Campbell Harrison is set to begin his Olympic adventure in Paris on Aug. 5. | Victor Hall / IFSC

Campbell Harrison, who is set to compete in climbing at his first Olympic Games in Paris in August, is speaking out strongly against online hate after a post about him on the official Olympics account on Instagram received a barrage of abuse.

On Tuesday, a post of 10 images went live on the account showing Harrison and his boyfriend, Justin, alongside the title “A Kiss Worth Celebrating.”

The post was shared as a collaboration with the accounts of the athlete, his team, his national federation in Australia and the international federation, the IFSC, with the hashtag #PrideMonth.

The images and captions carried Harrison’s uplifting tale of qualifying for Paris after the disappointment of missing out on Tokyo three years ago, and his status as “the first publicly LGBTQ sport climber heading to the Olympics.”

Some of the captions are quotes taken from an interview the 26-year-old gave to Outsports earlier this year, in which Harrison explained that kissing Justin to celebrate his success at the Oceania qualifier in Melbourne was “a good and powerful thing.”

Another image in the series shares a message from Harrison “to the queer community” that reads: “To anyone thinking of coming out, look at it in terms of the joy, love and empowerment.”

However, such was the immediate deluge of hateful comments on the post, the Olympics account asked its 8 million Instagram followers to be “respectful… and avoid any language that could be offensive, or harmful to others.”

An appalled Harrison, who is currently in Innsbruck, Austria, preparing for a World Cup climbing event, took aim at the negative and discriminatory responses in his Insta story, sharing screenshots. In one comment, a user had posted an image of a man using a flamethrower.

After thanking his own friends and fans for their messages of support, Harrison wrote: “We often tell ourselves that society as a whole is becoming more progressive, or that things are ‘getting better’…

“But the reality is there’s a reason why you see so few out, queer athletes in sport…. And that’s because we’re still not safe here… yet.

“Pride matters. Representation matters.

“It’s homophobes and bigots that should feel unwelcome in sport. Not me. Not Justin. Not queer people just trying to live our lives without having to lie about and hide who we are.”

Nevertheless, Harrison waded into the comments himself, tagging in Justin’s account and writing “all these people mad cause we’re hotter than they are” — followed by a face blowing a kiss emoji.

Among those showing solidarity with Harrison and his boyfriend was fellow Australian and history-maker Matthew Mitcham, the first publicly out gay man to win an Olympic gold medal.

The former diver wrote: “15 years ago I kissed my partner on camera when I won in Beijing 2008.

“This one post by @olympics has received more hate than I did in my whole career. Y’all need Jesus.”

He added in his story: “The backlash against the LGBTQIA+ community is worse now than it has been for a long time.”

The Olympics collab post for Pride Month arrives with one month to go before the start of the Games in Paris, at a time when many athletes around the world are still in the final stages of securing their places.

The figure from Tokyo of at least 186 out LGBTQ athletes competing will almost certainly be surpassed.

Alongside their visibility, the Pride House Paris venue at the Péniche Rosa Bonheur on the Seine — backed by the Organizing Committee and the IOC — promises to be “a place full of life and celebration.”

In the last week, Harrison became one of 22 Team Ambassadors announced so far for Pride House. The majority are current or former Olympic and Paralympic athletes, including Mitcham, figure skaters Guillaume Cizeron and Javier Raya, and para-rowers Nikki Ayers and Lauren Rowles.

Campbell Harrison
Campbell Harrison was confirmed in February as part of the Australian Olympic team for Paris 2024. | Leo Bi

The IFSC collaborating on the Olympics Instagram post for Pride is significant too. In his recent interview with Outsports, Harrison was asked if he felt the federation — who had included a picture of his kiss with Justin in an Instagram post series for Valentine’s Day — should consider making its stance on LGBTQ inclusion clearer. 

“There’s definitely a lot more that could be done and now that I think about it, there probably is a greater responsibility of the international federation to push these issues,” he said.

The IFSC appeared to be feeling that sense of responsibility Tuesday, commenting from their account: “Every month should be #PrideMonth.”

Also sticking up for Harrison were his Australian climbing teammates Kyra Condie and Chloe Caulie and kayaker Evy Leibfarth who added praise and heart emojis, and another out Olympian — U.S. bobsledder Chris Kinney, who came out as bi in 2020 — who commented: “Welcome to the Olympian club and also good on you for being an athlete so many young lgbt athletes can look up to as they pursue their sport with passion! See you in Paris!” 

Harrison is due to get his Olympic challenge underway at Le Bourget Sport Climbing Venue in Saint-Denis on Aug. 5 in the boulder semifinal of the men’s combined competition.