I’m exhausted! Even though most of the action at the Tokyo Olympics took place outside my working hours it was difficult keeping up with all 180+ athletes. I will definitely be taking time off work during Paris 2024.
Let’s look back at Tokyo 2020. The bidding process for the 2020 Olympics began in May 2011. The final candidate cities were Tokyo, Baku, Doha, and Madrid. Each bid had its own logo. Madrid’s logo caused a bit of controversy. The illustration below helps to explain. Top left is the winner of the logo competition. Top right is what the Madrid bid committee did to it. Below them is promotional material for two Italian gay dolls called Gayskelly and Spaggaytti. In the top left corner of the advert you’ll see their logo. You won’t be surprised to learn that critics of the Madrid bid logo accused the committee of plagiarism. The dolls are no longer produced.
As we know, Tokyo won the 2020 Olympics. In February 2017 the Tokyo Organising Committee held its first Open Day to show National Olympic Committees (NOCs) how preparations were progressing. Among the delegates was Luke Pellegrini, Head of Games Operations and Sports Services with the Australian Olympic Committee. In this role he ensures that all the Australian athletes (including its 13 lgbt Tokyo athletes) received adequate support before and during the games. He was listed among the Outstanding 50 LGBTI Leaders of 2018 by Deloitte and Google Australia.
Currently, the only other known openly lgbt member of an NOC is Fumino Sugiyama, a former fencing champion, who was elected to the Japanese Olympic Committee in June.
2020 was the 10th anniversary of Pride House, a place where lgbt athletes, friends and allies could meet. The first official Pride House was set up for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Tokyo’s Pride House was announced in April 2017.
Just as the athletes were entering their final stages of training the covid pandemic struck. For the first time in the modern era the Olympics were postponed. For some athletes this was a hindrance, but for others it was a blessing, as they would probably not have qualified had the games been held in 2020.
There were several lgbt coaches who trained Tokyo 2020 athletes during the qualification period. These included Alyson Annan-Thate (head coach, women’s hockey, Netherlands), Cheryl Reeve (assistant coach, softball, USA), Pia Sundhage (head coach, women’s football, Brazil), and Denis Vachon (coach to Canadian gymnast Brooklin Moors).
The IOC appointed several lgbt officials and judges. Among them were Craig Hunter (swimming and water polo judge) and Jon Napier (Technical Delegate, sailing competition, mainly responsible in resolving registered protests). Deputy Sport Manager for the badminton competition was Bambang Roedyanto, Gay Games badminton champion (men’s doubles 1994).
There was also the first transgender judge. Kimberly Daniels was a judge in the canoe slalom, in which her daughter Haley competed.
Staying with transgender issues, the inclusion of Laurel Hubbard on New Zealand’s weightlifting team drew the same criticism she received in previous competitions. Credit should be given to the IOC for taking the decision to accept her inclusion. In the women’s football competition Canada’s team included the self-identified transgender player Quinn.
At last, on 23rd August 2021 the Tokyo 2020 Olympics began. The muted opening ceremony contained little lgbt content apart from the flag bearers mentioned several weeks ago. Former Olympic rowing champion Marnie McBean was the Chef de Mission (the head of an Olympic delegation) of Team Canada, the only nation known to have had an openly lgbt Chef de Mission. Marnie is their second following Mark Tewkesbury in London 2012 (Craig Hunter, above, was Chef de Mission of Team GB at the London 2012 Paralympics).
Team Out (our lgbt athletes) was bigger than most national teams. It would take too long to chronicle every day and result, so I suggest you hop over to Outsports which reported on all the best action.
Francine Niyonsaba, the Burundi sprinter, was one of several athletes who were subject to gender regulations from the IOC and World Athletics. Her inclusion in my list is based on official announcements of her being on the intersex spectrum. Other athletes were affected by the regulations. I won’t place them on the full list until I have verified the precise nature of their Disorder of Sexual Development (as it is called in official circles).
The first member of Team Out was Kaia Parnaby in the Australian softball team on 21st July. Their competition was one of several which began before the opening ceremony.
The lgbt medal was won by French judoka Amandine Buchard on 25th July. As stated last week Amandine topped the lgbt Tokyo medal table by winning one gold and one silver. In doing so she leapt straight in to equal 36th place on the all-time summer medal table.
The last lgbt medal was won by Alexandra Lacrabere and Amandine Leynaud, members of the French handball team who won the gold medal on the final day. They were the last lgbt athletes to finish competing. How appropriate that French athletes would be first and last to win medals in Tokyo. Perhaps it’s a good omen for the next Olympics in Paris 2024. By becoming handball champion Lacrabere joins Buchard in equal 36th place. Leynaud was making her debut and only (!) has a gold medal. Three members of New Zealand’s rugby sevens team also jumped up to equal 36th by winning the gold medal to add to the silver they won in Rio 2016.
On the final day Team Out finished in 7th place in the final Olympic medal table. Once we started winning medals we jostled with Team France in the medal table, and only the presence of the above mentioned members of the winning handball team put us higher. (Update: several lgbt athletes have become know to us since then, though their results keep us in 7th place).
The highest climber in the medal table among the experienced Olympians was Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha who, by wining the gold medal in the marathon swim, leapt up 142 places to joint 21st position.
Only four members of Team Out managed to hang on to their position in the medal table due to their results ensuring that newcomers in the table above them didn’t push them down. These athletes were British dressage rider Carl Hester (31st place), and Australian footballers Chloe Logarzo, Sam Kerr and Tameka Yallop (equal 244th place). Incidentally, the full summer medal table (up to 8th place finishers) has 478 places.
The closing ceremony had two lgbt flag bearers – Nesthy Petecio (Philippines, boxing silver medallist) and Francine Niyonsaba (Burundi sprinter). Nesthy was just one of quite a few athletes who publicly thanked their same-sex partner for support.
So, that wraps up this rather lengthy “brief” review of Tokyo 2020. It has been a record-breaking Olympics, both in terms of the size of Team Out and in the overall positive support from the Tokyo organising committee. This is surely a turning point in lgbt sport.
Attention returns to Japan next week with the Paralympics. As I have said several times recently I have stopped research into lgbt Paralympians because of the volume of Olympic research there is to do. I will return to the Olympics in just a few months for the winter games of Beijing 2022.