British diver Tom Daley delivered a powerful statement on the eve of the Commonwealth Games night, advocating for LGBTQI+ rights while protesting against the 35 countries under the Commonwealth where being part of the queer community is currently illegal. 

Daley told the BBC on Thursday that he had experienced homophobia throughout his life and that he did not feel safe “competing in counties where it’s illegal to be me” or “leave the venue I’m competing in.” 

Majority of Commonwealth Countries Criminalise Homosexuality

The Olympic champion played a key role in the ceremony, as the first athlete to carry the Queen’s Baton and was met with other athletes and activists who waved Pride Progress flags, raising awareness of the member states under the Commonwealth which criminalise same-sex relations. 

Pride House Birmingham (PHB) co-founder Lou Englefield spoke to ABC sport stating that there are currently “more countries in the Commonwealth that criminalise homosexuality than don’t.” 

Though Daley had decided not to compete at Birmingham 2022, he has been a strong advocate for LGBTQI+ rights in the past, drawing attention to the persecution of queer individuals after winning his 10 metres synchro event at the Gold Coast in 2018. 

Daley posted to his Instagram account on Friday, “In over half of the Commonwealth countries, homosexuality is still a crime and in three of those countries the maximum penalty is the death sentence.

These laws are a legacy of colonialism. This opening ceremony for us is about showing LGBTQ+ visibility to the billion people watching.” 

Pride House Birmingham has Biggest Presence to Date 

The opening of Pride House Birmingham has been projected to have the biggest presence to date by a Pride House at a Commonwealth Games. 

Pride Houses are venues dedicated to diversity, culture and LGBTQI+ inclusion at major sporting events where visitors are encouraged to enjoy performances, talks and activities in addition to opportunities to view live sports. They have been established at sporting events around the world since 2010, including Glasgow (2014) and the Gold Coast (2018). 

There will be at least 40 out athletes competing at Birmingham 2022 – more than three times the number from Gold Coast 2018. 

Pop-up Pride Houses in three of the athletes’ villages have also been included at the Birmingham Games, where trained volunteers can provide support to competitors.

The four-time Olympic champion asserted that The Commonwealth Games Federation could be an example to other sporting organisations and lead the way when it came to diversity and inclusion. 

“We can hopefully influence change to the horrendous human rights laws that exist in so many countries around the world.

“The CGF has been willing to talk and willing to hear what we have to say, and it’s good to see they’ve started taking a stance towards more inclusion. Along with incredible LGBT+ people around the Commonwealth, we will make a difference.”

Daley Demands Safety For LGBT Athletes

Daley demanded safety for other LGBTQI+ athletes and added that they deserved to feel comfortable without fearing persecution or death. 

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive Katie Sadier said that Birmingham was a city that embraced Pride and hoped that their acts of promoting inclusivity at the Commonwealth Games would be a step in encouraging other nations and sporting organisations to follow suit. 

She noted that there were limits to actions the federation could take regarding homophobia and intolerance towards queer people by nation states, but stated that using the platform to engage in conversations about diversity and inclusion was important regardless. 

“We can’t go in to change the rules in countries but what we can do is create opportunities for people to discuss issues in a safe environment. Whenever we’re given the opportunity to talk about our values, we do that.” 

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