LGBTQ athletes at the Olympics

Coming out at the Olympics, sport can be inclusive

Tokyo 2020 has the highest number of lGBTQ athletes at the Olympics ever. This has often been defined as the “rainbow Games” with at least 178 out athletes. During the 2012 Olympics, only 23 of them were publicly out. The  majority of them are women, who Outnumber men by about a 8-1 margin. At least three of these women come from the Italian team. One in particular, she came out after wining the bronze medal.

Thanks to my girlfriend

Lucilla Boari is an Italian archer, who cried after wining the bronze in her specialty. She cried even more, after seeing a video message that was just for her. It was a smiley girl, with a picture of Homer Simpson in the background and a drawing board filled with balloons and congratulations. In the recorded message, the girl with long hair said to the camera, “I love you so much, I am so proud of you, I can’t wait for you to come back and give you a hug.” The person delivering the message was archer Sanne de Laat.

“Thanks to my girlfriend,” Boari replied. And that was her coming out, not hiding anymore her love and identity. Crying and holding her medalists’ bouquet, the Italian athlete said, “yes, that is my girlfriend Sanne.” Since she is also the first female athlete from Italy to win a medal in this Olympic specialty, the medal and message meant even more.

I love judo and my girlfriend

While the Italian athlete Alice Bellandi didn’t triumph at Tokyo 2020, she certainly won in her personal life. During an interview to La Repubblica, the judo champion spoke of her love for the sport and for Chiara, her girlfriend. The two met near the gym where Bellandi trains and they instantly liked each other. So much so that Chiara was the first girlfriend Alice ever brought home to meet the family.

“Society is becoming more open and free,” said Bellandi, “and the sports world is losing its male-centered aura. It’s truly becoming an inclusive place, for everyone.” Then, she made a final appeal to the politicians back in Italy, encouraging them to approve the Zan Law against homophobia.

Wearing the rainbow band

For LGBTQ athletes at the Olympics, symbols are important. And what’s more representative of the community than the rainbow? The captain of the German hockey team, Nike Lorenz, wanted to wear the rainbow band, proud, during the competition.

“Behind us athletes are real humans and we do have political opinions,” she told DW from the Olympic Village. “While doing sport we deserve to be the humans that we are.”BThe International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) has rules on attire and even on athlete expression. So, the captain had to fight to wear the band on her ankle.

It’s the Rule 50, which permits or bans the competitors from expressing themselves during specific times. They can express what they want, as long as they don’t bother the others or they don’t target one specific person. Still, protests on the podium aren’t allowed. This rule is full of ambiguities and the German player challenged them. And she won, proudly wearing her rainbow band at the Olympics.

So, the world of sports is opening up to the real world, where there are no crystal-clear lines. Thanks to LGBTQ athletes at the Olympics like Tom Daley, the future looks brighter. Even thanks to athletes like the Italian volleyball player Paola Egonu, talented and outspoken.

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