COPENHAGEN – Denmark's gay pride week was celebrated recently under a special banner, as the Danes announced that Copenhagen will be following Montreal's lead and host the second World Outgames in 2009.
The World Outgames is a joint venture by some of Denmark's local sports' organization as well as several international gay sports federations, such as the International Gay and Lesbian Sport Association (Glisa), the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF) and Denmark's own Pan Idraet.
Despite some financial concerns, Copenhagen hopes to attract some 8,000 gay athletes to the games, with some 10,000 tourists who will attend the games, scheduled to take place between July 25 and August 2, 2009.
Marc Northern, the venture's communication manager, estimated that the overall cost of the games may reach DKK 60 million (approx. $12 million); with the City of Copenhagen providing DKK 25 million and the Danish government chipping in with DKK 6 million. The rest of the funding, he said, is expected to be derived from sponsorships.
The games, said Northern, will feature 38 different competitions, as well as public workshops such as yoga and dance classes, a seminar on gay and lesbian cinema and on the way gays are portrayed in films; and the Scandinavian leather festival. The Danish gay and lesbian deaf-mute association, he added, will mark its 25th anniversary during the games.
Tel Aviv-style beach experience. The future Israeli compound (Photo: Oren Rice)
The organizers of the Copenhagen Outgames will try to avoid the financial fate of the 2006 Montréal Outgames, which were the first of their kind and verged on bankruptcy. Aware of the fact that the nearing 2010 Cologne Gay Games may prove to be a bigger crowd draw, the Danish organizers are trying to pull the games together with maximum corporate transparency, in an attempt to minimize any public criticism which may hinder attendance.
Making a point
Copenhagen's Mayor for Culture and Leisure Pia Allerslev (the city has several deputy mayors who are dubbed "mayors" of their respective departments,) said what she really wants is for Copenhagen to someday host the Olympic Games: "We want this to be a successful event in order to show the International Olympic Committee that we can carry the Games, although it is clear we won't be able to host them the way Beijing did."
Another one of the games' objectives is to increase awareness to gay rights: "We were the pioneers (on gay rights) but we fell asleep on the job, thinking the age of hate crimes was over," she said.
Denmark was the first European country to sanction gay marriages, but as far as other civil rights go, it is now surpassed by neighboring Sweden as well as by several others of its European neighbors.
Denmark also wants to send a clear message to the new countries inducted into the European Union, some of which still discriminate against gays: "We cannot take things for granted," she concluded. "When we see the way things are in the Baltic states ( in terms of gay rights) we have to make it clear that such behavior will not be tolerated."
Tel Aviv via Copenhagen
As for the Israeli angle, Tel Aviv will be one of six cities awarded compounds during the games, along with Melbourne, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro and Aarhus.
Located at Islands Brygge and adjacent to Copenhagen's new National Library, The Israeli compound is expected to turn into a vivacious Tel Aviv-style beach experience – complete with ice-cream vendors and falafel stands – celebrating the city's centennial. The compound will also feature a nighttime escapade in the form of a beach party, headed by some of Israel's leading DJs.
Israel's gay athletes' delegation for the games will be sponsored by Tel Aviv's Gan Meir Gay Community Center. The delegation is expected to include both professional and amateur athletes, who will compete in basketball, volleyball, canoeing, wrestling, climbing, athletics and swimming meets.
Other sports featured in the Outgames will be bowling, bridge dancing, golf and roller racing.
Oren Rice was the Danish Foreign Ministry's and the Copenhagen 2009 World Outgames organizers' guest in Denmark