Whether the 2012 Olympics will help
’s bid to host the 2018 Gay Games remains to be seen, but in 2011 the 2nd North American Outgames got a significant boost from the Olympic legacy of the Vancouver Winter Olympic games. London
Because the Vancouver Outgames were the most recent big continental games there’s still a lot of information available. To give proper justice to these games I’m doing what I did with the 2009 Copenhagen World Outgames and splitting the article into two.
organising committee managed to produce an Outgames that was traditional yet innovative at the same time. The human rights conference as pretty much the same as previous ones, though, of course, there was a North Americans core to the programme. It ran for 3 days in the middle of the sports competitions. This could have provided a problem for those delegates of the conference who were hoping to compete as well. Even more so for speakers who were competing, I expect. Fortunately, the main speaker for the official opening session, Olympic speed skater Blake Skjellerup, had a full day after the conference closed to prepare for his gold medal-winning run in the 10k. Vancouver
Quite a few sessions were centred on age – both old and young. Sessions on homophobia in school and universities, and coming out were organised, while another session was entitled “Engaging the Aging Athlete”. The British Colombia government offered funding specifically to young and senior delegates wishing to attend the conference.
The conference attracted several prominent speakers. As well as Blake Skjellerup, a leading writer on women and sport, Pat Griffin, spoke at several sessions.
The art and culture section of the Outgames included Vancouver Pride Week ending with the Pride parade the day after the official closing ceremony. The culture events included a week-long Queer History project, special performances of “Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen” and the 23rd annual Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
The opening and closing ceremonies were fantastic events full of fun, pride and celebration. The official Vancouver Outgames anthem “Come on Out” was written and performed at both ceremonies by lesbian duo Sugarbeach. The day-long closing celebrations also had appearances from Ace of Base and stars of “So You Think You Can Dance
” leading a flash mob dance. Canada
The main innovations to the Outgames came in the sport. For the first time in an lgbt multi-sport festival there was no swimming competition. Like the field hockey, mountain biking and bowling competitions, swimming attracted a surprisingly low number of entrants. All of these sports were dropped from the schedule. Track and field events almost followed them at the last minute. The athletic club who was to have hosted the track and field events pulled out of the Outgames a week before they began, claiming that not enough interest has been shown. There were 89 registered athletes for the events and frantic efforts were made to ensure they went ahead. A new club and venue was contracted and the track and field events were saved.
’s bid for the games an emphasis was made on the wider sporting arena, not just city venues but sea and mountain as well – the theme of the games was “Land, Sea and Sky”. Several sailing and mountain bike events had been held in previous Outgames but Vancouver came up with the new Eco-Challenge, a gruelling 3-hour-plus challenge involving hiking, running, swimming, orienteering, canoeing and biking on Vancouver . Greg Larocque was one of the gold medal winners – just a day before the start of the conference of which he was Co-Chair! Fellow conference committee member Gordon Dunbar won silver. Whistler Mountain
For those a little daunted by the Eco-Challenge but still quite adventurous was the 6k Vertical Challenge. This is an established annual race called the Grouse Grind where athletes hike up
. The fastest athlete was Tin Vo from Niagra who completed the challenge in 61 minutes (he also won silver in the 10k run). Grouse Mountain
Next time I’ll mention a handful of notable achievements in the sport competition, including the most unique medal ceremony in history – ever!!