From the beginning, as athletes from across the country competed for a spot on this year’s Team USA at the Rio Olympics, murmurs of inclusion for queer athletes had dominated conversations. With a total of 47 LGBTQ+ athletes across the globe competing in this year’s games, we should be prouder than ever to be queer.
As the opening ceremony commenced, we saw the cheerful faces of our team and those from every country around the world. We even caught a glimpse of the doppelganger to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un waving a rainbow flag. And as we closed another chapter in the long struggle for LGBTQ+ equality with the closing ceremony, we reflect on the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in this year’s Olympic Games.
The first same-sex married couple in Olympic history reached the finals in Field Hockey. Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh led Team Brittan to win the gold medal after competing in the last 3 games, starting in 2000 at Sydney’s XXVII Olympiad. The couple plans to hang up their gear after reaching their goals as Olympic gold medalists.
NBC, owner of the Olympic broadcast in the United States failed to acknowledge the same-sex partners of the Olympians. We’ve made huge strides in the world of sports, from gay football players to the refusal of the NBA to host the All-Star Games in North Carolina after the HB2 bill was enacted. But when it comes to broadcasting, most networks are still playing it safe. NBC paid no mention to any of the athlete’s same-sex partners (some of whom were married) in their coverage. One announcer went so far as to refer to a players wife as her husband. While the news conglomerate’s responsibility is not to report on the loved ones of the athletes, they certainly did the LGBTQ+ community no favors by ignoring them.
The Daily Beast journalist Nico Hines outed closeted athletes in the Olympic Village. In an article posted during the games, Hines recalled his time on a variety of hookup and dating apps while writing an article on the supposed debauchery amongst the athletes during their time away from the stadium. He chose Grindr for one experiment and gave physical descriptions of the athletes he chatted up, essentially outing them as gay. This was a devastating blow for those athletes whose countries of origin do not support the LGBTQ+ community. The Daily Beast first responded by removing the physical descriptions and changing the title of the article, excusing the piece as exploratory journalism. They later removed the article from their site and issued a proper apology.
Weighing both the good and the bad, the Rio Olympic Games surely mark a milestone in our fight for equality and acceptance. The world of sports has not been too kind to LGBTQ+ athletes in the past, but we’re starting to turn that corner. Whether by ski or by foot, by bicycle or by bobsled, by land or by water, we are making great strides towards our finish line.