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Tom Daley calls for Olympic ban on countries where being gay is punishable by death

The British Olympic diver said it is his “mission” to ban these nations from competing by the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Bronze medalist Thomas Daley of Team Great Britain poses after the medal ceremony for the Men's 10m Platform Final on day fifteen of the Tokyo Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Aug. 7, 2021.
British diver Tom Daley poses with his bronze medal after the men's 10-meter platform final on Day 15 of the Tokyo Olympics at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Aug. 7, 2021.Fred Lee / Getty Images file

British Olympic diver Tom Daley said that he will make it his “mission” to stop countries where homosexuality is punishable by death from competing in the Olympics.

“I think it’s really important to try and create change, rather than just highlighting or shining a light on those things,” Daley, who is gay, said Wednesday while accepting the Sport Award at the 2021 Attitude Awards. “So I want to make it my mission over the next, well, hopefully before the Paris Olympics in 2024, to make it so that the countries [where it's] punishable by death for LGBT people are not allowed to compete at the Olympic Games.”

There are 11 countries where homosexuality is punishable by death — including Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iran — and approximately 60 other nations where same-sex relations are criminalized in some capacity, according to Human Dignity Trust, a global advocacy group for LGBTQ rights. Many, if not all, of these countries competed at the Tokyo Olympics.

Daley also criticized the organizers of the FIFA World Cup for hosting the 2022 competition in Qatar, where the death penalty is a legal possibility, according to Human Dignity Trust.

“I think it should not be allowed for a sporting event to host in a country that criminalizes against basic human rights,” Daley said. “So, that is going to be my mission now to change that.”

International sporting organizations have previously banned countries from competing on grounds of discriminatory policies. From 1964 to 1988, the International Olympic Committee, the governing body of the Olympics, banned South Africa from competing because of apartheid, a brutal system of racial discrimination against nonwhite citizens. 

The Olympic Committee has also taken measures to prevent anti-LGBTQ cities from hosting competitions since the 2014 Sochi Winter Games were criticized for Russia’s “gay propaganda law.” Tokyo passed anti-LGBTQ discrimination laws in 2018 in accordance with the committee’s policy for hosting cities, but efforts to implement similar policies throughout all of Japan have stalled.

"We fully respect Tom Daley and his view," the Olympic Committee said to NBC News in an email.

"At the same time, the IOC has neither the mandate nor the capability to change the laws or the political system of a sovereign country," it said. "This must rightfully remain the legitimate role of governments and respective intergovernmental organizations."

Daley noted Wednesday that the Tokyo Games had a historic number of openly LGBTQ athletes compete. At least 186 openly LGBTQ athletes took part, according to Outsports, nearly triple the 56 who participated in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

After winning a gold medal at the Tokyo Games, his first out of his four Olympic competitions, Daley took to the podium and dedicated his win to LGBTQ people. 

“I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone,” he said, crying tears of joy. “That you can achieve anything and that there is a whole lot of your chosen family out here, ready to support you.”

The 2022 Winter Games will be held in Beijing, where LGBTQ people are not protected by anti-discrimination laws.

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