LGBT Rights & Olympic Responsibility

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell (L) protests against Russia's anti-gay stance in London February 5, 2014. The protest was part of Global Speakout for Russia, which took place in more than 30 cities across the globe, ahead of the Sochi 2014 Games. (Reuters/Paul Hackett)


Activists push athletes to take a stand for human rights while the world is watching. But is it too much of a distraction from the competition. The reality is the Olympics are about athletics... performance and winning. So are the Olympic Games an appropriate place to lobby for social change like LGBT rights?

Why being gay in Sochi is more daring than aerial skiing ...

Protesters took to the streets this week in twenty cities around the world -- including Canada -- to condemn Russia's anti-gay laws. But the President of the International Olympic Committee --- Thomas Bach ---- is not pleased about the international movement. He says the Games should not be used as a stage for political dissent.

Are the Olympic Games is an appropriate place to lobby for social change?

  • Beckie Scott is a member of the IOC Athletes' Commission. She also sits on the Canadian Olympic Committee's Executive Committee and Athletes' Council. We reached Beckie Scott in Sochi.

  • Erin McLeod is a goalie for the Canadian Women's Soccer team - she won bronze in 2012. She was in Vancouver.

  • Kris Burley represented Canada in the sport of gymnastics at the 1996 Olympics and was the Captain of the Men's gymnastic team from 1995-1999. He was in Toronto.

  • Bruce Kidd is an Olympian, an honorary member of the Canadian Olympic Committee and now a Professor and Professor in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto.

We did request an interview with the International Olympic Committee about athletes speaking out during the games. No one was available but they did send a statement clarifying their position. It reads:

"The Olympic Games are about bringing people together. Our responsibility is to protect the athletes who might be pressured to use the Games as a platform to make statements. Athletes are of course free to express themselves. We simply ask them not to make any protests and demonstrations of any kind. This is to ensure that athletes from over 200 nations can continue to compete in a neutral environment".

What role do you think social activism should play in the Olympics? Should athletes be speaking out on human rights issues? Or should they focus on competing -- and leave the activism to another place and time?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Elizabeth Hoath.

Other segments from today's special Olympic edition of The Current

Steve Podborski: Team Canada's Chef de Mission at the Sochi Games

After the 2010 Vancouver Games expectations
are high for Team Canada

Elite Athletes: Genetics, Training or Mental Toughness?

Mark Tewksbury gets today's Last Word on the Olympics

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