Having witnessed Germany skipper Manuel Neuer’s understated but well-documented gesture of swapping the standard captain’s armband for a rainbow-coloured one at Euro 2020, we’ve now listened to the stirring words of British diver Tom Daley, with his gold medal freshly hung around his neck: “I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and also an Olympic champion […]. I hope that any young LGBT person out there can see that no matter how alone you feel right now, you are not alone. You can achieve anything.” Daley had already talked publicly in such terms in his home country, but, crucially, this inspiring message, spoken in Tokyo and from the top of the world, has a far greater reach.
Hearing Daley’s words - and as proof that the world does generally move in the right direction - I recalled a T-shirt worn by another Briton, a man with a very similar name, the prodigious decathlete Daley Thompson, in 1984. "Is the world's 2nd greatest athlete gay?" it read. Thompson was alluding to the fabulous sprinter Carl Lewis, known as the 'Son of the Wind’. At the time, there was hot debate over which of the two was the best athlete around. There were also whisperings about Lewis' sexuality. Thompson paraded around the stadium with a T-shirt bearing a twin taunt: not only is he not as good as me, but he’s probably a faggot and all. In the main, it was taken as a witty quip. I don’t remember him getting into trouble for it.
Things have moved on a bit since then, but not as much as we'd like. In Spain, where gay marriage is now legal, we’ve just seen the lynching of a young man because he was homosexual. It’s an exceptional occurrence, yes; but one thing that’s not only exceptional, but downright impossible, is to be lynched for not being gay. And I fear that still, even in the best of cases, LGBTQ people go through a difficult adolescence until they come to terms with who they are. Tom Daley’s message is directed at them, as was Neuer's captain’s armband. It's good news that sport, particularly at its elite level - the Olympics, the Euros - is doing its bit to stand up for a key issue that remains a source of such unhappiness to many worldwide.