Team LGBTQ+ Wins Visibility at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

As the Tokyo 2020 Olympics drew to a close, LGBTQ+ athletes celebrated success both at the Games and the wider world

LONDON, Aug 9 (Openly) - There have been tears. There has been controversy. But for LGBTQ+ people, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics marked a highpoint for visibility, acceptance and medals, with a record number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender competitors.

Over the past two weeks, more than 180 openly LGBTQ+ athletes have taken to the tracks, pools and fields in Japan's capital, according to the website Outsports, triple that of Rio in 2016, illustrating a surge in confidence among LGBTQ+ sportspeople.

If Team LGBTQ+ had competed as a country, its haul of 32 medals - 11 golds, 12 silvers and nine bronze - would have ranked seventh, above the Netherlands and below Australia, according to an analysis by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As the Olympics drew to a close on Sunday, with attention shifting to the start of the Paralympics on August 24, many have praised the Games for raising the profile, and acceptance, of LGBTQ+ people globally.

"Having that sort of representation is so important," said professional swimmer Michael Gunning, who narrowly missed out on competing for Jamaica at Tokyo 2020.

"When I was growing up, I never really had those role models. I was never inspired by LGBT athletes; it was always people outside of the community," Gunning told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.

It was an Olympics of firsts in many ways - not just because more than 11,000 athletes competed in almost 350 events in near-empty venues to guard against COVID-19 infection.

New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first openly transgender woman to compete at the Games, attracting both praise and criticism.

Canadian footballer Quinn, who uses only one name and is trans and non-binary - identifying as neither male or female – became the first trans athlete to win a gold medal as part of the national women's team.

And British diver Tom Daley caused waves both in the pool and out, talking to reporters after his gold medal win with his diving partner Matty Lee in the men's 10-meter synchronized platform event.

"I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion," Daley said.

"When I was younger, I didn't think I'd ever achieve anything because of who I was. To be an Olympic champion now just shows that you can achieve anything."

Despite the popularity of LGBTQ+ celebrities like Daley, Russian reporting of the Games showed that homophobia remains a reality in many parts of the world.

Russia's state-owned Rossiya 1 Network derided Daley as "a British homosexual", while Russian talk show participants called LGBTQ+ competitors "perverts" and "psychopaths".

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it would be investigating any abusive comments made on Russian channels that were official broadcasters of the Olympics.

"Discrimination has absolutely no place at the Olympic Games," the IOC said in a statement.

However, for Angus Malcolm, chair of LGBTQ+ charity Sport Allies, the backlash in countries like Russia did not detract from the inspiration that LGBTQ+ athletes at the Games have given the next generation.

"My hope would be that some kid in Moscow can see through the state news to recognize him or herself," Malcolm said.

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBTQ+ issues from around the world.

Originally published on August 9th, 2021. Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Katy Migiro. This story was published with permission from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit

Article Details

August 15, 2021

Meet the World's First Carbon-Neutral Soccer Club

FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, recently recognized the Forest Green Rovers as the greenest soccer club in the world. The United Nations has certified the FGR as the world’s first carbon-neutral football club. It is also the first and only vegan pro soccer club on the planet.

NFL Airs LGBTQ+ Commercial After Raiders’ Carl Nassib Comes Out as Gay

On June 21st, active NFL player Carl Nassib came out as gay by posting a video on his Instagram page with a heartfelt letter. In it, he talks about the “agonizing” decision to publicly come out and how in spite of that, he was received with love and support by his community.
No items found.

Want to stay up-to-date on good news?

One email.
Every Tuesday.
Filled with the week's best good news.

Thank you for celebrating good news with us. We'll see you on Tuesday!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.