Friday, 30 August 2013

A Taste of the Antwerp Outgames

Two and a half weeks after the close of the 3rd World Outgames in Antwerp here is my review of the games to conclude my chronicle of the Outgames. This provides just a little taste of the games and shouldn’t be seen as a comprehensive record.
The human rights conference kicked off events on 31st July. It carried the title of “From Safe Harbours to Equality”. In it’s introduction to the conference programme it says : “Changes in the positioning of international LGBT rights in recent months, including marriage in France, the USA, Uruguay, New Zealand and Argentina; changes in African Commonwealth countries as well as in Eastern Europe – all of this has provided some breathing space for LGBT people. A conference in this new context cannot simply focus on the past: it must become a gathering which proposes solutions for people fighting and struggling everywhere in the world.”
The conference was less about educating the lgbt world about the various communities and their problems and more about working with them. Various exhibitions and meet-and-greet sessions provided informal networking opportunities. Present were several asylum seekers from Africa, and Amnesty International who highlighted the problems encountered in Russia since the recent introduction of anti-gay laws there. Speakers and panellists through the 3-day conference included several serving and past international MP’s, Olympic archer Karen Hultzer, and an impressive collection of other activists, politicians and speakers from more countries than ever before at an Outgames conference.
Running concurrent with the conference was the cultural festival. This included Mr Gay World 2013. The entrants, which included the newly-crowned Mr Gay Europe, Robbie Obara of Ireland, and the outgoing Mr Gay World, Andreas Derleth, attended the Outgames opening ceremony. The Mr Gay World finals were held the next day, with Chris Olwage of New Zealand being crowned winner.
The opening ceremony itself, in Antwerp’s historical docklands area, included the traditional entry of the athletes. The biggest and most enthusiastic welcome was for the Russian team. Performing at the ceremony were 2 of the Outgames Ambassadors, singer Kate Ryan who wrote the official games song, and junior world champion archer Ivan Denis (if shooting an arrow can be called a performance). In an echo of the Barcelona Olympic opening ceremony Ivan fired an arrow into a target to signal the opening of the games.
Other cultural events included poetry, film and music festivals, and boat trips and city tours. Exhibitions were mounted across Flanders and a Rainbow Village was set up in the shadow of Antwerp’s fairy-tale Het Steen castle with various information booths and performers.
Jumping ahead, the Outgames concluded with a closing ceremony where the Outgames flag was handed to the next hosts of the World Outgames to be held in 2017 in Miami Beach. Banners were also presented to the hosts of the 3rd Asia Pacific Outgames to be held in Australia next year. Events were rounded off with Antwerp Pride.
As for the sports themselves there is so much to cover that I’ll have to be selective (sorry if I miss your favourite sport). The first medals to be awarded were in synchronised swimming, one of the sports where the International Olympic Committee still discriminates against men. Waving my metaphorical Union Jack, congratulations to Team UK who won the team event, and especially to team-member Derde Luis Exposito Gutierrez who also won gold in the solo contest (even though he’s Cuban he lives and works in London).
Archery attracted 3 competitors of note. One was Outgames Ambassador Ivan Denis, a hopeful for Rio 2016. He won a bronze in his category. Olympian Karen Hultzer won gold in her category. The list of entrants included Rev. Denver NaVaar. Longtime followers of this blog may remember him from my article on the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
Its always pleasing to see names recurring from games to games, whether Outgames, Gay Games or EuroGames, or all 3. There were lots of returning athletes from previous games. Here’s a couple of them.
The pool saw school teacher Elizabeth Bellinger win several medals and break the UK Masters record in the 50m butterfly. Elizabeth has been breaking records for several years. In 2003 she was the first woman to break British Olympian Sharon Davies’s 11-year record in the same distance. Lizzie won 7 gold medals at the 2010 Gay Games.
Respect goes out to Russell LaMar Jacquet-Acea who came 4th in the decathlon. Just a few months ago his mother Elizabeth died at the age of 77 (I must write an article on his amazing ancestry). Linking with this year’s science theme I mention Russell also because he’s an amateur astronomer and taught astronomy in Seattle. He has now won over 25 gold medals in Gay and Outgames since 1990.
The only athlete present who has also taken part in the Olympic torch relay was Trevor Burchick. He is founder of Manchester’s Pride Games which is the UK’s largest lgbt sport festival. He was awarded the MBE by the Queen in 2007 for services to the community, and carried the Olympic torch in June last year. Trevor is also a UK representative on GLISA, the governing body of the Outgames.
The football contest was of particular interest to me because my local gay team, Nottingham Ball Bois, was playing. Having won bronze at the 2011 EuroGames I was hopeful of them medalling in Antwerp. But Scott and the lads still did Nottingham proud by finishing 6th (out of 12) in their division.
Reading through this article I seem to have mentioned a lot of British athletes. Sorry about that, I’m probably still buzzing from last year’s UK Olympic successes. Space restricts me from saying more, so I’ll end expressing my congratulations to all the participants.

1 comment:

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