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Australian Olympic Diver Matthew Mitcham Covers Dolly Parton’s 'Dumb Blonde': VIDEO

  Matthew mitcham covers dolly parton's dumb blonde

Procrastinating before his end-of-semester exams, Australian 2008 Olympic champion diver Matthew Mitcham performs Dolly Parton’s "Dumb Blonde" with his ukelele.

We’ve previously featured Mitcham performing "Single Ladies" on his YouTube channel.

Mitcham gained media coverage in 2008 because reporters thought he was the first openly gay Australian to compete at the Olympic Games, an honor which was actually taken by diver Mathew Helm who won the silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics in the men's 10m platform.

Watch Matthew’s performance of "Dumb Blonde", AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Australian Olympic Diver Matthew Mitcham Covers Dolly Parton’s 'Dumb Blonde': VIDEO" »


Canadian Olympian Luger John Fennell: 'I Am Gay'

John Fennell, who competed for Canada in luge at the 1014 Witner Olympics in Sochi, has come out as gay in an interview with the Calgary Herald:

FennellNo more secrets. No more changing pronouns in conversations about personal relationships. No more fretting over perceived cracks in the story.

“It’s suffocating,” Fennell says of life inside the proverbial closet, even in the year 2014. “You have to play this game of, ‘who knows?’ You can’t let off any vibes or secrets. You have to act super macho. You have to be hyper aware of your mannerisms and to not let off any vibes that could get detected. It’s very exhausting.

“It’s an all-consuming paranoia of who could find out through what means.”

Fennell said he felt "isolated and alone" going into Sochi, which is part of what prompted his coming out, which he did while he was there:

“I was a little distraught over the lack of leadership going into Sochi,” he says of competing in country with laws forbidding “propaganda” of homosexuality to minors. “There were a few out girls, but to my knowledge there weren’t any out guys, and I know they’re there.

“I’m an athlete. Realistically, I put on a spandex suit and slide down a mountain. I’m no message board for political movements. But we need to have leaders in our sport community. If it takes a 19 year old to step up and to that, I’m more than willing to use my voice or the platform that I’ve been given to give a figurehead to gay youth in sport.”

Fennell, who said he was a "basket case" going into Russia, met with out Olympian Mark Tewksbury, who mentored him and inspired Fennell to find the courage to come out to his team while he was in Russia, and to his family when he got home.

 “You know that feeling when you’re falling asleep and you have that feeling that you’re falling, and you hit the ground, and you’re suddenly awake?” Fennell asks. “Well, that’s what it was like for me. I was totally, fully conscious all at once. A whole new aspect of myself opened up and it’s very liberating.”

Read the full article at the Calgary Herald...


Athlete Ally’s Hudson Taylor Explains Athletes' Silence on Gay Rights in Sochi

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On a SXSW panel discussion about the intersection of LGBT issues and sports, Athlete Ally’s Hudson Taylor shared his thoughts on the surprising lack of Olympic athletes who publicly spoke out in Sochi about Russia’s anti-gay laws. 

S2_sxswTaylor said he was originally optimistic about using the international spotlight of the Olympic platform to advocate for LGBT equality and pointed to the numerous current and former athletes (and even Rihanna) who embraced his Principle 6 protest campaign before the Games began. Ultimately, however, Taylor said that the dozen or so Olympic athletes who both competed in Sochi and were also backers of his Principle 6 campaign failed to garner the medals that would have provided them with the necessary media coverage to truly make a lasting statement. 

'68 olympicsTaylor also pointed to the iconic 1968 Olympic photo of John Carlos and Tommie Smith raising their fists in protest of racial injustice and lamented the reality that a similar push for gay rights failed to materialize in Sochi. 

But despite the missed opportunity, Taylor said he was looking ahead to the 2018 World Cup in Russia) and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar as future opportunities to use an international sporting event to shine a light on discriminatory laws. Qatar remains one of the countries where homosexuality is still illegal

In my skinIn the meantime, Taylor stressed the need for LGBT athletes and their straight allies to stand up and speak out against the culture of homophobia in sport. He pointed to fellow panelist Brittney Griner (who was there discussing her new book In My Skin) as a great example of an athlete who is changing the sporting world just by being out and proud. Ultimately, however, Taylor said there is much work to be done in order to make the sporting world a more comfortable place for LGBT athletes. 

“While the reality is we’ve seen a lot of progress in the sports world over the last few years, we still have a long way to go,” Taylor said. “There are still a lot of closeted athletes. There are still people being bullied, being isolated because of their sexual orientation. We still only have one [gay athlete] in the NBA and maybe one in the [upcoming] NFL.”


Why Didn’t More Olympians Speak Out in Sochi Against Russia’s Anti-gay Laws?

German olympians

With the constant stream of athletes, politicians, and companies speaking out strongly against Russia’s oppressive anti-gay laws in the months leading up to the Olympics, you might have thought that Russian authorities would have their hands full dealing with up-in-arms activists once the Games actually began.

Unfortunately for the LGBT citizens of Russia, the public criticism from Olympic athletes was, for the most part, muted in Sochi. The Wall Street Journal reports:  

There were no high-profile proactive statements or blatant symbolic gestures by athletes. A few athletes criticized the law when asked by reporters to weigh in, and a Belgian performer who supports gay rights displayed rainbow colors, a symbol of the gay-rights movement, during her performance at the Games.

LuxuriaBut the only really noticeable pro-gay act inside Olympic Park came when Italian Vladimir Luxuria [pictured], a transgender gay rights activist, showed up at a women's hockey game in a rainbow skirt after broadcasting that she planned a protest. Police removed her from the park. A day earlier police detained her briefly after she unfurled a "gay is okay" banner outside the park.

So what happened?

Ashley wagnerThe paper points to the many athletes who said they had already gone on record against the anti-gay laws and felt that using the Olympic platform to promote a political or human rights cause would be an unnecessary distraction from the competition.

"I really have already voiced my opinion and spoken out," said U.S. figure skater Ashley Wagner [pictured], responding to questions from reporters. Wagner has been outspoken in her criticism of the Russian laws. "My stand against the LGBT legislation here in Russia is really the most that I can do right now," she said. "I'm here to compete first and foremost."

How athletes in Sochi handled concerns over gay rights varied. Belle Brockhoff, the gay Olympic snowboarder who had promised to “rip on [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] ass” during Sochi interviews, failed to medal and was given minimal press coverage. Gay former Olympian Johnny Weir’s decision to work the Games for NBC but not directly address gay rights in Russia was met with scorn from gay rights groups in the U.S. The German team, meanwhile, debuted a rather gay-looking rainbow outfit for the Games [pictured above], but maintained a steadfast denial that it was meant as a protest statement against Russia's anti-gay laws. Other athletes felt that wearing the 'Principle 6' line of protest merchandise was the proper avenue for Olympians to (indirectly) speak out for LGBT rights. 

Billie jean king_2Tennis legend Billie Jean King, who was among the gay athletes in President Obama’s Olympic delegation, said she supported athletes’ decision to avoid public demonstrations that could get them booted, but disagreed that the Olympics isn’t a place for politics. 

"It is an unbelievable opportunity to exchange ideas and hear each other," she said, standing on a hotel balcony just outside Olympic Park. "Hopefully, out of all these athletes we will have some teachers."

To believe the Olympics can remain entirely separate from politics, she says, amounts to "keeping your head in the sand."

'68 saluteIndeed, using the Olympics as a platform for social activism is nothing new, with the most memorable incident being the black power salute by medal winners John Carlos and Tommie Smith in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. It’s sad to think then, that these Olympics came and went without a similar moment of solidarity with LGBT equality, especially when such international attention was given to the issue. Just imagine how iconic (and bold) of a statement could have been made if a simple kiss was shared between two same-sex medal winners on an Olympic podium while in Sochi.

Now that would have kept the conversation going long after the Olympic spotlight and journalists faded from Sochi. 

The International Olympic Committee, which is under pressure to be more selective in its picking of future host cities, has said it’s impractical to eliminate potentially controversial countries, otherwise the Olympics would be held “in only two places.” Putin, for his part, praised the IOC for taking a “risk” by entrusting the Games with Russia. In a post-Olympics meeting attended by IOC president Thomas Bach and committee members, Putin said one of the main aims of the Games was to show off to the world the new face of post-Soviet Russia, a country he has run since 2000. 

"It was important to show that we are a country with goodwill which knows how to meet guests and create a celebration not just for itself but all sports fans in the world."

With the Games over, however, one can't help but feel a sense of mounting concern for Russia's "goodwill" towards its already marginalized LGBT community. The removal of parenting rights for gay couples in Russia, for example, could very well be the next step in Putin's anti-gay agenda. 


Billie Jean King Arrives In Sochi, Talks Gay Rights

King

Billie Jean King arrived in Sochi, Russia this weekend as a member of the presidential delegation to today's closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics. She came to the country with a message to the LGBT community.

The McClatchy Foreign Staff reports on her thoughts on holding the games in Russia:

“Having the Winter Olympics here, the situation here in Russia, has opened up dialogue,” King said Saturday. “I’m always big on love over hate, and I think it’s important that everyone’s treated equally and good to each other. Hopefully, the LGBT community here in Russia knows that they’re not alone and we’ll learn from them.”

The also told the BBC she believes the International Olympic Committee should take into account a country's position on gay rights when considering it for the games.

"In the [bid] process it would be helpful. I would like to see it but I also understand it's not that easy." "If you can it would cut down the number of [eligible] countries. Sometimes it's good to go to a country where things aren't as good and help change things."I'm sure they'll [IOC] be looking at things differently the next time.

King had planned to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympics but canceled due to her mother's failing health. Her mother passed away on February 7.

Watch a short ESPN interview with King in which she talks about Russia, the Olympics and Vladimir Putin, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Billie Jean King Arrives In Sochi, Talks Gay Rights" »


Bob Costas: Russian Government 'Is Hostile To Gay Rights'

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Bob Costas took a moment during NBC's coverage last night to comment on the state of human rights in Russia, one the first times during the Sochi Olympics wherein the network has acknowledged the issue on air.

Said the newscaster:

The Sochi games have gone much better than many feared and predicted. So far security has held fast, venues have been praised, athletes and spectators have almost unanimously cited the warmth and hospitality of their hosts. All of which is truly wonderful but should not serve to obscure a larger and more lasting truth.

While in many significant ways, Russian citizens have better lives than Soviet citizens of a generation ago, there’s is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria - and that’s just a partial list.

The Sochi games are Vladimir Putin's games, from their inception to their conclusion, and all points in between. And if they are successful on their own terms, as appears to be the case, then at least in some corners it will help to burnish the image of a regime with which much of the world takes significant issue. No amount of Olympic glory can mask those realities any more than a biathlon gold medal, though hard-earned and deeply satisfying as it is, can put out the fires in Kiev.

 Watch the full clip here.


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