Greg Louganis doesn’t think American athletes should boycott the Sochi Olympics after Russia passed sweeping anti-gay legislation this year, but does think they can still make a statement.
Louganis, a former diver and Olympic gold medalist, said a total boycott of the games would only hurt the athletes who have been working their entire lives to reach this point. It’s something he would know, as Louganis was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that boycotted the Moscow Games.
Instead, Greg Louganis said American athletes should dedicated their performances at February’s Winter Olympics to their gay friends and relatives, making a more personal protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws.
The law in question is an “anti-propaganda” measure that makes almost any outward display of homosexuality illegal. Under the guise of protecting children, the law aims to bar any propaganda about “nontraditional sexual relations” and leaves those who violate the law open to fines.
Greg Louganis, who is openly gay, spoke about the law at a Capitol Hill meeting of the House LGBT Equality Caucus and Human Rights First, an international human rights group. He admitted that he has faced criticism within the LGBT community for not supporting a total boycott, but said he believes that a more personal protest would be even more fitting.
Louganis said as he understands the law, Olympic athletes in Sochi could potentially be in trouble for wearing rainbow pins in support of the LGBT movement. That, he said, is why he thinks athletes should publicly thank gay friends and relatives who have supported them in their road to the Olympics.
“If you have a supportive aunt, uncle, cousin, friend who is gay, you don’t win a gold medal by yourself,” he said. “There is a team of people behind you. And to recognize those people is a way athletes can show their support of the LGBT community and what’s going on in Russia.”
Louganis said he fears for athletes, saying that his understanding of the law, they face arrest and fines for even wearing rainbow pins or other support for gay rights.
“What’s disturbing is how vague the law is,” Louganis said. “These vigilante groups are emerging, basically gangs, targeting LGBT people, especially youth. It’s so disturbing that these abuses are happening and there is no one to go to. There is only fear.”
Greg Louganis could have reason to be fearful. Vitaly Milonov, who co-sponsored the bill against “non-traditional relationships,” said the government is bound to enforce the law, even if it means arresting Olympic athletes.
The International Olympic Committee said the Russian government assured them that gay foreign athletes have no reason to fear arrest, however,
In a statement, the committee said:
“The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation,…The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.”
Greg Louganis said he would be willing to go to Russia and protest the law himself, but worries he might be a distraction.