by Anthony Greer -
SGN Contributing Writer
The OutGames are coming to Vancouver, B.C., from July 25-31, and with an expected crowd of several thousand athletes, fans, and allies and a closing ceremony on the same weekend as Pride, it's sure to be a week worth celebrating.
The OutGames will comprise three major components: the sports themselves, an LGBT conference, and a celebration of LGBT culture and contributions.
Greg Larocque, the currently president of GLISA (Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association) North America, explained what each of these components would entail.
Currently there are 16 different sports that will be played all over Vancouver and its nearby suburbs Whistler, Burnaby, Surrey, North Vancouver, and Richmond, and will attract a diverse range of athletes, from those looking for fun and recreational events to those in serious competition. There will be mountain, marine, and land sports including softball, soccer, swimming, track, tennis, and even a Texas hold 'em poker tournament.
Team Seattle, being in close proximity to Vancouver, hopes to have a large turnout.
Larocque also hopes to have a large turnout of youth and seniors. 'Those are two demographics of great interest,' he said.
One of the reasons for this is because of what will be discussed at the LGBT conference aspect of the OutGames. Bullying/cyberbullying, hate crime legislation, Transgender issues, safe sex, alienation and isolation, and sexuality will all be prime topics.
GLISA was formed out of the Montreal 2006 Gay Games VII after the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) withdrew sanction of Montreal over a dispute of the size of the event. Shortly thereafter, Vancouver put their bid in for the 2011 OutGames and have been planning this week ever since.
'From my perspective, the Gay Games are about sports and celebrations, and there is very little discussion about human rights. We [believe] that the human rights discussion is important because some LGBT people don't enjoy the same human rights as others, even within the U.S. In many states you can't marry, adopt, have job protection, or spousal benefits. It's important to have that discussion,' Larocque commented.
Larocque is also chair of the Human Rights Conference component of the OutGames.
For women, the OutGames will provide a week-long activity center called 'Womenzone,' where women will be loud and proud while meeting locals, sampling from fine dining establishments, hosting book tours, and enjoying celebrations exclusively for women and their friends and allies.
Womenzone is just one of the many celebrations that will take place during the week.
'The celebration program is very, very busy. It's not just entertainment. There's going to be film, drama, book readings, and a Miss GLISA North America Pageant,' Larocque said.
Larocque explained that the celebration program is meant 'to celebrate who you are and let the mainstream know that we make huge contributions to our community in our art, our poetry, our film & it helps people to understand the full range of our contributions.'
'We want people to see who we are. Even in Vancouver, there are still some prejudices around Gay and Lesbian people,' Larocque said. 'This is an event for our community which includes anyone else who would like to participate.'
In addition to the sports, conference, and celebration components, there are three keynote speakers scheduled during the OutGames ceremonies: Blake Skjellerup, an Olympic short track speed skater; Steve Glassman, a chairperson of the Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission; and Sara Davis Buechner, a professor and concert pianist.
With so much going on, GLISA North America has been busy making accommodations for everyone who will attend. That number, for the moment, is only speculation.
'In 2007, Calgary, we had about 750 to 800 people. We're asking to at least to double or triple that in Vancouver,' Larocque said. 'When [GLISA] Asia Pacific had their first OutGames in Melbourne in 2007, that had 1,000 people. In Wellington, which just concluded this month, there were about 1,800 there.'
The fact that the OutGames overlaps with Vancouver Pride will likely increase attendance.
'We want people to come out and celebrate and join the community in whatever it's doing. I think it's gonna be an awesome event. I hope that many people from Seattle will come, but our event isn't intended to compete or overshadow any others,' Larocque said. 'It's going to be a great opportunity for people to come and have a wonderful week in a wonderful city.'
In preparation for the 2015 OutGames, GLISA North America will be in Colorado this weekend, where Denver has begun their bid process.
For more information on the Vancouver 2011 OutGames including a full list of sports, conferences, celebrations, hotel accommodations, and price ranges, please visit www.vancouver2011outgames.com.
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