Greg Louganis is opposed to a boycott of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics.
Instead of boycotting the Olympics, Louganis urged athletes to dedicate their performances to the gay family and friends who have supported them.
“If you have a supportive aunt, uncle, cousin, friend who is gay, you don’t win a gold medal by yourself. 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 following his participation in a Capitol Hill briefing on Friday.
During the briefing of the House LGBT Equality Caucus hosted by U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Human Rights First, Louganis reiterated his opposition to a boycott.
As a member of the 1980 US Olympic team that boycotted the Moscow Games, Louganis can claim first-hand experience to inform his position.
As the Games prepare to return to Russia, tensions have surfaced over a law that was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. The law bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.”
It’s still not clear how the law could effect athletes and spectators at the Games next February.
“I know that there are questions – can you wear a rainbow flag, a . . . pin in support of non-discrimination,” Louganis said at the briefing on Friday.
Louganis has sparked outrage from some in the LGBT community. He admitted to receiving hate mail for refusing to support a boycott: “I was told, ‘How can I call myself a gay man?'”
Louganis reached out to one of his critics and said the two have since became friends.
“I commended the guy who was critical of me. All I’m trying to do is incite action. That’s all he’s trying to do. We’re all on the same side. If you say boycott, that’s how you address the issue. I am saying no boycott, but maybe there is another way.”
Although he boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Louganis had the opportunity to compete in the 1984 Los Angeles Games and the 1988 Seoul Games, winning gold medals at both.
But Louganis realizes he may have been an exception. In an opinion piece on PolicyMic, he wrote “other athletes were not so lucky. Some of those who missed the 1980 games never had another chance to shine. This boycott hurt the wrong people, taking a toll on prominent athletes more than the country it targeted.”
President Obama has denounced the new Russian law. On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said “I think we’ve been very clear in our views about both the laws in place and the issues surrounding LGBT rights and our expectations of Russia when it comes to conducting the Olympics.”
The White House hasn’t announced whom it will send to represent the US at the Sochi Games ceremonies. Organizations such as Human Rights First have urged the White House to send prominent LGBT people as well as allies of the LGBT community and those who advocate on its behalf.
Louganis said he recently heard he may be asked to be a part of the delegation, but hasn’t been officially invited yet. “If it would be helpful, I would be there in a heartbeat.”
Image via YouTube