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  WINDY CITY TIMES

SPORTS/RECREATION Outgames set for July
by Ross Forman
2009-04-15

This article shared 2504 times since Wed Apr 15, 2009
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Despite the worldwide economic crisis, organizers for the 2009 World Outgames are confident that they will hit their goal of 8,000 participants.

Or maybe because of the financial crisis.

The Outgames kick off in Copenhagen on Saturday, July 25—and Thursday, April 16, marks 100 days until the event starts.

Organizers wanted 8,000 registered participants by May 1, though the total as of early-April was only about 5,000. And only about 500 from the U.S., though organizers expect a minimum of 1,000 participants from America.

"I think everyone now is holding back. That's money in their pocket and also on a mental basis; I think everyone is waiting and slowly making [ economic ] decisions, from whether to go on vacation during the summer or even start a new business," said Uffe Elbaek, the CEO of the 2009 World Outgames, which run though Aug. 2.

The second-ever Outgames features 38 different sports disciplines, from aerobics to wrestling, for competitors of all skills levels. There also will be a wide variety of cultural events, including performances, exhibitions and parties to inspire, provoke and showcase LGBT pride. Plus, the 2009 World Outgames will feature the second human rights conference, addressing issues and concerns of the LGBT community.

"I don't just look at the Outgames as how many participants come from, say, the United States. I want all parts of the world to be represented," Elbaek said. "It's important to me that participants come from North America, Europe and Australia, but also from Latin America, Asia and Africa. I really hope this event reflects the global LGBT culture, and certainly the U.S. is a very strong player in that market."

Elbaek admitted that the low registration from the USA so far is "very surprising," but clearly a mix of the worldwide financial crisis and the fact that the Outgames is a relatively new brand.

The inaugural Outgames was held in 2006 in Montreal, kicking off days after Gay Games VII culminated its run in Chicago.

"I think we have a very interesting product. And, in tough [ economic ] times like this, the LGBT community has to stick together. I think we offer a perfect platform for that," Elbaek said. "The Outgames is a brilliant chance to show the rest of the world that, even if we are living in a financially turbulent times, we, the LGBT community, really are able to take the next step to support each other."

The Outgames' first registration goal last fall was 2,000—and that total was surpassed by more than 300. So, yes, organizers are confident 8,000 will be reached, even if it's a drop after their May 1 goal.

"You wouldn't be serious if you weren't worried, but we are extremely economically focused," said Elbaek, who noted that last summer, when the economic crisis first flared, they down-scaled the budget.

"I believe it miracles, so yes, I'm very confident we will have 8,000 participants. Who knows, maybe we'll exceed that amount.

"I'm sure everyone remembers one of John F. Kennedy's most famous speeches. Well, I've slightly changed it: Don't ask what the Outgames can do for you; ask what you can do for the Outgames.

"When times get tough, I think the LGBT community really has to stand shoulder to shoulder."

Gay Games VIII will be held in Cologne, Germany, in 2010—and organizers for that event will be present this summer in Copenhagen. The bitter feelings between organizers for the Gay Games and the Outgames have patched up any differences that brewed in 2006. Now the two events are working hand in hand, so to speak, and Elbaek is honored Gay Games organizers will attend and promote their event in Copenhagen.

"I think these two [ events ] will be one at some point in time. I don't know when, where or how that will happen, but I think it will," Elbaek said.

Elbaek said more than 70 nationalities will be represented at the Outgames; however, the contingent from Asia remains small.

One of the highlights of the Outgames clearly will be the three-day human rights conference, scheduled for July 27-29, titled: "Love of Freedom—Freedom to Love."

About 800 delegates from around the world are expected to participate in the conference, which will be held at the brand new Danish Broadcasting Corporation's Concert centre and the new IT University. The conference program will include a variety of leading international keynote speakers, including former professional basketball player John Amaechi. The conference will feature about 100 workshops with 10 different themes, such as Human Rights & Politics; Education; Sport; Family & Relationships; Out For Business; LGBT History, and more.

The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, also will speak at the conference.


This article shared 2504 times since Wed Apr 15, 2009
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