EMANUELE LOMBARDINI

Whatever happens, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, which officially begin today at 1pm CET (9pm in Japan) with the opening ceremony, will go down in history. For the surreal atmosphere in which they will be played, with empty stadiums and rigid Covid controls and for the many stories that will be shared through sports. Some are sadly already telling them, even before the Games  begin.

An example is the controversy that broke out in Italy after the designation by the Italian Olympic Committee of the volleyball player Paola Egonu in the small group of athletes who at the end of the parade of Nations, will carry the flag of the IOC, the International Olympic Committee.

The fault of Paola Egonu? She has dark skin, a foreign surname, despite being born and raised in Italy, having been engaged to a woman (making  coming out of her bisexuality) and having publicly expressed her support for the LGBTQI + cause. All these issues  already taken individually are enough to solicit the sinister racist and homophobic instincts of the Italian right, supported by the most extremist part of the Catholics, but all put together are become a sort of explosive mix.

In these days, the Italian Parliament is discussing a very delicate law which, if approved, will allow to apply more severe penalties for those who commit acts of violence or discrimination with a homophobic background, the so-called “Zan Bill”, from the name of politician who promoted it, Alessandro Zan. The parties that oppose this law are the same ones that rode the protest against Egonu’s choice (and one of these, Lega, is also part of the grand coalition government that currently leads Italy), voluntarily misinforming their own voters on the fact that Egonu is currently the strongest volleyball player in the world.

The Italian spiker in fact holds the record for points in a single game (47) and has already won practically everything with her club at national and international level, also collecting a world silver medal and a European bronze meal with the national team. All this at only 22 years old. But for the racist and xenophobic right, which at the moment is  majority in Italy (if Italy  would vote today, the two right-wing parties would exceed 40%, a percentage sufficient to govern), Paola Egonu would have been chosen “because black and homosexual, at the only for the purpose of favoring the approval of the Zan bill, without any sporting merit “.

It is easy to imagine what the sovereign and nationalist media will write, in a few hours, when they will see  the Refugee Olympic Team,  made up of 29 athletes who fled from countries in war or with political and economics complex situations, parade for the second consecutive Olympics. None of them have any hopes for a medal, but each one has an extraordinary story to tell. The most famous among them is the Syrian resident of Germany Yusra Mardini, 24, years old,  at her second Olympics, who will compete in the 100 butterfly swim.

Yusra Mardini

Mardini, today UNCHR Goodwill Ambassador, became famous for having brought to safety with her sister, swimming for several hours, herself and the other 20 passengers of the boat where she had boarded to escape from the war, when it was shipwrecked between Turkey and Greek island of Lesbos.

Yusra Mardini has since then become an emblem for forced migrants around the world and a powerful example of resilience and determination to rebuild their lives and contribute positively to host communities. And that’s why stories like this are the main target of a certain toxic right.

The same one that in Italy it has already lashed out at New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard, who will become the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic (a second one could be BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe, a U.S. team alternate)

Males must compete with males, females must compete with females”, immediately commented Lega senator Simone Pillon, the most homophobic and anti-LGBT exponent of the Italian parliament. On his page he literally defined him as “a middle-aged gentleman” (Hubbard is 43 years old) “who had won a junior competition in 1998 and then nothing else. Since he decided to become a woman you have become a champion of everything “(always using the male article, which in Italian is different from the female one). The same concepts expressed by the neo-fascist movement Casapound which has no parliamentarians but is growing rapidly in the Italian suburbs. A battle that the far-right forces are waging against all Italian transgender athletes, including Valentina Petrillo, the visually impaired sprinter who will be one of the Italian hopes at the Tokyo Paralympics, guilty “of winning gold medals against biological women”.

Tokyo 2020 is about to begin and sporting Italy can do the best result of the last 20 years in terms of medals. Certainly at the Olympics of hate, the racist and xenophobic Italian right, runs for the gold medal.

The Italian racist and homophobic right and the Olympics of hatred
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