Ever since being transfixed by Torvill and Dean’s Bolero routine in Sarajevo or dazzled by the pageantry of Los Angeles – I’ve been an unapologetic Olympic fanatic since 1984. It turns out I’m not alone – the quadrennial games enjoy a huge gay following worldwide – including Tyler Duckworth and Charley Cullen Walters of Olympics or Bust.
“The Olympics offer a diversity of ability – and it’s not necessary a testosterone-driven ‘hit as hard as you can’ – but it’s about artistry, it’s about sportsmanship,” says Tyler. “So it hasn’t been marketed into the gladiator type of mentality.”
“Even if they’re not into the sport aspect – it’s the pageantry and the ceremony and I’m equally obsessed with those elements as well,” adds Charley. “I think gay people – we can relate to this idea of being the underdogs – seeing people like Mary Decker or Kerri Strug who have something in their way, but they overcome it and rise above based on their own genetic makeup. I do think that’s one of the reasons gay people relate to the Olympics sometimes more than other people because we have lots of times where we have to rise above. “
The duo officially met seven years ago at the urging of a mutual friend, but soon discovered after drinks at New York’s Gym Bar that their Minnesota families had known each other for years. What’s more – they were both equally obsessed with the Olympic Games.
Charley grew up in a sports loving family the son of a former professional baseball player. He is owner/CEO of CW3 Public Relations. Tyler pursued his childhood dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer until it was dashed by injury. He is employed in sports medicine (he’s also “that Tyler” from The Real World Key West).
“We immediately hit it off,” recalls Walters. “We really bonded and maybe a year later, when Tyler came out to LA, we went to Chicago and did the Gay Games together and we both competed. And that’s when we really started the discussion about getting serious about this and doing something for Beijing.”
Their goal was to cover a rarer perspective of the Games not included by mainstream outlets and what started out as clever, campy and fun videos and blogs sent back to friends and family turned into an online phenomenon. Much to their amazement, on peak days during the 2008 Beijing Games, the OOB site received over 50,000 hits a day, and gathered attention from various news outlets around the world. And it’s all for a great cause – since 2008 they’ve raised thousands of dollars for Paralympics athletes in need of artificial limbs.
Two years later at Vancouver’s winter games, OOB was tapped by Advocate Magazine and LOGO to cover the gay side of the games and the growing movement that was going on with the first of its kind Pride House in Whistler.
“It was such a monumental, necessary thing that took a long time to happen,” says Tyler. “And as small as it was – there were probably only 30 people there – it just kind of felt like we were witnessing history and not only that – but that we were documenting history and helping to bring it to other people.”
Charley and Tyler possess an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Olympics and have traveled to myriad host cities, including St. Louis – host of the 1904 Olympic Games. This past summer the twosome boarded a gay cruise headed for Europe and the Mediterranean and hit the International Olympic
Looking toward the London games this summer, the duo promises more clever coverage “from flame to glory” and hint at a soon to be announced partnership.
“It’s still in works,” explains Charley. “We’re partnering with a major partner to bring Olympics or Bust and our style of coverage to even more of the world than ever before.”
“I think we’re going to see some big break throughs in London,” he adds. “It was so great to see and get to know the organizers of the first Pride House in Vancouver – but in London – which is even more a worldly and gay city – they are going to take it to the next level.”
Tyler points to the coverage of LGBT athletes as something to watch, contrasting Vancouver’s media portrayal of flashy figure skating phenom Johnny Weir.
“I thought the way some of the commentators treated him was absolutely out of control,” offers Tyler. “It was terrible. It should be frowned upon. And I don’t think any other minority group would be treated that poorly so openly…it just really doesn’t have a place at the games. I do respect Johnny on so many levels for being himself.”
But if the Olympic movement stands for anything – it is transcending boundaries – and with LGBT rights advancing worldwide, it’s an ideal avenue for gay athletes from open countries to really shine a light on the issue.
“Matthew Mitcham out of Australia – who was a gold medalist at the games in Beijing – was lauded as national hero in Australia,” states Tyler. “So it really depends where the athlete is from.”
“I can’t wait to see some of the literal coming out stories at these games because I think we’re going to have more than ever before,” adds Charley.
The London games will also feature openly Intersex Track and Field athlete Caster Semenya from South Africa who is favored to win gold.
“Understand – the IOC is a very conservative organization,” offers Tyler. “But I think what’s going on with Intersex athletes is going to prepare the ground for Transgender athletes.”
“In the end it’s going to come down to Science,” says Charley. “It’s going to be a really interesting year and it’s going to come to the forefront this year. We’re really living history here.”
Check www.olympicsorbust.com for the latest on London or Beijing and Vancouver OOB Coverage.
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