This article was published on August 10th, 2016
The 2016 Summer Olympic Games will see LGBT history being made with the highest number of out athletes competing in the games. A record 45 LGBT athletes are participating in this years games, including the first ever same sex married couple, both of whom are competing. Hockey players Kate Richardson-Walsh and Helen Richardson-Walsh will be representing Britain on the international stage as wife and wife.
The Olympics is an incredible event, a time when countries from all around the world come together to compete on equal grounds for the chance to showcase their greatest athletes. It is a time when countries with varying degrees of social and legal LGBT acceptance compete together on the world stage. It is the single greatest global arena in which to perform as an athlete, against your peers, regardless of race or sexuality.
These athletes performing side-by-side does raise an interesting question, however. The one that questions just how many closeted athletes are representing countries in which being gay can carry harsh legal penalties. Sporting events should be inclusive; they are one of the few areas in life in which one can excel regardless of background, because sporting ability transcends many traditional social barriers.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has openly stated that they are committed to the promotion of anti discriminatory practices and the protection of diversity within the Olympic games. This came following the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics, which were held in Russia amid controversy concerning Russian anti-propaganda laws, which effectively ban public discussion surrounding gay rights. Following huge protests and statements from openly gay Olympic athletes, the IOC introduced a rule that prohibits countries bidding to host Olympic games if they have and enforce discriminatory laws in their countries.
The Olympic games are a unique and special event because they are one of the few times where many countries around the world come together. They are massively important, both culturally and historically and have the power to truly change the world and make our societies and the world a better place. The fact that there are more LGBT athletes this year is fantastic, although we have a long way to go until we achieve global equality. The 2016 Summer Olympic Games is a great leap forwards for the LGBT communities around the world and it deserves our celebration.