- Views & Opinions
London organizers of this summer’s Olympics have offered some training and advice to volunteers who might receive complaints about LGBT public displays of affection.
About 70,000 people have been given advice at training sessions where they were asked to complete a quiz on dealing with diversity and inclusion, according to the AP.
One question in the workbook describes a complaint from a spectator made “very uncomfortable” by two men sitting next to him holding hands and asks volunteers how they would respond.
Among potential multiple-choice answers are the options to tell him to “stop being a homophobic idiot” or “politely ask the couple to stop holding hands.”
The third answer is: “You explain that there is a huge diversity of people at the London 2012 Games, which includes gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals and couples.”
In the gender section, volunteers are asked how to direct a member of the public to the toilets if they cannot tell whether they were male or female.
“Ask them politely if they are male or female,” “panic” or “tell them where the male, female toilets and accessible toilets are,” are the possible options.
London organizers said the advice is designed to “deal with a wide array of possible situations.”
“Most major events offer volunteers similar guidance and we’ve had very positive feedback,” the statement added.
Also this week, the British Olympic Association issued a recommendation that competitors can greet other athletes and dignitaries with handshakes but that they must be sure to wash thoroughly later.
“Team GB’s 550 athletes will of course warmly welcome their fellow competitors from around the world this summer – there is no question about that,” BOA communications director Darryl Seibel said.
“We are not advising our athletes to avoid shaking hands. We are simply reminding them to follow common-sense measures by maintaining good hand hygiene to minimize the risk of becoming ill,” he said.
During a briefing with a small group of reporters last week, BOA chief medical officer Dr. Ian McCurdie had said that the Olympic Village environment could be a “pretty hostile one” for infections and said a handshake ban was “not such a bad thing.”
His comments went viral in Britain, drawing derision on TV and radio.
Even the Department of Health urged Olympians to disregard the advice.
“It goes without saying that we should all wash our hands regularly to keep them clean and prevent spreading bugs,” the department said in a statement. “But there’s no reason why people shouldn’t shake hands at the Olympics.”
And athletes took to Twitter to insist that they would still shake on it at the games.
“Can’t we just carry around a small bottle of alcohol hand gel & not be so rude to everyone we meet?” tweeted Pete Reed, an Olympic champion in the coxless four.
Another Olympic champion rower, Zac Purchase, tweeted that the advice seemed a “bit pointless unless u r going to run around with disinfectant 4 every surface you come into contact with.”
But triathlete Hollie Avil, who was forced to pull out of the 2008 Beijing Olympics after picking up a virus, quipped: “Maybe I shook too many hands in Beijing.”
Later, the BOA clarified that a goal should be just to minimize the risk of transmitting germs during the games.
“We are simply reminding athletes to take basic measures, such as washing their hands and using hand gels, to reduce the risk of catching a bug,” Seibel said.
“After years of training and sacrifice, the last thing an athlete would want to do is unintentionally compromise or undermine their ability to perform at their very best at the Olympic Games, and basic, common-sense measures can go a long way toward making certain that doesn’t happen,” he added.
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