Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Around the World in Another 80 Gays : Part 23) Flying Down to Rio

In the previous "Another 80 Gays" : Czech publisher 46) Markéta Navratilova (b.1975) is a member of the Prague Pride committee with 47) Czeslaw Walek (b.1975) who ran for election in Prague, as did 48) Václav Fischer (b.1954), the first openly gay Czech politician who was also an airline boss with links to Lufthansa, as was 49) Sir Michael Bishop, Baron Glendonbrook (b.1942).

49) Michael, Lord Glendobrook was Chairman of the airline BMI (British Midland International). As with 48) Václav Fischer’s Fischer Air in the Czech Republic, BMI was one of the leading airlines in the UK.

Lord Glendonbrook joined Mercury Airlines in 1963 and was its ground handling manager when it was taken over by British Midland Airways (BMA) in 1964. In 1969 he became BMA’s general manager. Under his leadership the airline grew and expanded its markets in Europe. When BMA’s parent company decided to sell the airline Lord Glendonbrook led a management buy-out with money from an American entrepreneur and he became the company chairman. By the 1990s BMA was the biggest independent airline in the UK. In 1991 he was knighted. Lord Glendonbrook had also expanded his own interests and had become chair of Channel 4 television in 1993.
In 2001 BMA became BMI. Lord Glendonbrook had the majority share stake in BMI and in 2008 sold it to Lufthansa who already had 30% shares. In 2009 Lufthansa assumed full control of BMI. In 2011 Lord Glendonbrook was created a life peer, a non-hereditary title, and Lufthansa continued to own BMI until 2012.

Lufthansa has been one of the leading airline companies to employ and market to the lgbt community. In 2002 they launched their GaySummer campaign, formed with the advice and support from various leading lgbt venues in Germany, USA and UK.

To handle the sell-off of BMI Lufthansa turned to its highest-ranking lgbt executive, the Senior Vice President of Network, Fleet and Airport Relations, 50) Sadiq Gillani. He joined the company as Chief Strategy Officer in 2011 when Lufthansa announced it would sell-off BMI. Sadiq was one of a group of specialists brought in by the CEO of Lufthansa. Most of them, like Sadiq, were non-German and traditionalists inside and outside the company expressed concerns over the direction the company would take. Sadiq had the trust of the CEO from the start and over the next few years he was named as one of the top international executives.

Sadiq Gillani has appeared on the Financial Times list of the Top 100 OUTstanding (lgbt) Business Leaders in 2014 and 2015, and in their 2015 list of Top 100 Ethnic Minority Business Leaders.

Sadiq’s experiences in the airline industry goes back to 2006 when he joined Skybus and became its Vice President of Network Planning. At the same time he was Senior Vice President of the Seabury Group, an aviation consultancy.

Between them 48) Václav Fischer (b.1954), 49) Sir Michael Bishop, Baron Glendonbrook (b.1942) and 50) Sadiq Gillani can take us “Around the World in Just 3 Gays”. Their airlines have taken passengers to virtually every country on the planet. To continue our particular journey today, however, we’ll visit a city well-known to Sadiq Gillani – Rio de Janeiro.

In 2010 Sadiq became Executive Director and Chief Commercial Officer for WebJet Linhas Aéreas, a domestic airline in Brazil based in Rio. He transformed the company into the most profitable airline in the country. I may be only guessing, because I haven’t looked that deeply into the matter, but it may have been Sadiq’s successes with WebJet that caught the attention of Lufthansa. He left Webjet in 2011 to go directly to them. This was the same year (as well as announcing the BMI sale) that Lufthansa announced that it was going to restart its direct non-stop flights to Brazil, using Rio as the main final destination.

Lufthansa’s reasons for restarting the flight was influenced by two events – the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, both of which were held in Brazil. Rio was seen as the key to the Brazilian market and many European companies also saw this as an opportunity for expansion and investment.
As a partner of the German Olympic Sports Association and official airline of the German Olympic and Paralympic teams Lufthansa took the entire team, with its coaches, officials, equipment and media teams down to Rio in 2016.

Germany’s lgbt 2016 Olympians included footballer Isabel Kerschowski, discus thrower Nadine Müller, pole vaulter Martina Strutz, and beach volleyball player Kira Walkenhorst. No doubt Sadiq Gillani would have been involved in the arrangements to get them there. Flying over the city the teams from around the world would have had a spectacular aerial view of most of the sporting venues. Some, like the marathon runners, cyclists and race walkers, would have seen their race routes through the city.

In their races the cyclists and marathon runners went through the picturesque Flamengo Park, the biggest public park in Rio. Lgbt Paralympic cyclists Allison Jones (USA) and Megan Giglia (GB) competed in both the individual time trial and the road race in Flamengo Park. The Park has been the venue for many marathons, cycling events and race walks over the years (though Olympic race walk was held elsewhere during Rio 2016).

I’ve mentioned quite a few lgbt athletes, but to continue our 80 Gays journey we’re going to stay in Flamengo Park because it was designed by an lgbt landscape designer, 51) Lota de Macedo Soares (1910-1967).

Next time : We run through the park and pick up a Pulitzer prize before putting on our laurels.

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