A senior member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suggested today that President Obama and gay rights advocates are participating in “political terrorism” by raising concerns about Russia’s anti-gay crackdown and how it might affect the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia next month.
While many news outlets already noted Italian IOC member Mario Pescante’s criticism of the Obama administration for sending “four lesbians” as part of the US delegation to the Winter Olympics, most missed what else Pescante said. He accused the United States, and gay rights advocates, of being political terrorists akin to “Chechnya.”
AP for example, has Pescante’s initial comments about the lesbians:
“It’s absurd that a country like that sends four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights have (been established),” Mario Pescante said at an Italian Olympic Committee meeting in Milan on Wednesday, in comments widely reported by Italian media. “The games should not be an occasion and a stage to promote rights that sports supports daily.”
What AP missed was Pescante’s larger point about the US, gays, and those who raised concerns about the Tibet, etc. at previous Olympics, participating in “political terrorism.”
Here’s the original Italian and the translation into English (I checked with a friend still awake in Italy, she said the translation, and my interpretation of the language, is accurate, and incredibly offensive):
“E’ vero che ci sono problemi legati alle inquietudini in tutte le parti del mondo, ma c’è anche un altro tipo di terrorismo – aggiunge – politico, fatto in nome di diritti magari condivisi da tutti che però non capisco perché debbano essere avanzati solo in occasione delle Olimpiadi”.
“It’s true that there are problems related to concerns in all parts of the world, but there is also another kind of terrorism – he adds – political, done in the name of rights shared by all, yet I do not understand why they should be advanced only for the Olympics.”
Right before that paragraph, Pescante mentions Chechnya, where the Russians are fighting an ongoing war with separatists. Pescante seems to be suggesting that Chechnya is actual terrorism, and then he pivots to the political form of terrorism when talking about President Obama and his “four lesbians.”
In fact, President Obama sent two openly-lesbian athletes, Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow, as part of the US delegation to the 2014 Winter Olympics. He also sent Brian Boitano, who has since come out as gay. That’s 3 gay people overall, and 2 lesbians – at least openly. Who are the other two lesbians?
Putting that aside, the more important issue is that the International Olympic Committee has been unfriendly to human rights since its inception. And they handled the Russian gay crackdown, and Russia’s threats to jail gay Olympic athletes, horribly. But to have a senior member of the International Olympic Committee accuse the US, President Obama, and gay rights advocates, of “terrorism,” is really beyond the pale.