Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Edge Boston: Gay Athletes Get Their Own House for Vancouver Olympics

11.5.9 by Killian Melloy

Olympic athletes who, like Australian gold medalits Matthew Mitcham, are gay or lesbian will have their own house in Vancouver next winter
Olympic athletes who, like Australian gold medalits Matthew Mitcham, are gay or lesbian will have their own house in Vancouver next winter   
Next year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, will feature something new: a house specifically for gay and lesbian athletes.

A May 9 article in the 
Vancouver Sun reported on the development, which is the work of GayWhistler, which aims to provide housing and a meeting area for gay athletes, their families, and others.

The article quoted organizer Dean Nelson, who noted, "It is really important to have a safe space for out athletes, coaches, fans and allies to come and hang out, share their stories, trade pins and have fun," said Dean Nelson, one of the organizers.

While the new housing offering won’t cause the kind of buzz that selecting a city as an Olympic host does, or that adding a new sport might, in terms of GLBT equality in the sporting world it’s actually quite notable, indicated historian Kevin Wamsley.

Said Wamsely, "For a traditionally conservative festival like the Olympic Games, I think this is significant."

Wamsley, who the article said is a University of Western Ontario professor with an interest in the history of the Olympics, said that the International Olympic Committee "has been skirting around the issue of sexuality since it began."

Added Wamsley, "That’s because sport is one of those forms of culture that has produced a gender binary for western and eastern civilizations. 

"When you start to blur the lines of sexuality, people in the past have gotten the hair on their neck up."

The specialized accommodations originated as part of a bid to bring the North American Gay Games to Vancouver, the article said, quoting Nelson as saying, "The Olympics is generally a pretty homophobic structure where being out is not really encouraged.

"We’re hoping we can be a catalyst and change that perception, that you can be your authentic self."

As media reports focusing on the breathtaking victory of Australian diver Matthew Mitcham in Beijing in 2008 noted, only a handful of openly gay and lesbian athletes competed in last year’s Summer Olympics, even though the great number of Olympic athletes--around 10,000--statistically guarantees that anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand gay or lesbian Olympians must have been competing. 

Gay sports resource 
OutSports.com listed the ten out gay athletes from last summer, most of whom were women (including one couple who were both athletes); Mitcham was the only openly gay man, and only two openly lesbian athletes were from the U.S.

The OutSports article addressed the numbers, saying, "Simple math illustrates the likely range of gay athletes in Beijing, using the 10,708 total participants. 

"If 10% were gay, this would mean 1,070 athletes," the article continued.

"Even the extremely low range of 1% would leave 107 gay athletes. 

"Researchers such as Eric Anderson of the University of Bath in England (and a longtime Outsports contributor) say that the percentage of gays in sports mirrors the percentage in the entire population (estimated at between 2% and 10%)," the article noted.

The vast majority, however, have remained in the closet: not an uncommon phenomenon in the sports world in general.

The article referenced openly gay Canadian swimmer and gold medalist Mark Tewksbury, who had lent his support to the Gay Whistler house.

The IOC is not officially part of the housing effort for GLBT athletes, the article said; nor is the Vancouver Organizing Committee.

Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.

1 comment:

  1. Pan Pacific Vancouver
    Rolls Out the Rainbow Carpet for Vancouver Gay Pride Week

    June 16, 2009, Vancouver, BC – Gay Pride Week in Vancouver will have a new ally this year at the Pan Pacific Vancouver. From July 20th – August 10th the hotel is rolling out the rainbow coloured carpet to ensure guests have a great time and feel welcome.

    The Pan Pacific will be serving up rainbow coloured martinis in Cascades Lounge, adorning guest rooms with rainbow coloured beads and flying rainbow flags from the front entrance. “Gay Pride Week in Vancouver is a huge event, and we want to ensure guests know that the party starts here,” said Stephen Peters, Hotel Manager. “The Pan Pacific extolls the values of authenticity, diversity and inclusivity. We want to ensure that everyone feels welcome.”

    Special Pan Pacific Pride Package on sale now:
    Stay July 20 – August 10, 2009
    $30 off best available rate
    Full buffet breakfast for two adults in Café Pacifica (value of $60)
    Taxi transfer from the hotel to Davie Street for the festivities
    Variety of rainbow coloured beads to decorate your guest room
    Two complimentary rainbow martinis to enjoy in Cascades Lounge or the Terrace, overlooking the harbour, Stanley Park and the North Shore mountains
    Turn down service
    Late check out of 1pm

    Reservations and enquiries: Pan Pacific Vancouver direct: 604 662 8111, (800) 663-1515 CAN; (800) 937-1515 USA; (800) 514-9086 Mexico.