ROSA KHUTOR, Russia, Feb 10 (Reuters) - American doubles luger Christian Niccum branded as “ridiculous and sad” a promotional video from a diversity group featuring two athletes rocking back and forth on a sled with the message that the Olympic Games “have always been a little gay”.
In the 33-second video, released by the Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion (CIDI), two figures sit at the start of a luge track, clad in black Lycra with red helmets and black face masks, and suggestively sway in slow motion.
Accompanied by British 1980s electronic pop band Human League’s hit song “Don’t You want me baby”, a tagline flashes “The Games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep them that way.”
In luge doubles, one competitor lies snugly on top of another.
“It’s a gross misrepresentation of everything. All of it seems like a lie to me,” Niccum, the oldest member of the American luge team at 36 and now a three-time Olympian, told Reuters.
“To compare sports to sexuality is ridiculous,” added Niccum of the video, which can be viewed on the Toronto-based organisation’s website (www.cidi-icdi.ca).
“When we were kids I didn’t get on the doubles sled thinking, well it never even crossed my mind, that ‘oh, this is gay’. You think of like...wrestlers...football players, or whoever...’oh it’s male on male contact so something is going on’. It’s just sportsmanship. When did we come so sexual about everything?
“Kids don’t think that way and now they’re having commercials and promoting that this is the way sports are. I just think it’s too bad.
“It made me really think when I was a kid. Those types of thoughts never crossed my mind and now they are promoting diversity using our sport. I don’t think it’s fair for people that do have same sex attraction that they are using sport to promote their lifestyle. It’s not that way at all. To make those comparisons, I think it’s sad.”
The Sochi Games are taking place against a background of protest from gay rights activists, who condemn Russian legislation passed last year banning the promotion of gay propaganda among minors.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin says the law is designed to protect young people and has said that homosexuals would not face discrimination in Sochi.
CIDI founder and CEO Michael Bach said on his organisation’s website that it had launched the “controversial LBGA PSA” because “the discrimination in Russia is unacceptable”.
“As an organization, we want to show our support, especially for the athletes competing at the Olympics in Sochi,” he said.
CIDI have invited “the public to show their support for equality during the games by changing your Facebook profile picture to the silhouette of two lugers forming the equals symbol.”
The luge doubles event has been open to mixed-gender pairings since the International Luge Federation (FIL) granted its approval, not without controversy, before the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer.
Despite allowing mixed-gender teams, the doubles event remains male-dominated due to height, weight and strength compatibility issues between athletes of the opposite sex. (Editing by Mitch Phillips)