Thursday 13 December 2012

Olympic Epilogue

As a farewell to London 2012 I’d like to round up new research and information I didn’t have space for in my Olympic Countdown series.

First, the list of lgbt athletes has increased. For some reason I left out Graeme Obree. This British cyclist was at Atlanta in 1996 and came out last year. Perhaps he’ll always be remembered for the controversies surrounding the design of his cycles rather than anything else. And an omission from the torch relay list is Mark Tewksbury, who carried the torch in Canada for the Athens 2004 relay.

Back with Atlanta I mentioned the bombing but not a dispute between the organisers and the lgbt community over the venue for the volleyball competition. The local council passed a resolution in 1993 denouncing homosexuality as “incompatible with the standards” of their community. Groups within and outside the lgbt community objected to having the volleyball staged there. The Olympic committees hoped that doing nothing would make it go away. Diving champion Greg Louganis, who had just come out, decided to use his acceptance speech at the US Olympic Festival’s Robert J Kane Award ceremony in 1994 to raise the issue in front of a public microphone, which slapped the Atlanta committee into action. Three weeks later the volleyball competition was moved to another venue.

American figure skater from Turin 2006, Matt Savioe, ended years of rumour by announcing his marriage to partner Brian Boyle in October. Orlando Cruz becomes the 2nd Olympic boxer after Mark Leduc to come out. He competed for Puerto Rico in Sydney 2000 and turned professional afterwards. He is currently ranked 4th in the featherweight division in the WBO and is the only out professional competing boxer.

Another Olympic boxer was outed last month when the Independent on Sunday newspaper published its annual Pink List of the most influential lgbt people in the UK. This year’s list included all of Team GB’s out athletes and placed Nicola Adams in the No. 1 spot. Nicola was the first female British boxer to win a gold medal. Also in the Pink List was the captain of Team GB’s female football team, Casey Stoney. She joined coach Hope Powell on the list. However, Casey’s sexuality has been doubted on several blogs and social media networks.

One winter Olympian to add to the list is Barbara Jezeršek, the Croatian cross-country skier. She competed at Vancouver 2010 and has been out since 2008.

Last month I gave a brief life story of Kathleen Rose Winter, the first identified lgbt Paralympian. I received a wonderful email from Kathleen’s partner Elandria thanking me, and passing on more information. Kathleen was also a keen campaigner for children’s education, a reason why she enjoyed being a supply teacher. Kathleen’s Paralympic career also took her to Athens in 2004, and dreamt of one day seeing Paralympians and Olympians competing together.

Among the volunteers at this year’s Paralympic opening ceremony, floating around the stadium at the beginning, was Miro Civin (he’s in green with a yellow umbrella if you want to spot him on the dvd!). Miro is a Gay Games and Eurogames athlete, was Mr Leather Holland 2001 and Mr EuroDeaf Phwoar 2007.

London 2012’s overall Creative Producer, Stephen Daldry, personally directed the sequence of David Beckham transporting the flame along the Thames. In my opinion the ceremonies were poorer without the input from carnival designer Peter Minshall and choreographer Doug Jack, perhaps the two gay men who have shaped the look of western Olympic ceremonies more than any others. Both won Emmys for the Salt Lake City 2002 winter games, and Doug’s giant “skier” segment in Turin 2006 will always be one of my favourite moments.

One element introduced by Doug and his team was to lift the ceremony off the stadium floor. Attempts were made to fill the air before – doves, balloons and jet packs – but Doug introduced performers on wires. This was used briefly this year with the entrance of 30 Mary Poppins’, and reached its pinnacle with the arrival of the Paralympic flame. Doug Jack has actually worked on 12 Olympic ceremonies, more than anyone else in a creative role. He also took part in the Salt Lake City torch relay.

I was reminded of Salt Lake City during the catwalk sequence in London’s closing ceremony. With Barcelona 1992 and Turin 2006, Salt Lake also had a sequence featuring special designs from famous fashion houses, including Versace and Dolce and Gabbana.

The success of the Pride Houses in Vancouver and London has led to others being planned for Rio and other international sporting events. The judicial ban on a Pride House at Sochi 2014 has been countered by calls for individual competing countries to set up their own lgbt space in the Olympic village.

There’s still so much more to tell you, but I’ll leave it there – but except a final golden flourish later this month in my 12 Gay Days of Christmas.

Since this article first appeared a lot of new information has been revealed and new research has been carried out. This article should be seen as a mere snapshot of the information known at the date of its publication. Several facts may now be outdated or inaccurate.

1 comment:

  1. Just as I was sitting back for a breather after my Olympic "marathon" another gay Olympian's name lept onto the list! Canadian figure skater Jeff Buttle won a bronze at the Turin 2006 winter games.