Tuesday, 21 January 2020

80 More Gays Around the World: 3) Greek Wonders

Last time on “80 More Gays”: 4) Sir Frederick Ashton (1904-1988) left the fights and royalties to his ballet “Les Patineurs” to 5) Brian Shaw (1928-1992), for whom Ashton created a role in a ballet based on the life of 6) Tiresias, who was blinded by 7) Athena.

One of the variations in the myths of 6) Tiresias is that 7) Athena blinded him as punishment for accidentally seeing her bathe naked. This seems to have been first written down by the poet Pherecydes in the 450s BC.

Both Tiresias and Athena also appear in the epic poem “The Odyssey” by Homer, both taking on the role of advisor to Odysseus. Tiresias appears when Odysseus summons up the spirits of the dead in the hope that they may provide directions to get him back home. He had been advised that he must not speak to any ghost, even that of his mother, until he had spoken to the spirit of Tiresias first.

Tiresias explains to Odysseus that his difficult journey home was being manipulated by the god Poseidon as punishment for blinding his Cyclops son. He offers advice on how to tackle future dangers and warns Odysseus of the difficult affairs back home with the many unwanted suitors of his wife Penelope.

Athena was also keen to advise Odysseus, as well as his son Telemachus. On several occasions she appeared to them in the form of a man. The Greek gods were frequent shape-shifters. Only on very rare occasions did they change gender temporarily. This is in contrast to several Asian deities whose transgender manifestations tend to be permanent.

Athena’s transformation was to disguise her identity rather than as an expression of her sexuality. She chose to appear in the form of one specific person, a friend of Odysseus called Mentor. The two friends had served in the army together, and when Odysseus went off to fight in the Trojan War he left Mentor to watch over his palace, his wife Penelope and is son Telemachus.

Whether the real Mentor was any good as a guardian is uncertain, but it was Athena in his form who encouraged Telemachus to stand up to his mother’s unwanted suitors. She, as Mentor, also suggested to Telemachus that he should find out what had really happened to his father.

The role of Athena as Mentor came to be regarded as a model for the type of personal advisor that now bears his name. I wonder how many people who regard themselves as a mentor realise they are following in the footsteps of female deity who transformed herself into a man for the purpose.

Athena also had an important influence as the patron of the city of Athens. A legend tells how the founder of the city, rather unusually, didn’t name it after himself but said it would be named after the god who gave the city the best gift. Athena and Poseidon stepped up to the challenge. Poseidon hit the ground with his trident and produced a never-ending supply of water – salt water. Other myths say he created the first horse. Athena, on the other hand, created the first olive tree. The citizens chose the olive tree as the best gift and named their city Athens.

Athens is the home to one of the most magnificent temple sites in ancient Greece dedicated to Athens, and the most famous. The Parthenon stands proudly on top of the Acropolis and had several huge statues of Athena which have long since been destroyed. At least three statues of Athena were made by the same artist, 8) Phidias (living 5th century BC), often stated to have been the greatest sculptor in ancient Greece, and the man who created a style that is still being copied in modern buildings.

Phidias acted as chief architect and designer of the temple complex on the Acropolis. It is his most famous work, but another work that has also long since been destroyed, earned a spot on the famous list of the Seven Wonders of the World. This was another massive statue, this time to Zeus, in the temple at Olympia where the ancient Olympics took place. During my 2012 Olympic Countdown series I wrote about this statue and the fact that Phidias carved a little inscription onto it saying “Pantarkes is gorgeous”. Pantarkes was one of Phidias’s apprentices, aged around 12, who was also his eromenos – boy lover. Pantarkes was also the boys wrestling champion at the Olympic Games of 436 BC, the year before Phidias completed his statue of Zeus.

Today the Seven Wonders are well-known. Before Phidias’s day, however, only three of the Wonders on the traditional list were in existence – the Great Pyramid at Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus. No-one listed any Wonders until over 300 years after Phidias died and there was never any consensus of what went on the list until the Renaissance and the invention of printing and the spread of printed books. There may easily be some long lost list of Ancient Wonders that included Phidias’s temple complex on the Acropolis and its huge statues in addition to his statue of Zeus.

Some ancient writers, however, didn’t share the view that these structures were anything to wonder at. They regarded them as evidence of the tyranny of rulers. One of these writers was the famous Aristotle. He criticised the construction of all huge monuments and buildings, even temples, because their construction meant taxing the citizens to pay for them. That’s not entirely true and Aristotle is over-simplifying the motives of the rulers who constructed them. But it’s a criticism that is still often levelled in modern times when new, big construction projects begin.

Among the structures Aristotle criticised were the pyramids, the monuments in Corinth and the statue of Zeus in Athens (not the same at the statue at Olympia by Phidias), among others. Aristotle singled out one tyrant by name in his list, 9) Polycrates of Samos (d.522 BC).

Next time of “80 More Gays”: We develop a psychological complex and visit the opera to see the revival of an ancient king.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Olympic Facts 2020


At the start of this Olympic year and while we’re halfway through the current Youth Winter Olympics I thought I’d share with you some of the facts and figures I’m compiling for a booklet which I hope to produce this summer called “2020 Queer facts”. This is a selection of the facts I’ve collected for a chapter on the Olympics.

The statistics below include athletes who were not openly lgbt when they competed. The trend in the 21st century has been for an increase in openly lgbt Olympians at successive games. It is virtually certain that Tokyo 2020 will be the first to have 100 or more openly lgbt athletes on the opening day

Athletes are placed in the official gender category in which they competed. Some of the facts may seem confusing as they are similar, but there are subtle differences.

HOW MANY LGBT OLYMPIANS?
Male - 115
Female - 265
Summer - 303
Winter - 77

TOTAL NUMBER OF LGBT ATHLETES AT THE OLYMPICS

summer
2016
Rio de Janeiro
104
summer
2012
London
85
summer
2008
Beijing
76
summer
2000
Sydney
68
summer
2004
Athens
51
summer
1996
Atlanta
47
winter
2014
Sochi
26
winter
2010
Vancouver
25
summer
1992
Barcelona
22
winter
2006
Turin
21
summer
1988
Seoul
20
winter
2018
PyeongChang
18
winter
2002
Salt Lake City
14
summer
1984
Los Angeles
13
summer
1976
Montréal
11
winter
1998
Nagano
9
winter
1988
Calgary
9
summer
1972
Munich
7
summer
1968
Mexico City
6
winter
1984
Sarajevo
6
winter
1994
Lillehammer
5
winter
1992
Albertville
5
summer
1932
Los Angeles
4
winter
1976
Innsbruck
4
summer
1928
Amsterdam
3
summer
1936
Berlin
3
summer
1964
Tokyo
3
summer
1956
Stockholm
3
winter
1980
Lake Placid
3
summer
2010
Singapore (Youth)
3
summer
1980
Moscow
2
summer
1960
Rome
2
winter
1968
Grenoble
2
summer
1912
Stockholm
1
summer
1948
London
1
summer
1952
Helsinki
1
summer
2014
Nanjing (Youth)
1
winter
1964
Innsbruck
1
winter
2012
Innsbruck (Youth)
1
winter
1956
Cortina d'Ampezzo
1
winter
1960
Squaw Valley
1
winter
1924
Chamonix
1

THE TOP 5 NATIONS WITH THE MOST LGBT OLYMPIANS
77 USA
47 Canada
30 Australia
25 Germany (including East and West when separated)
24 Great Britain and Northern Ireland
 
THE TOP 5 SPORTS WITH THE MOST LGBT OLYMPIANS
52 football
38 track and field athletics
32 figure skating
22 swimming
17 field hockey
 
THE FIRST LGBT OLYMPIAN (not openly lgbt during the games)
Danish tennis player Leif Rovsing (1887-1977). He competed in both men’s singles and doubles tennis at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. He was the Danish men’s doubles champion between 1907 and 1916 and competed at Wimbledon in 1910. In 1917 Leif admitted his homosexuality, thus becoming THE FIRST OUT LGBT OLYMPIAN. The Danish Ball Games Union banned him from tennis for several years. More information is given here.

Niels Bukh (1880-1950) almost became the first lgbt Olympian. He was selected for the Danish gymnastics team at the 1908 London Olympics. However, shortly before the games he was deselected because the selection committee considered his physique was “think set” and didn’t fit with the overall look of the team. In effect he was deselected because he looked too butch! Bukh coached the Danish men’s gymnastics team to silver in the 1912 Stockholm Olympics. As his homosexuality was well-known by the time this makes him the FIRST OPENLY LGBT OLYMPIC COACH OR TRAINER. He was included in my 2017 “Around the World in Another 80 Gays” series.

THE FIRST LGBT MALE OLYMPIAN – NON-SPORT (openly lgbt during the games)
South African poet Ernst van Heerden (1916-1997) won the silver medal for his work “Six Poems” at the 1948 London Olympics. He was openly gay throughout his life. Ernst was also a South African national weightlifting champion and qualified as a weightlifting judge. He was a judge in the weightlifting competition at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

THE FIRST LGBT MALE OLYMPIAN - SPORT (openly lgbt during the games)
The first lgbt Olympian who was openly gay before the opening ceremony of the games in which he competed was American equestrian dressage competitor Robert Dover (b.1956). He came out publicly as gay several weeks before his participation in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Technically, the first openly gay male Olympian during the games was British figure skater John Curry (1949-1994) at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympics. John was “outed” by local newspapers on 13th February 1976, the day after he won his gold medal, two days before the closing ceremony.

THE FIRST LGBT FEMALE OLYMPIAN (openly lgbt during the games)
Renée Sintenis (1888-1965). Her sculpture “Fütballspeiler” (Footballer) won the bronze medal at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, also making her the FIRST OPENLY LGBT OLYMPIC MEDALLIST (female).

THE FIRST FEMALE LGBT OLYMPIAN - SPORT
Austrian swimmer Friederike “Fritzi” Löwy (1910-1994) competed in the women’s 400 meters freestyle swimming event at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. She didn’t qualify for the final. Fritzi won a silver medal at the 1927 European Swimming Championships at the age of 16.

THE FIRST LGBT OLYMPIC MEDALLIST (non-competitive event)
British mountaineer George Mallory (1886-1924) was awarded a gold medal at the first Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France, in 1924, in a special category called Alpinism. This was in recognition of his participation in the failed attempt to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1922. Gold medals for the rest of the expedition were presented during the Chamonix closing ceremony on 5th February 1924. By this time Mallory was on his way to make another attempt to climb Everest. He died on that expedition and never got to touch or see his gold medal. Mallory disappeared on that expedition and his body wasn’t found until 1999.

THE FIRST LGBT OLYMPIC MEDALLISTS (sport)
The first four Olympic sport medals won by lgbt athletes were all won by two athletes within 8 days of each other at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

MEDAL 1: On 31st July 1932 Mildred “Babe” Didrikson, later Mrs. Zaharias (1911-1956), won the gold medal in the women’s javelin contest, breaking the world record in the process.

MEDAL 2: On 2nd August 1932, Stanisława Walasiewicz, later known as Stella Walsh (1911-1980), competing for Poland, won the women’s 200 meters sprint.

MEDAL 3: On 4th August 1932 “Babe” Didrikson won a gold medal in the women’s 80 meters hurdles, breaking another world record.

MEDAL 4: On 7th August 1932 “Babe” won a silver medal in the women’s high jump. Her third jump equalled the world record set by the athlete who jumped just before her. However, the judges ruled that Babe’s jump was disallowed because it was performed head-first over the bar, an illegal move. The judges ruled that Babe should be awarded the silver medal, while recognising her third world record of the games.

THE TOP OLYMPIANS WITH THE MOST MEDALS

 
NAME
NATION
OLYMPICS
SPORT
G
S
B
1
Ireen Wüst
Netherlands
Winter
speed skating
5
5
1
2
Ian Thorpe
Australia
Summer
swimming
5
3
1
3
Greg Louganis
USA
Summer
diving
4
1
 
3
Jayna Hefford
Canada
Winter
ice hockey
4
1
 
5
Sue Bird
USA
Summer
basketball
4
 
 
5
Diana Taurasi
USA
Summer
basketball
4
 
 
5
Caroline Ouellette
Canada
Winter
ice hockey
4
 
 
8
Marnie McBean
Canada
Summer
rowing
3
1
 
9
Gillian Apps
Canada
Winter
ice hockey
3
 
 
9
Charline Labonté
Canada
Winter
ice hockey
3
 
 
9
Sheryl Swoopes
USA
Summer
basketball
3
 
 

                         
THE YOUNGEST LGBT OLYMPIANS (excluding the Youth Olympics)
Based on their age on the date of the opening ceremony of the games in which they competed.

13 years, 13 days – Ondrej Nepela (1951-1989) at the 1964 Innsbruck Winter Olympics.
14 years, 69 days – Tom Daley (b.1994) at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
15 years, 14 days – Marian Lay (b.1948) at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
15 years, 249 days – Laís Souza (b.1988) at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

THE FIVE OLDEST LGBT OLYMPIANS
Based on their age on the date of the opening ceremony of the games in which they competed.

49 years, 37 days – Carl Hester (b.1967) at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.
48 years, 71 days – Robert Dover (b.1956) at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.
47 years, 315 days – Karen Hultzer (b.1965) at the 2012 London Summer Olympics.
47 years, 300 days – Martina Navratilova (b.1956) at the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.
46 years, 303 days – Hans Peter Minderhoud (b.1973) at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.

LGBT OLYMPIAN WHO HAS COMPETED AT THE MOST GAMES
Robert Dover (b.1956) has competed in 6 successive Olympic Games. He also acted as Chef d’Equipe (equestrian team manager) at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics.

THE LGBT OLYMPIAN WHO HAS ATTENDED THE MOST GAMES (non-competitive)
George Morris (b.1938) has attended 7 Olympic Games as a member of an equestrian team, 6 times for Team USA. The first time was as a competitor in Rome 1960 where he won a silver medal. In 5 later Olympic Games he attended as Co-Chef de’Equipe (team manager). In 2016 he was coach to the Brazilian Olympic equestrian team.

LGBT OLYMPIANS WHO HAVE COMPETED AT BOTH THE SUMMER AND WINTER GAMES
Christine Witty (b.1975) competed for the USA in speed skating at the Winter Olympics of Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998, Salt Lake City 2002 and Turin 2006. She also competed for the USA in cycling at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics.

Georgia Simmerling (b.1989) competed for Canada in cycling at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. She also competed in alpine skiing at 2010 Vancouver, and ski cross at 2014 Sochi. Georgia is also THE ONLY LGBT ATHLETE TO COMPETE IN THREE DIFFERENT SPORTS – alpine skiing, ski cross and cycling.