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BBC sports’ Clare Balding prepares for gayest Olympics

BBC sports’ Clare Balding prepares for gayest Olympics

Openly lesbian ex-jockey and BBC sports presenter Clare Balding told guests at the Stonewall Equality Dinner that this year’s Olympics will be the most gay-friendly ever.

She was the guest speaker at the annual fundraiser for Britain’s leading lesbian, gay and bisexual campaign organization, held at the Dorchester Hotel on London’s Park Lane last night (29 March).

She told guests: ‘I firmly believe these London Olympics and Paralympics will be the most gay friendly ever.’

And she went on to say that it was in the interest of club owners, managers and coaches for sport to be LGBT-friendly.

Balding said: ‘I believe people’s performance is affected when they are not comfortable in their own skin.

‘If you are passing a ball and about to score an amazing goal and you fear after the game you will be outed, you won’t be at your best.

‘I believe if we persuade managers and coaches that people will perform better when the can be equal, that will transform sport.’

Ben Summerskill, Stonewall’s chief executive, used his address to discuss the British government’s consultation on how to introduce equal marriage and the response from a vocal minority of religious homophobes.

He told guests: ‘We have seen a vicious and vituperous response to the government’s very measured proposals to extend marriage to gay and lesbian people.

‘You have to start counting the silver when a senior Roman Catholic cleric has the gall to somehow suggest that lesbians and gay men are insufficiently concerned about the protection of children.’

But he went on to joke: ‘It is our straight friends who are already aware of the truth about same-sex marriage. At the end of the day, all marriages are same sex. You get married and then every day for the rest of your life you have the same sex.’

Summerskill cited Britain as a ‘beacon’ for LGBT rights around the world and pledged Stonewall would ‘never trim our ambitions’, having started to address global gay issues this year.

The evening was hosted by lesbian novelist Stella Duffy and the auction, which raised £108,000 ($179,000 €129,000) alone was conducted by actor and reality-TV favorite Christopher Biggins.

The lots included dinners with Lord of the Rings star Sir Ian McKellen ahead of the release of The Hobbit and dinner with Biggins and his friend, the actress and author Joan Collins.

Other celebrities attending the dinner included TV doctor Dr Christian Jessen, lesbian artist Maggi Hamblin and Harry Derbridge who shot to fame on TV reality-drama The Only Way Is Essex.

Politicians there included long-term gay rights campaigner Lord Waheed Alli, government equality minister Lynne Featherstone and John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, along with his wife Sally who was made famous by a near-naked photoshoot in Parliament and an appearance on reality TV show Celebrity Big Brother.

The three leading candidates to be London mayor – Ken Livingstone, openly gay Brian Paddick and incumbent Boris Johnson – were also there.

There were also representatives from leading employers include PWC, Ernst and Young, Aviva, JP Morgan and Coutts bank.

The evening raised £393,000 ($623,000 €467,000) for the charity.