United States and the International Olympic Committee to challenge a Russian law, passed in June, which bans “gay propaganda” among minors and has been denounced as discriminatory in the West.

“I can’t imagine being born in Russia and having my government say that there was something wrong with me, or I’m not of value,” Louganis said.

In the session at the Rayburn Building, hosted by Rep. David Cicilline, (D-R.I.), Russian activists described an atmosphere of intimidation where hate crimes go unpunished and equal rights supporters are stifled. They said the situation has deteriorated since the propaganda law was passed and that similar legislation is gaining support in bordering countries such as Armenia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

Louganis recognizes that American Olympians could run afoul of the new law by making political statements in support of the LGBT movement, even by wearing rainbow pins or flags. He asked, instead, that athletes make their expressions of support personal.

“Most every one of them has a gay aunt, a gay uncle, a gay cousin, a gay friend, a gay somebody,” Louganis said. “But to dedicate their performance to that main individual who supported them. This is a personal support of the LGBT community on a personal level that I don’t know that the IOC can argue with.”

Louganis said he received “a lot of hate mail from the LGBT community” when he came out against a boycott of the games. But Louganis has experience with boycotts, as part of the U.S. Olympic team that skipped the 1980 Moscow Games.

“Most athletes have a very short window of opportunity,” Louganis said. “When it comes to the Olympics you’re hurting the wrong people, and kids who may not be aware of what’s going on in the world because they’re so focused on their training, on their journey, on their goal.”

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