Commonwealth Games chiefs have offered to meet with Tom Daley to discuss his concerns over nations’ records on LGBT rights ahead of Birmingham 2022.
Katie Sadleir, who has left World Rugby to become the federation’s new chief executive, also revealed plans to open a “Pride House” near the athletes’ village.
In her first meeting with media, she expressed enthusiasm at potentially meeting with Daley, who previously condemned anti-gay laws among competing countries.
After securing his fourth Commonwealth title in 2018, he spoke of his hope that by Birmingham next year, the attitude towards gay relationships would have improved. “There are 37 countries where it’s illegal to be who I am out of all the Commonwealth so hopefully we can reduce that number between now and then,” he said.
Sadleir, who says she is now “happy to meet with him”, promised progress has been made in the three years since. “We don’t set the rules for all the countries but what we do do is to create a platform to discuss things that we think are important,” she said. “We have been working on the concept of a Pride House to create a safe space for athletes to come and discuss issues, to raise the profile of the community.”
The centre will run alongside a Commonwealth Sports Pride Network to underline to both athletes and spectators that organisers want to create an inclusive Games.
Organisers are taking a more liberal approach than the Olympics to allowing athletes to protest against discrimination. Unlike in Tokyo, taking the knee protests, for example, appear likely to be allowed in Birmingham. “We’re probably in a little bit of a different space from the IOC,” Sadleir said. “Our Athletes Commission have been working on the development of an athlete advocacy policy framework, which will be released sometime in January.”
Of a potential meeting with Daley, Sadleir added: “I can meet with him and we can create an opportunity to raise issues in a safe environment. What I can’t do is go into the countries and change their laws at this stage.”
Games organisers are already planning beyond Birmingham, with the bidding process for 2026 inviting multi-nation bids. Like Fifa’s World Cup, the prospect of two neighbouring countries sharing hosting costs is seen by organisers as preferable in future.
“We are very positive about 2026,” Sadleir added. “We are in discussions with potential bidders. We do know that there was a renewed excitement when the roadmap came out about the opportunity to be more flexible. It is absolutely our intention before Birmingham to be announcing a host.”
Sadleir has replaced David Grevemberg, whose shock departure came as a major blow less than a year and a half before the Games was due to commence in Birmingham on July 28.