BEIJING Aug 18 Only 10 of the 10,500 athletes
competing in the Beijing Olympics are openly gay, according to
a study by a gay website.
Some gay athletes fear that coming out would bring
disapproval from fans and team mates, others worry about the
damage to endorsements, Outsports.com said. Unwarranted media
attention could also detract from their performances, it added.
Nine of the gay athletes named by Outsports were lesbians
and their sports ranged from fencing to cycling. Just one,
Australian diver Matthew Mitcham, was a man.
Outsports said this must be way short of the real figure
and argued that a more accurate estimate could even reach
"For all we know, there is a gay rower or badminton player
somewhere known as gay within his or her sport but not in a
larger public context," it said.
Outsports found the figure disappointing especially after
the efforts of tennis players like Martina Navratilova and
Amelie Mauresmo to be more open about their sexuality.
Eli Portnoy, chief brand strategist at the Portnoy Group, a
U.S. consultancy specialised in branding, said being openly gay
could still work against athletes.
May brands would be wary about promoting a gay athlete, he
said, citing the example of U.S. diving gold medallist Greg
Louganis whose endorsements waned once he came out.
Australian diver Mitcham said he just wanted to be known as
a successful Australian diver and argued that his homosexuality
should not be an issue.
"It's everybody else who thinks it's special when
homosexuality and elite sport go together," he said.
Outsports said it may be a good idea for athletes to take
their time before speaking out about the issue.
"The vast majority of Olympic athletes are under 30, a time
when even people who are not elite jocks are wrestling with
their sexuality," Outsports said.
"Being an Olympic athlete requires full-time dedication and
a lot of things get put on hold. It is just easier to hide and
deal with one's sexuality later," it added.
Outsports concluded that gays still faced a major battle
being recognised in sport for their talent, not their
"In a classic Catch-22, the reluctance of gay athletes to
come out will be tough to overcome until more like them come
forward and prove that being a 'gay athlete' is not an oxymoron
or hindrance to success."
(Additional reporting by Belinda Goldsmith)
(editing by Keith Weir)