Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Should I support Tom Daley or Matthew Mitcham for Olympic diving gold?

Matthew MitchamTom Daley
Next Friday, the Men's 10 metre platform diving event begins at the London 2012 Olympic games. The defending champion is an Australian diver called Matthew Mitcham. But one of the guys who'll be hoping to steal Matthew's crown is a talented young British diver called Tom Daley.
Who should I support? I'm a mildly patriotic kind of chap so Tom Daley should be the natural choice. However, it's a little more complicated than that.

A couple of days ago, I was genuinely shocked when I looked into how many openly gay male athletes were competing at London 2012. As far as I can tell from Google, just three! There's
Wikipedia suggest that there are over 10,700 athletes (of both genders) at London 2012. If half of those are men and if just 1% are gay, then there should we well over 50 gay men competing, if not a lot more.

I can think of a lot of reasons why there aren't more openly gay athletes at the Olympics. Of course, there are all the usual reasons why people don't come out, namely
  • Fear of the reaction of friends and family.
  • Wondering whether it's really true that one is gay, or whether an attraction to the same sex is just a phase, etc.
However, on top of that, for Olympic athletes there's also:
  • Fear of the reaction of fans, sponsors and governments. It's worth remembering that the home countries of a lot of the athletes are much more hostile to homosexuality than the liberal West. And even after Matthew Mitcham had won his Olympic gold medal in 2008, it took him a long time to find sponsorship.
  • Training is the focus, rather than relationships with people of either gender. Given that a lot of athletes are relatively young, it seems quite likely to me that a lot of the guys who'll come out in the future haven't yet worked out that they're gay. Olympic training schedules leave little time for anything else!
Regarding Matthew Mitcham, it's interesting to note that his success at the 2008 Olympics was just a few months after he came out as gay. So perhaps there are benefits for gay athletes to come out. My own experience was that I became much more confident once I'd worked out who I was and wasn't trying to hide it any more. When competing in something like the Olympics, confidence is a valuable commodity.

Becoming a successful Olympic athlete is an expensive business, in terms of both the time that one needs to dedicate, and also the cost of coaching, equipment, travel etc. For gay athletes who need corporate sponsors to help with all that, one idea is to focus on companies who value diversity. I've blogged before that diversity is highly valued in the investment banking world these days. In the UK, there's also the Stonewall equality index, and some companies try hard to ensure that they get a good score.

The world needs more openly gay athletes. They're important role models for anyone who thinks that they might be gay. For teenagers, it's impossible to know how many suicides are related to the gay issue, so the value of seeing openly gay people on TV making a success of their lives can't be underestimated. So it's obvious who I have to support in the Olympic diving on Friday.

Good luck Matthew! I sincerely hope that you manage to win another gold medal :-).


Anonymous said...

Perhaps the answer to the puzzle you have posed is that straight men/women are approximately 33x more likely to be of Olympian calibre than gay men are.

Hence the number of gay athletes at the London Olympics should be = 10,700 * 1% * 1/33 = 3.

GB said...

Interesting thought, anonymous commenter, whoever you are.

However, natural selection suggests to me that there should be proportionally more gay men of Olympic calibre, not less! Gay people are less likely to reproduce, so natural selection should favour heterosexuality. This means that gay people must possess characteristics which offset that disadvantage. And for most of the hundreds of thousands of years that humans have existed, the most important characteristics were the ones that make Olympic athletes succeed, i.e. strength and speed etc :-).

In any case, it's clear that attention to detail isn't your strong point. The 10,700 figure includes both men and women, so you should have used a factor of 17, not 33!

GB xxx

a said...

I suspect natural selection has limited impact on homosexuality as it does on, say being left handed or having brown eyes. While homosexuality means males are less likely to reproduce, perhaps the gay gene is exclusively linked to the female chromosome for the myriad benefits gay men bring to women. In any case it is a leap of logic to presume strength and speed are the “most important” human characteristics or are necessarily the two primary traits which gay men pick up to counteract the debilitating effects of natural selection on their lack of reproductive ability. Why not say gay men are better at dressing to kill, or surviving against all odds on a minimum calorie diet?

On a separate note, it's clear that attention to detail also isn’t your strong point. Assuming your argument stands (which it doesn’t – as I shall explain shortly), I should have used a factor of 66 rather than 17.

But in any case, my formula of 10,700 * 1% * 1/33 gives a result for the number of gay athletes, whether male or female. Serendipitously all gay athletes in the 2012 Olympics happen to be male and hence I must insist that a factor of 33 remains correct in this instance.

I too am a banker and as you can see I have not yet learned to respond in a graceful manner to criticism.

GB said...

That's a bizarre statement, blb, that "... serendipitously all gay athletes in the 2012 Olympics happen to be male". An easy bit of research reveals that there are around 20 lesbians competing at London 2012, see e.g. outsports.com. However, if you had read the detail of my posting, you'll see that I was just referring to the gay male athletes.

To my mind, the big discrepancy between the proportions of gay male versus gay female athletes invalidates any analysis which lumps the two into the same category. Analysing men and women separately, if 50% of the athletes are men then there are around 5350 male athletes at London 2012. So the proportion of gay male athletes is 3/5350 which is a tiny 0.06%. That 0.06% needs to be multiplied by 17 to get it up to 1%, which is a conservative estimate of the proportion of gay men in the population.

The only way to get this discrepancy factor up to 33 or 66 is to vary the assumptions. In fact the discrepancy factor is likely to be higher, because more than 50% of the competitors are likely to be men, and there are likely to be more than 1% of gay men in the population. However, the higher the factor is, the more outrageous the result, and the the more likely it is that what I suggested in the posting is correct :-).

GB xxx

Superchilled said...

I met Matt Mitcham not long after the 2008 Olympics and found him to be a charming and extremely intelligent young man. His twitter & facebook posts are engaging and often quite funny and he is a great sport. What was refreshing about him coming out was that it wasn't an issue for him. It was almost an aside really. There are certainly a lot of other non out gay men at the games, and the world would be a better place if there were no reasons for them to remain closeted.

I'll be barracking for my countryman Matt in the games, but it will be hard to not have some appreciation for the über sexy Daley.

Anonymous said...

Daley for sure. He's a sweet young lad (not just easy on the eye) who has been through a lot and it would be nice for both him and his country that he do well.

Maybe one contributing factor regarding the number of out athletes is their age. I didn't come out till I was 21 and didn't really do anything gay until I was 22.

Sir Wobin said...

Turning on Grindr at the Olympic park reveals several *ahem* athletic profiles. It's not easy to determine which are participating athletes, and those would in any case only be athletes with smartphones and a particular app. Stands to reason that there are quite a few more than the 3 declared.

I'm all in favour of direct observation. :-)

GB said...

LOL LWW, but does your huband know that you've got grindr?

GB xxx

the immigayrant said...

Matthew Mitcham of course. There are a lot of other British athletes to win in other sports, but there are only 3 openly gay athletes in the Olympics.

Follow Matthew Mitcham's Facebook and Twitter account too! He's funny!


adultsextoyscity.co.uk/ said...

I can't believe the first commenter's level of ignorance. Back in the days of the most fierce warriors that existed in Ancient Greece all the soldiers had a right hand man that they'd literally die for. They ate, drank, bathed, slept, trained and fought together. When I say "slept" I mean it literally and euphemistically speaking. I'm sure that these guys were as fit as any man in the modern day Olympics, if not fitter. I would say that the number of gay athletes would be closer to the typical 10% of population!

Anonymous said...

Do I ever get to see you GB XXXXX

BiBanker said...

Matt for me, no doubt.