The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi were already shaping up to be an event at which sexual orientation played a significant role, in large part because of Russia's stringent anti-gay propaganda law. The United States upped the ante this week by naming two gay athletes to its delegation attending the Games. And now, another member of that delegation, Olympic figured skating legend Brian Boitano, has come out in a move that is clearly designed to endorse a more open form of communication and tolerance than exists in Russia.
Boitano, who won gold in men's figure skating in 1988, has been in the public eye for decades, yet has consistently declined to address the issue of his sexuality despite longtime speculation. The fact that he is coming out at this point, then, is certainly an inextricable part of the overall narrative.
Boitano's statement, in full:
I am currently skating in Europe but want to provide a statement regarding my appointment to the Olympic delegation. I have been fortunate to represent the United States of America in three different Olympics, and now I am honored to be part of the presidential delegation to the Olympics in Sochi. It has been my experience from competing around the world and in Russia that Olympic athletes can come together in friendship, peace and mutual respect regardless of their individual country's practices.
It is my desire to be defined by my achievements and my contributions. While I am proud to play a public role in representing the American Olympic Delegation as a former Olympic athlete, I have always reserved my private life for my family and friends and will continue to do so. I am many things: a son, a brother, and uncle, a friend, an athlete, a cook, an author, and being gay is just one part of who I am. First and foremost I am an American athlete and I am proud to live in a country that encourages diversity, openness and tolerance. As an athlete, I hope we can remain focused on the Olympic spirit which celebrates achievement in sport by peoples of all nations.
Clearly, the tolerance issue as regards to sexual orientation will continue to play a significant role at the 2014 Games. Boitano is the third openly gay member of the United States delegation to the Games, along with tennis legend Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow.
There will be a day when an Olympian's sexual orientation is as irrelevant to his or her story as hair color. That day isn't today, but days like this will make that time draw nearer.