The Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, aka the LGBT Games

Other | Thursday 22nd February 2018 | Jake

Amidst the drama and action on the slopes and the rink, this years winter Olympic Games, taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, may well be best remembered as the games that LGBT athletes won.

Canada’s figure skater Eric Radford became the first voluntarily, openly gay athlete to win gold at a Winter Games. Soon after collecting his medal he posted a picture alongside Adam Rippon, a gay US figure skater who has become the darling of social media, whilst also engaging in a feud with US Vice President Mike Pence; it has endeared him to many across the world.

The post will be one of the enduring images of the games, perhaps only surpassed by US freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy sharing a snog with his boyfriend after a ski run. Kenworthy announced the tone these Games were going to take when he shared his arrival in South Korea by posting an image of Rippon and himself with the message, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.”

Kenworthy shares a kiss with his boyfriend, captured by television cameras globally

To understand the importance of the LGBT athletes in Pyeongchang we need only look at the man sent to represent the US government at the Games, one Mike Pence. Pence has found himself in the bizarre situation of supporting athletes with a sexuality he – at best – struggles to understand.

Mike Pence at the Games

Pence and Rippon are at each other’s throats, Rippon is understandably bemused the US sent a man who once endorsed conversion therapy, designed to ‘correct’ the gay in people and make them straight. Pence denies this, even though it’s actually written in his campaign statement from 2000 when he was campaigning for Congress in the US.

The cultural importance of the LGBT successes on and off the slopes/rink at Pyeongchang cannot be understated. Their success is an affront to Pence’s world, and the shackles of stigma can be loosened, and one day eradicated, thanks in part to their representation of their sexuality at this very LGBT Games.