Tom Daley to take ‘historic’ stand for LGBTQ+ rights at Commonwealth Games opening ceremony

Tom Daley

Tom Daley is to use his appearance in the 2022 Commonwealth Games opening ceremony to speak out about LGBTQ+ injustices in sports.

The diving champion will make a “historic” statement against homophobia at the ceremony at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, carrying the Queen’s Baton while flying the Progress Pride flag.

Daley will be joined by LGBTQ+ athletes and advocates that he met while travelling the Commonwealth for an upcoming BBC documentary on LGBTQ+ rights abuses within the 56-member bloc.

His appearance is the result of months of “painstaking negotiations”, the BBC said, with over a billion people expected to watch the ceremony.

“LGBT+ athletes must be safe and feel comfortable being their authentic selves without fear of persecution or death,” Tom Daley said.

The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has long faced criticism for the fact that more than half of the 54 countries participating in the games criminalise homosexuality.

For his film, Tom Daley: Illegal to Be Me, which airs on 9 August, the 28-year-old travelled to Commonwealth countries such as Pakistan and Jamaica where being LGBTQ+ is criminalised, mostly under rules carried over from British colonial rules.

Tom Daley of England celebrates on the podium after winning the Gold medal in the Men's 10m Platform Final at the Royal Commonwealth Pool during day ten of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on August 2, 2014 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Tom Daley on the podium after winning gold in the Commonwealth Games 2014. (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

He spoke to marginalised athletes facing persecution to shine a light on the danger and violence many face.

At the end of the documentary, Daley submits a manifesto of action points to the CGF which would mitigate the harm done to LGBTQ+ athletes.

“I learned so many really harrowing stories,” he told The One Show. “One of the big things that came of it was visibility and being seen and that is why something that is happening at the opening ceremony is going to be quite the historic moment.”

He added: “I’ve experienced homophobia all my life, competing in countries where it’s illegal to be me and where I don’t feel safe to leave the venue I’m competing in. If I feel that as a privileged man, I can’t imagine what day-to-day life is like for LGBT+ people around the Commonwealth.”

The four-time Commonwealth champion said the CGF has been “willing to talk and willing to hear” about these issues, and that “the [CGF] can be a shining example to other sporting organisations that sports can really be for everyone.”

Katie Sadleir, World Rugby via Getty Images Women's General Manager during the Women in Rugby Launch on May 21, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland.

Katie Sadleir, World Rugby via Getty Images Women’s General Manager during the Women in Rugby Launch on May 21, 2019 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Patrick Bolger – World Rugby via Getty Images/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The current CGF CEO Katie Sadleir spoke to BBC Sport on 22 July about precautions being considered by the organisation towards creating a more inclusive games.

So far, she has said that homophobic countries are “less likely” to host the Commonwealth Games in the future, but has not introduced any policy explicitly banning them from hosting.

Sadleir has said she is keen to implement more policies that protect the “exceptional” LGBTQ+ athletes that she works with, but admitted she “can’t go into the countries” and “change their laws at this stage.”

“I think one of the things that is really important about the Commonwealth Games is its values,” she said. “Humanity, destiny, and equity are embedded in most of the things that we do.”