As usual, any gay noises at the Winter Olympics are kept firmly focused around figure skating. Johnny Weir continues to stay mum about his sexual orientation, verbally anyway -- though he gayed it up as he worked the crowd during his short program yesterday evening. Any Bilerico reader who watched the NBC broadcast will know what I mean.
From the sidelines, retired Canadian champion and silver medalist Elvis Stojko, one of the reformers calling for a "return to masculinity" in figure skating, is covering the Games for Yahoo. He continues to launch his demands that "effeminate" (read gay) skaters with their "effeminate" skating styles and body language (he actually mentions wrists) should get out of the sport. Along the way, Stojko takes shots at "effeminate" choreographers too. He would like to see male skaters competing in costumes that are more "masculine" (read trousers and white shirts).
Last night, the men skated their short program -- and so many went out on the ice in tight glittery costumes and pushed the envelope on those arm flourishes that Stojko must have been having severe heartburn.
It was an exciting evening -- one of the deepest men's fields ever, with 2006 gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko coming out of retirement to challenge serious medal contenders like Abbott, Joubert, Lysacek, Takahashi and Weir. A scintillating newcomer, Florent Amodio of France, captured the crowd. But it was Plushenko, with his steely Russian resolve, who nailed the high score of the night. Lysacek and Takahashi scored 2nd and 3rd close behind Plushenko.
Weir skated quite well and got the crowd going, but made a few little mistakes. Right now, he's 6th in the standings -- so he'll have to bring it 110 percent in the long program to have a shot at a medal.
The long program's gold-medal skate-off happens tonight.
Are the Winter Games More Homophobic?
It's a funny thing about the Olympics. Only at the Summer Games is there a major visibility of out athletes -- a dozen or more at Athens and Beijing -- and they can be seen across a variety of sports, from track & field to equestrian. Their presence doesn't seem to be much of a summer issue any more.
Whereas at the Winter Games, the public and the media go on obsessing about gay figure skaters. By implication, they're alleging that there aren't any gay men in downhill skiing, bobsledding, half pipe and other snow sports that are supposedly "way more masculine" than figure skating.
Does that fact of our winter invisibility mean that winter sports tend to have a more conservative atmosphere -- one that militates more heavily against coming out? Dare I use the word "more homophobic"? Maybe. The Winter Games are even more discriminatory towards women -- ski jumping for females is still barred from the program, thanks to the influence that a crusty old-school Nordic sports cabal has with the IOC. Ski jumping is the only Olympic sport that's still "men only."
So -- are there any out athletes at Vancouver?
Outsports (where I'm on the Vancouver blogging team) just published a report that yes, there are five of them. None are high-profile, or American. All of them are lesbian women. If there are any gay or bi men competing in Vancouver, or any transgender or intersex people, they're keeping it to themselves.
Meanwhile, not all the Vancouver news noise is about effeminate skaters.
The question of who was responsibile for that shattering death on the luge run is still festering behind the scenes, with an autopsy being done on the Georgian competitor's body. Even as Vancouver authorities insist that the accident was due to athlete error, they shortened the course to slow down the speeds, and did some hasty repairs along the rail where Nodar Kumaritashvili was slammed.
As always, the media get their share of criticism -- especially NBC's obsession with the Lindsey Jacobellis story. Many TV viewers got tired of hearing her talked about, and seeing her 2006 hotdogging disaster in the snowboard cross re-played over and over. Especially since, this year, quite a few other women were having trouble staying on their boards.
Gone With the Wind...er, the Debt
Most serious are the burning questions around the Olympics' financial future -- both Winter and Summer -- and their negative influence on national debt around the world. Right now, that future is looking dim.
Canadian commentator Mitchell Anderson writes in Today/Canada:
"As tales of 2010 glory dominate the media in balmy Vancouver, a very different Olympic-related story is unfolding on the other side of the Atlantic. The fragile recovery of the global banking system is now threatened by a potential default by dept-laden Greece that could cascade throughout the EU, and the world."
That sobering statement is Anderson's lead under the headline COULD OLYMPICS UNDO THE GLOBAL ECONOMY?.
Anderson's report is worth reading for its analysis of the Greek debacle, going back to how and why Greece spent a staggering $14 billion on its Summer Games, much of it borrowed. This was almost double what Vancouver spent on its Games. According to the Greek government, some of the vast over-run was spent at the direct insistence of the IOC, who knew exactly what was going on. Growing Euro fears around Greece's possible default are punctuated by protest bombings of bank offices in Greece -- with the attack on JP Morgan yesterday the most recent in a year-long series targeting Citibank, Eurobank and others.
We may be seeing the swan song of the Olympics as we've known them. Winter and Summer Games can no longer be viewed as that mythical pot of gold -- a plum for a nation's construction industry and a convenient shot in the arm for countries large and small. Indeed, the Games are looking more and more like the sports version of credit-card culture.
Perhaps the world would be smarter to limit itself to world championships in separate sports. These can often be held in existing facilities for far less money.
Between Vancouver events, I've been remoting over to the World Equestrian Festival which was going on in Aachen, Germany since February 9th. The stands were packed with spectators who chose to forego Vancouver. Aachen has an existing and established state-of-the-art equestrian center that hosts major events -- for probably way less hemmorhaging of money than is required for an Olympican horse fest.
Unfortunately, as the world continues in its meltdown, even some world championships are bedeviled by growing political hostilities. Like the FIFA Africa Cup , held in Angola this year, which was marred by outbreaks of violence, including the assassination of three members of the soccer team from Togo.
These are all challenges that must be met, if the world's peoples -- whether LGBT or not -- are to continue meeting en masse every few years, in the name of sport.