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Reflecting on Rio: The good, the bad and the ugly
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2016-08-22

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When the caldron was extinguished Aug. 21, culminating the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a true mix of wide-ranging emotions endured—jubilation, celebration, anger and embarrassment.

And that was just a start of the look back at Rio 2016, from an LGBT perspective. Rio 2016 was the gayest Games ever, as at least 53 out athletes competed in Rio, according to Outsports and Olympic and LGBT historian Tony Scupham-Bilton. There also were three out coaches. There were 42 lesbian or bi women, 11 gay men and no out transgender Olympians.

The 2012 Summer Games in London featured 23 out LGBT athletes, it was reported. Others have come out publicly since they competed in London.

Rio also was about engagements, ice cream and racism from the LGBT side.

Yep, Rio 2016 was so much more than just Michael Phelps ( five golds, one silver ), Usain Bolt ( three golds ), Simone Biles ( four golds, one bronze ) and, of course, Ryan Lochte ( in the swimming pool and at a gas station in the wee hours of the morning ).

"In a country that typically has a bad reputation for LGBT acceptance, it was beautiful to see the country of Brazil, the Olympics, and the whole world accept these successful and openly gay athletes," said college swimmer Ayrton Kasemets, who attended Mundelein High School in Chicago's northwest suburbs and is openly gay.

"I would love to say thank you to the openly gay athletes ( who competed ) in Brazil for being visible and inspirational. This helps young LGBT and all who are closeted find hope and acceptance."

After all, the LGBT community was well represented in Rio. Almost half of the publicly out LGBT athletes competing in the Rio Olympics won a medal, Outsports reported. Of the 53 out athletes in Rio, 25 won a medal, including 10 athletes winning gold.

Elena Delle Donne of the Chicago Sky ( WNBA ) captured her first-ever Olympic gold weeks after confirming that she is in a lesbian relationship and engaged to be married. Delle Donne and the U.S. women's basketball team captured its sixth consecutive gold medal, trouncing Spain 101-72, in the final. The team had other out players, including Seimone Augustus, Brittney Griner and Angel McCoughtry.

The four basketball stars were the only out U.S. residents to win medals in Rio.

Other golden athletes in Rio included boxer Nicola Adams ( Great Britain ) and track & field star Caster Semenya ( South Africa ). In addition, married couple Kate and Helen Richardson-Walsh, along with teammate Susannah Townsend, scored field hockey gold for Great Britain. Rafaela Silva ( Brazil ) won judo gold. The Richardson-Walshes were the first married couple to play together in an Olympic match.

Eleven out Olympians left Rio with a silver medal, while four had to settle for bronze, including one of the most well-known out athletes in the world: British diver Tom Daley, who medaled in the men's synchronized 10-meter platform.

"It is safe to say that the Summer Olympics 2016 will not be forgotten anytime soon—for good and bad reasons," said Michael Erwin, president of the predominantly gay Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association. "CMSA congratulates the record number of athletes who participated out and proud in these Games, especially the U.S. Women's Basketball Team, which won gold."

Negative news also ran from Rio 2016. Some really bad, sad, totally unprofessional news. Some might even say it was scary.

The Daily Beast posted a story online during the Games about how athletes use dating apps, including Grindr, to connect. The Daily Beast reporter said that he got three dates in his first hour of trying and also detailed what some men wrote on their Grindr profiles.

The reporter's detail about the men he mentioned could have outed athletes and, potentially, threatened their safety.

The Daily Beast eventually withdrew the story that led to worldwide negatively and concern.

"Today we did not uphold a deep set of The Daily Beast's values," a statement on The Daily Beast website said. "These values — which include standing up to bullies and bigots, and specifically being a proudly, steadfastly supportive voice for LGBT people all over the world — are core to our commitment to journalism and to our commitment to serving our readers."

The International Olympic Committee ( IOC ) said The Daily Beast story was "simply unacceptable."

"The Daily Beast article was horrific," Erwin said. "It shows that the LGBTQA community remains under attack and even though we have come a long way, there is still a lot of ground ahead of us. I hope that it does not push athletes back into the closet because we need positive LGBTQA athletic role models to look up to."

Out talk show host Ellen DeGeneres also was embroiled in an Olympic scandal—and it stemmed from a joke.

She tweeted a doctored image of herself riding the back of gold medalist Usain Bolt, a speedster and nine-time Olympian. The tweet's caption was, "This is how I'm running errands from now on."

Online comments challenged the photo as racist.

DeGeneres defended herself, tweeting, "I am highly aware of the racism that exists in our country. It is the furthest thing from who I am."

Bolt has yet to reply.

From the love department, the gold medal could go to Brazilians. After the first-ever women's rugby sevens gold medal final, a Brazilian player and her girlfriend of two years got engaged on the pitch. Marjorie Enya, a volunteer worker at Deodoro Stadium, the site of the match, walked onto the pitch after crowds had dispersed and proposed to Brazil player Isadora Cerullo. She made an "emotional speech," according to BBC, and then the two embraced.

"As soon as I knew she was in the squad I thought I have to make this special," Enya told BBC. "I wanted to show people that love wins."

From the sweet side of sports, specifically, sweet-tasting, the gold goes to out Tongan swimmer Amini Fonua who actually would have claimed silver and bronze, too. He took to social media to share a video of himself spreading cheer around the Olympic Village—by handing out free ice cream—to volunteers at a hot tennis facility.

"This is how we do in Tonga—show our appreciation to the workers with ice cream. We love you Brazil, we love the volunteers. Thank you for all the hard work you're doing; some of us appreciate what you do for us. So we give you ice cream— the easiest way to make friends is with ice cream," he said.

Fonua also was more than outspoken against The Daily Beast and the reporter Nico Hines.

"As an out gay athlete from a country that is still very homophobic, @thedailybeast ought to be ashamed," he tweeted.

That was the start of Fonua's social-media assault. Others:

—"@NicoHines You fucking disgust me. Do you realize how many people's lives you just ruined without any good reason but clickbait journalism?"

—"@NicoHines, Some of these people you just outed are my FRIENDS. With family and lives that are forever going to be affected by this."

Fonua also tweeted a photo of his tanned back, his perfect tan line, and said, "Yo @nicohines & @thedailybeast - if what you were looking for on Grindr was hot ass ( and I don't see any other reason why you'd be on there ) here you have mine in all its proud glory. Now, kiss it and fuck off ."

The International Federation of Gay Games, on Aug. 22, sent a letter to Thomas Bach, president of the IOC. FGG congratulated the IOC on Rio 2016, and the letter is as follows:

"This success is in terms of not just the execution of the games themselves, but more so the IOC's commitment to build a better world through sport:

—Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter now includes specific mention of sexual orientation.

—Your quote from the Opening Ceremony speech, "In this Olympic world, there is one universal rule for everybody. We are all equal."

—Statement that future host cities should be required to sign anti-discrimination agreements as part of their contracts.

—Improved number of out LGBT athletes and athletes feeling safe enough to compete openly at the Rio Games.

—Inclusion of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team.

—Widespread condemnation response to the homophobic Grindr outing piece in the Daily Beast.

The FGG letter was signed by FGG co-presidents Joanie Evans and Kurt Dahl.

"The Federation of Gay Games applauds your leadership and focus on human rights in partnership with the international LGBT+ sport community," the letter stated. "We look forward to further developing our relationship and continued dialogue to promote our common interest of sport; sport for all; and sport free from discrimination. We invite you to join us for Gay Games 10, Paris 2018, and our shared motto of 'All Equal.'"


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