This week I would like to talk about the most recent events in Russia, the World Track and Field Championships in Moscow, and the inspiring stories to come out of them – as well as my thoughts on the power of the International Olympic Committee.
The International Olympic Committee, or the IOC, is made up by a group of people from all over the world. From the athletes to the coaches and on to the faxers and cubicle workers, all of us sports folk are governed by this non-government super-cloud that dictates what we do, how we do it, and how successful we can be. The International Olympic Committee is not a political party – or it’s not supposed to be – nor is it a group of white-hairs who dictate blindly the ways of world sport. Through the Olympic movement, everyone involved in their success is driven not only by athletic prowess, but also by the thought of a worldwide peacetime and unity.
I heard from several news sources that the IOC was coming under fire for supporting the Russian law in a way that, should a protest be made against the anti-gay law by any athlete, they would be met with harsh punishment and disqualification from the games. This is horrible news but, as an athlete who has spent a lifetime adhering to the rules of the IOC, a strict rule is that we as athletes should not partake in any protests, parades, or fanfare while traveling and competing under the IOC umbrella. We are also required to adhere to the laws of our host country, which seems only fair. You wouldn’t light a cigarette at your friend’s house if he or she is allergic to smoke.
Is it right? Something I’ve learned, in my 29 years of politics and being nice to people I hate just to keep fences mended, is that it’s never right. There will always be someone who doesn’t like your rules or laws. There will always be a positive and a negative to every argument. While in some ways the IOC wants to keep everyone safe, especially their Olympic Games, we are able to opinionate that the idea of support for an archaic law from medieval times as hate to the LGBT community and support of pink gulaging. There is so much money, prestige and politics that go on with the modern Olympic Games that the Olympic Movement that us athletes hold so dear, may be a relic from the past that may only be a faint memory by the 2030 Games.
Last week the World Track and Field Championships were held in Moscow, in fantastic form. Every TV picture I saw on my Russian satellite channels looked incredible, the Luzhniki stadium, the beautiful track and field and the worlds young people, coming together to race, jump and throw things. While all this beauty was happening the world was going crazy for someone to step out of legal bounds. Russian women won the 4 x 400 relay event in fabulous form, and as soon as the team took the medal stand, the athletes embraced. In Russia, like in France, it is customary to kiss your friends, family and teammates on the cheek, in Russia, sometimes four times. A photo was taken of Ksenia Ryzhova and Tatyana Firova kissing and immediately turned into a pro-gay poster when they were just doing what they culturally grew up with. Elena Isinbaeyeva, a glorious Russian sporting hero was giving an interview and misspoke while speaking English, a foreign language, and seemed to support Russia’s anti-gay law and was raked across the coals for it, when in reality she meant that it was not respectful to not adhere to your host nations laws when she was asked about Swedish and American athletes supporting the LGBT community in Moscow. She misspoke and we were all just waiting to publicly assassinate someone for being anti-gay.
More of the world is anti-gay than pro. This is something you accept as you grow into your own personal gayness or feelings towards gayness. While I believe that all men are created equal in all circumstances, the people I have to convince that I’m normal want to know I am in fact, normal. This law has gotten so much attention because it deserves it, it is human rights violations to the core, but while we all try to fight our way through it and attack everything from a pole vaulter, to the Olympic Games to low level Russian government officials, we seem to be morphing into the mindless killing abilities of a Tiger Shark. Complete disregard for what we’re eating so long as we get from point A to point B. I urge you all to continue to think of the Russian LGBT and how we can help them in a positive way to be equal and live without fear. This fight isn’t about the Olympics, it’s not about vodka or a return to communism, this fight is about our friends in Russia, people we share our home with.