No Olympic post for former gymnast

  • by Roger Brigham
  • Wednesday May 11, 2011
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Peter Vidmar's public advocacy against marriage equality<br>cost him his USOC liaison post for the 2012 London Olympics.
Peter Vidmar's public advocacy against marriage equality
cost him his USOC liaison post for the 2012 London Olympics.

Alas, gymnast Peter Vidmar will not be serving as the chef de mission of Team USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. I was so looking forward to him partnering in the three-legged race with Canada's Mark Tewksbury in the pre-event welcoming party for all of the Olympic team leaders.

The rise and fall of Vidmar's selection as chief team liaison last week was the latest hiccup in the Olympic glacial evolution toward a gentler, kinder vision. When the United States Olympic Committee announced April 28 it was naming the gold medalist from Utah to be its chief liaison at the next Olympics, Vidmar issued a statement saying, "This role allows me to work with the USOC and national governing bodies to ensure that all Team USA athletes have the support they need to achieve their full potential at the Games. For many athletes, the opportunity to represent their country in the Olympic Games comes only once, so it is crucial that this experience is as rewarding and successful as possible."

But almost immediately, emails began flowing in to the USOC challenging Vidmar's ability to represent all Olympians. followed with a blog post reporting on Vidmar's public activism to help overturn same-sex marriage in California – he gave $2,000 to the Prop 8 cause and spoke out at a rally. That prompted a Chicago Tribune follow-up, which caught the attention of numerous other publications. Even former Women's Sports Foundation President Aimee Mullins, chef de mission for the 2012 U.S. Paralympic Games team, was quoted as saying Vidmar's past actions "concerned and deeply saddened" her.

"The Olympic movement is about promoting equity for all," Mullins said.

At first, the USOC and Vidmar pleaded ignorance and irrelevance, the USOC saying it hadn't known of Vidmar's political activism when selecting him (note to USOC: One word – Google), and Vidmar saying, "I fully respect the rights of everyone to have the relationships they want to have. I respect the rights of all our athletes, regardless of their race, their religion or their sexual orientation."

That is, of course, unless the relationship they want is marriage to a person of the same sex. You know: a fully committed, loving, legally recognized and acknowledged relationship. That right – not so much respect.

The USOC's three-monkey defense held up about three nanoseconds. Vidmar resigned Friday, May 6. It didn't set up the Times Square celebrations that the downfall of Osama bin Laden did, but fizzy bubbles tickled our noses all the same.

Knee-jerk apologists have been quick to say Vidmar was forced out because of his personal political views against same-sex marriage. The reality is that Vidmar is a high profile public figure who has advertised his opposition to gay marital rights and as chef de mission would have to be an advocate for and representative of gay Olympians, closeted or otherwise. Trying to get access or accommodations for your significant other? Maybe you get a sense that the strength of the advocacy depends on whether your mate's name is Eve or Steve.

And if Vidmar had been thrown out for his private views – well, aren't the folks who are objecting to that ejection the same ones who are trying to get Judge Vaughn Walker's verdict against Prop 8 thrown out because of his private life? Laws of physics and fair play say you can't have it both ways.

London organizers are being incredibly proactive in trying to put an inclusive face on the 2012 Games, and the USOC has come a long way since it went after San Francisco organizers in 1982 over the name Gay Olympic Games. In late 2009, the USOC even said it was including sexual orientation in its employment non-discrimination policy.

But sexual orientation is still missing in the USOC's discrimination policy in its bylaws, and that is where it could have real, visible social relevance. Put it on the books, put it in your minds, and get your governing bodies to come on board. Then maybe next time you vet your potential candidates, you won't end up with a finalist who is for all of the athletes some of the time and some of the athletes all of the time, but never for all of them all of the time.

Hockey coaches discuss queer acceptance

The American Hockey Coaches Association included a discussion of homophobia in sports at its annual convention last month in Naples, Florida. The discussion was led by GForce Sports, a Denver-based gay sports club and advocacy group. The convention brought together coaches from all levels from youth to the pros.

For information about Gforce, visit

Swim for Equality

Equality California's Swim for Equality will be held Pride Sunday, June 26 in San Francisco and Saturday, September 24 in Malibu.

The San Francisco event will be a 1.2-mile swim from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park, with swimmers being asked to raise $2,000 each while helping raise awareness for LGBT rights. Swimmers must be able to swim one mile comfortably in open water in 50 minutes or less and have completed at least two open water swims. (SwimArt offers $60, three-hour clinics; see for details.)

For information, registration or how to get involved in Swim for Equality as a non-swimmer, check the Events menu on the EQCA Web site,