Next year’s Winter Olympics are set to be held in the Earth’s den of inequality—Sochi, Russia, to be exact—but that’s not stopping a few powerful gay athletes from voicing opposition to a suggested boycott of the Games.
Though his outward flamboyancy could land him in a Russian prison under a new Russian law that forbids tourists from showing “gay propaganda,” 29-year-old Johnny Weir refuses to hang up his figure skates in the face of bigotry. The decorated Olympian announced this week that he plans to compete next year.
‘The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority and violating Human Rights all over the place is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions,” he said, “but I still will compete.”
He noted that the last time an Olympic boycott was organized during the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, the only people affected were athletes that were denied the opportunity to compete. “I respect the LGBT community full heartedly, but I implore the world not to boycott the Olympic Games because of Russia’s stance on LGBT rights or lack thereof,” he added.
Weir is also encouraging other athletes, both gay and straight, to compete in next year’s Games, and asks fans to “support the athletes”:
“I beg the gay athletes not to forget their missions and fight for a chance to dazzle the world. I pray that people will believe in the Olympic movement no matter where the event is being held, because the Olympics are history, and they do not represent their host, they represent the entire world.”
Also on board to compete is openly gay Kiwi speed skater Blake Skjellerup, who says he will be wearing a rainbow pin while in Sochi. “For me it’s less about taking a stand and more about just being myself,” he said. “I have no interest in going back into the closet in Sochi…this is not about defiance. This is me standing up for what I believe in.”
After coming out in 2010, Skjellerup says he’s taking this opportunity to become a role model for the community. “If that gets me in trouble,” he said, “then so be it.”