By Paul Jones
Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) chief executive Katie Sadleir has said organisers are open to the idea of athletes bringing the Pride flag onto the podium at next year’s event in Birmingham.
“We will be talking to athletes over the next six months in the lead-up to the Games about what that may or may not look like — but certainly, we are open to that,” Sadleir told the BBC.
Speaking at the launch of the Commonwealth Sport Pride Network, an initiative aimed at bringing together LGBTQ+ athletes, coaches and organisers from Commonwealth nations, Sadleir said the CGF “absolutely embraced” athletes’ freedom of expression but added that it would refer to the code of conduct.
“We have a code of conduct and there are some aspects about respect for other competitors and where you do what you do,” Sadleir said.
“From the perspective of advocates and freedom of expression, it’s something that we are thoroughly, thoroughly embracing.”
The 2022 Commonwealth Games are scheduled for July 28 to Aug. 8.
Community building is a key objective of the Commonwealth Sport Pride Network (CSPN), and paramount within that is the protection and security of LGBTQ+ athletes and coaches from across the 54 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations.
In 35 of those countries, same-sex relationships are still criminalised, in large part due to laws imposed during British colonial rule that remain on the statute books to this day.
Olympic gold medal-winning diver Tom Daley, who spoke movingly of his career journey as an out gay athlete after his success in Tokyo in August, has been an increasingly influential voice on the topic of improved LGBTQ+ and human rights in the Commonwealth.
The network is a voluntary group which positively champions and empowers LGBTQ+ inclusion across the Commonwealth Sport Movement.
— Team Wales 🏴 Tîm Cymru (@TeamWales) December 8, 2021
The CSPN’s mission statement also includes a commitment to “support Pride House at the Games”, and Lou Englefield – the co-chair of Pride House International and part of the team leading on the Birmingham project – says the group’s launch sends a welcoming message to athletes.
“It’s telling them they are acknowledged and valued, and that there is one place – should they want it – where they are able to be themselves, within this network,” said Englefield.
“Importantly, we are also working towards having a venue for LGBTIQ+ people and allies in Birmingham itself around the Games, a space where people can come and be themselves.
“Those people might be athletes, or they might be spectators, officials, administrators, or volunteers. We want them to know that when they come to Birmingham, Pride House is somewhere that’s there for them.
“It’s about centring their experience and their relationship with performance sport. One of the pillars of our project is celebration, so let’s celebrate their participation.”