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Olympic-size closet: where are all the out lesbian and gay athletes at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City? (Winter Games).

When the Olympic contenders march on Salt Lake City's Rice-Eccles Stadium for the February 8 opening ceremonies to the Winter Games, they will be strutting proudly behind flags from around the world. But it appears that none of these athletes will be waving the rainbow flag--openly gay and lesbian athletes seem to be conspicuously absent from this year's sports extravaganza.

Though the absence of out athletes is disappointing, it isn't altogether surprising, says Jim Buzinski, editor of the online magazine Outsports.com. For one thing, he says, the winter version is about one fourth the size of the Summer Games--which in years past have featured out athletes such as Amelie Mauresmo and David Pichler. So it makes sense that there might be fewer out athletes in Salt Lake City.

However, Buzinski and others agree that persistent homophobia in the sports world contributes to the lack of openly gay and lesbian Olympic contenders. "Sports is one of the last great bastions of homophobia," says Buzinski, adding that he's reported in the past on some Olympic teams that have pressured their openly gay members to keep quiet. In fact, Buzinski says, officials at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney censored a biographical sketch of Danish handball player Camilla Andersen in which Andersen mentioned she had married her partner, Norwegian handball player Mia Hundvin, under Danish law.

Another factor is that athletes are painfully conscious of the financial repercussions that coming out might cost them. "There's a great fear that being out will ruin a future career or chances for product endorsements," Buzinski says.

But there's much more to the absence of out Olympians than that. "These are young elite athletes who tend to be one-dimensional," Buzinski says. "Everything's about their sport. They've spent their whole lives training for this single event. For most of them, coming out would just be a distraction."
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Article Details
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Author:Dahir, Mubarak
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 19, 2002
Words:310
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