GB Snowsport freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy is backing Tom Daley’s “mission” to stop countries which have a poor record on LGBTQ+ rights from competing at the Olympic Games.
The Sochi 2014 slopestyle silver medalist, who switched competitive allegiance from the USA to GB two years ago, became the first Olympic skier to come out as gay in 2015 - and has since blazed a trail by speaking up for the LGBTQ+ community.
Daley, who won Olympic diving gold with Matty Lee at Tokyo 2020, recently said he wants to lead a campaign to block nations from the Games if they punish homosexuality, and Kenworthy is fully on board with that.
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“I think that would be incredible, I actually think that would send a really clear message,” Kenworthy told Eurosport.
“I think that the IOC has tremendous power, one - to not host the Games in countries that persecute LGBTQ people, and two, to withhold that right for countries that have exemplary stances on human rights issues.
“I feel like that actually will force countries to make positive changes that will impact millions of people's lives. I also agree that if countries are granted permission to compete at the Games, it's missing an opportunity where we could withhold that right.
“Countries could abide by certain guidelines and if you're not, then you don't get to compete at the Games. I think that actually would create change for good.”
Rules on protesting at the Olympics were relaxed for the first time ahead of the Tokyo Games in the summer, as long as they are not during official ceremonies, like podium presentations. It led to many athletes continuing the movement to take a knee, highlighting racial discrimination.
In China, there could be similar protests. The United States has confirmed it will be conducting a diplomatic boycott due to human rights concerns. Homosexuality is legal in the country, but it is also not necessarily promoted. Kenworthy says if athletes want to use the platform to make a point, they should do it.
“It's really important to speak out on behalf of injustice that you see in the world, and I think that when you're an athlete, you're competing at the Games, you're given an elevated platform and your voice is amplified,” he said.
I think it's just more important than ever to speak up for what you believe in and speak up for communities that are marginalised or further marginalised.
“Despite China's kind of grey stance on the LGBTQ community, their stance on human rights issues, in general, is appalling. I think that people should speak out.”
Kenworthy's intervention comes at a time when athletes in a range of sports are finding their voices and protesting on behalf of causes in various regions of the world.
Lewis Hamilton won the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday in a rainbow helmet, having described the state's policies around LGBTQ+ issues as "pretty terrifying. There are changes that need to be made."
Meanwhile, almost all Premier League footballers continue to take the knee prior to kick-off to protest against racial injustice.
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