Diversity among competitors, including LGBTQ+ athletes, at the Beijing Games is welcomed, according to China’s first ever Winter Olympics gold medalist.
At the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, it was reported there were at least 186 athletes who identified as LGBTQ+.
However, it is reported that the Beijing Games will have a record number of out athletes for the Winter Games at 35 — yet, it looks like those Olympians may be performing in the shadow of growing challenges faced by sexual minorities and their supporters in China.
Homosexuality was removed from China’s official list of mental disorders in 2001, but the LGBTQ+ community in China continues to face official harassment and same-sex marriage remains illegal across the country.
Asked by CNN’s Angus Watson what measures were being taken to make sport a safe space for LGBTQ+ athletes, Yang Yang — who won five Olympic medals in speed skating — says China welcomes the “representation of different groups of people.”
“Under Chinese law, we protect the rights of all groups of people,” Yang, who is also the head of the Beijing 2022 Athletes’ Commission, told reporters.
“Of course, it’s case by case decision. At our Athletes’ Commission, a lot of them are young athletes, and a lot of the athletes have experience four to five Olympic Games, so we very much protect and encourage diversity.”
In response to Watson’s question of whether China would welcome an openly gay athlete onto its team, Yang said: “If there should be any such specific cases, the Athletes’ Commission would be very happy to talk to these people from different groups and we absolutely support diversity. Thank you very much.”
Find out more about LGBTQ+ visibility at the Games here.