2011 north american outgames
Author: Steve Henschel | Thursday, June 02, 2011
Sports, culture and human rights — all will be celebrated in Vancouver this summer during the 2011 North American Outgames.
The games, open to LGBT individuals and their allies, will descend on picturesque Vancouver and Whistler between July 23th and 25th with more than 2,000 athletes competing from across the globe.
While there certainly will be competition, the games are more about inclusivity than anything else.
“Everybody, including the straight folks, are welcome to come out and play,” said Outgames chair John Boychuk, who admitted that while there will be some world class competitors in Vancouver, individuals of all skill levels can compete.
Indeed many of the 18 sporting events to take place have seperate divisions for individuals’ varying skill levels. One such event, the Eco Challenge, a first during the second running of the North American Outgames, will have novice, intermediate and advanced levels of competition.
“We’re really excited about creating this sport,” said Dean Nelson, the organizer for the Eco Challenge, adding that even “couch potatoes” can make a go of the novice division.
With inclusivity at the forefront another critical component of the games will be a human rights conference focusing on the three pillars of the games — sport, human rights and culture.
The three-day conference, running Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, will feature three keynote speakers: Olympic short track speed skater Blake Skellerup will speak to inclusivity in sport while Pennsylvania Human Rights Commission chair Stephen A. Glassman will take to the podium covering human rights issues; concert pianist and University of B.C. music prof. Sara Davis Buechner, herself a trans male to female, will speak of her experiences.
Conference chair Greg Larocque said with preparations ramping up it’s great to have three keynotes covering the “three pillars” of the games.
“The conference is about being as healthy as you can,” said Larocque who explained sport is a huge aspect in community life but often falls prey to discriminatory practices. He hopes to have all provincial sports organizations sign on to the document, adding that he has already been in contact with the B.C. Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.
The conference will also feature discussions on hate crime legislation and the experiences of Muslim LGBT individuals.
“I’m really looking forward to hearing some different ideas and thoughts,” said Larocque.
With a $300 registration fee the conference may be outside the price range of seniors and youth, two particularly at-risk groups according to Larocque. He hopes to give these groups a strong voice and invites those who may not be able to afford the conference to contact the Outgames for a possible registration discount.
The games third pillar, culture, will be front and centre.
“We had a desire to do something more community-based,” said Boychuk. With Vancouver Pride Week celebrations kicking off during the Outgames' tail end, culture and celebration will abound. Beyond productions of Confessions of a Mad Drag Queen, the Queer Art Festival, historic walking tours, the Q Hall of Fame’s Q-Ball black-tie event and more, the games will host some events of their own such as Womenzone. A safe space for women, their friends, allies and guests to gather and enjoy amenities including samples from local dining establishments and live entertainment.
It’s the opening ceremonies and flag run that will be the prime celebration of culture for Boychuk though. The running of flags will feature three legs. The first representing the land element will see the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association North America, Vancouver 2011 Outgames and Rainbow flags depart from Vancouver City Hall. Leg two representing the marine element will see the three flag runners depart the University of British Columbia while the third, representing the mountain element, will depart from the base of Grouse Mountain.
“The running of the flags for me is something that mirrors the celebrations of the Olympics,” said Boychuk, who added the variety of runners represents the inclusivity on which the games are based.
With a host of ticket options and registration prices individuals interested in participating in or visiting should go to www.vancouver2011outgames.com.
Author: Steve Henschel