Mon, Jul 27, 2009 - Page 6 News List

‘Gay Olympics’ open in Denmark

THE GUARDIAN , COPENHAGEN

A Danish delegation performs at the opening ceremony of the World Outgames in Copenhagen on Saturday. The World Outgames incorporate nine days of sports, cultural and human rights events for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

PHOTO: AP

There will be triathlon and handball — but also bridge and line dancing. Copenhagen was preparing for thousands of gay people from dozens of nations to descend this weekend for the Outgames, a nine-day sporting and cultural olympics for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

When the 5,500 participants were introduced on a catwalk in Copenhagen’s central square yesterday, it kickstarted nine days of sport, arts and political debates with almost 100 nations represented in more than 30 events.

But the event is about much more than podium places. The Outgames has launched itself under the banner of sport, culture and human rights.

At the center of the political program is a human rights conference, where speakers include the British basketball player John Amaechi, the first NBA player to have come out.

The people of Copenhagen have been encouraged to embrace the event and play an active role. At the main library you can “take out a gay” for a half-hour chat after you’ve scanned his or her barcode, while many participants are staying in private homes throughout the city.

The director of the Outgames, Uffe Elbak, hopes the Copenhagen event will attract people from countries where gay people still face imprisonment and the organizers have funded the journey to Copenhagen for 250 participants from Asia, Latin America and Africa.

“The world is coming to Copenhagen, and we have worked towards our goal of ensuring that participants from places such as Africa, Asia and not least the Middle East have the opportunity to come to Copenhagen for the Outgames,” he said.

Elbak sees the games as not just a celebration for the LGBT community, but a global event, highlighting that gay people are still criminalized in a third of the countries represented.

“We want to make this top priority and put the focus on human rights,” he said.

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