Friday 27 July 2012

Carrying the Torch With Pride

Tonight in London the Olympic cauldron will be lit. To get you in the mood for the climax of tonight’s ceremony my chronicle of the Olympics continues with the history of lgbt participation in the torch relay.

A torch relay never happened at the ancient Olympics. But there were torch relays in other parts of Ancient Greece. Almost a year ago, when I started my blog, I told you about the Great Panathenaean Games, what I have nicknamed the “Gayest Games in Ancient Greece”. Like today, one of the most important and popular events was the torch relay and you can read about it here.

The modern torch relay was created for the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Since then many thousands of people have carried the torch. It will be impossible to identify all the lgbt torch-bearers, though I have listed in chronological order below those I have found. If anyone knows of any more I’d be very interested to hear from you.

Some of the torch-bearers are famous lgbt Olympians while others have worked hard to promote diversity in sport and the community. In the following list I give the Olympic year and venue first, then the name of the torch-bearer and a little biodata, and lastly the location and date of their part in the relay.

1996    Atlanta
Vicky Galindo, Olympic silver medallist 2008 (USA softball); location and full date unknown.

2004    Athens
Daniel Kowalski, Olympic gold medallist (Australia swimming); Melbourne, Australia, 5 June 2004.

2008    Beijing
John Caldera, San Francisco Veteran Affairs Commission member, US Navy veteran, the first Mr International Bear 1992; San Francisco, 9 April 2008.
Helen Zia, former Executive editor of “Ms” magazine, journalist, advocate of same-sex marriage; San Francisco, 9 April 2008.

2010 Vancouver
Brian Orser, Olympic silver medallist (Canada figure skating); Pickering, Ontario, 17 December 2009.
Mark Tewksbury, Olympic gold medallist (USA swimming); Taber, British Colombia, 17 January 2010.
Marion Lay, Olympic bronze medallist (Canada swimming), past Chair of Vancouver 2010 Bid committee; Pemberton, British Colombia, 7 Feb 2010.

2012 London
Andy Stonehill-Brooks, founder of Support U, a charity created to build a network of lgbt support centres nationwide; Combe Martin, Devon,  21 May.
Vincent Jackson, charity fundraiser; Cardiff, 25 May.
Tara Mifflin, youth leader volunteer with Stonewall in their campaign to tackle homophobic bullying; Y Felinheli, Wales, 28 May.
Colin Renshaw, volunteer support worker in the lgbt community, and Manchester Pride and the 2002 Commonwealth Games; Bolton, Lancashire, 31 May.
Kevin Bartlett, amateur rugby coach, former recording artist (as Kevin Marques), 1990 Vancouver Gay Games gold medallist (UK athletics); Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, 3 June.
Heather Davidson, student, Cerebral Palsy sufferer, volunteer with lgbt support groups in Manchester; Trafford, Lancashire, 24 June.
Trevor Burchick, MBE, founder of the Pride Games, Manchester, representative on the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association; Stockport, Lancashire, 24 June.
Lorna McArdle, volunteer and past Chair of Reading Pride, member of local marching band; Reading, Berkshire, 10 July.
Jason Saw, head of MINDOUT, a charity founded to tackle mental illness in the lgbt community; Arundel, Sussex, 16 July.
Gideon Meade, founder of the Brighton Lesbian and Gay Sports Society; Brighton, Sussex, 16 July.
Colin Bentley, nursing assistant on an HIV ward, charity marathon runner; Brighton, Sussex, 17 July.
Gavin Owen, charity marathon runner, volunteer with Brighton Pride and London Pride; Eastbourne, Sussex, 17 July.
John Amaechi, OBE, former NBA basketball star, member of the London 2012 Diversity and Inclusion Group; campaigner for lgbt rights in sport; Greenwich, London, 21 July.
Tim Sullivan, Chairman of Kings Cross Steelers, the world’s first gay rugby club; Haringey, London, 22 July.
Mark Healey, founder of 17-24-30, a campaign set up to mark the anniversary of the London Nail Bomb attacks of 1999, founder of the Vigil Against Hate Crime; Lewisham, London, 23 July.
Chris Basiurski, Chair of the Gay Football Supporter’s Network, member of the Diversity Panel of the Football Association; Hammersmith, London, 26 July.

After the torch relay comes the lighting of the cauldron, not unlike the ceremonial lighting of the sacrificial fire on the Acropolis at the Great Panathenaean Games. My research has yet to identify any lgbt cauldron-lighter, and the chance of it happening tonight is zero (not unlike the Paralympic Games – Lee Pearson?)

But I actually have a connection to this year’s Olympic cauldron, which makes me really proud. The cauldron was designed and built by Heatherwick Studios in London. One of the freelance model makers they employed recently was my old friend Mark.

So I’ll be watching the ceremony very closely tonight and making notes for a post next month about the various opening and closing ceremonies.

Before then, I’ll bring you some of the lgbt involvement in the London games from its original bid up to the opening ceremony.

For all official information on the Olympics go to

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