Participants outnumber Outgames spectators

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Canadian news sources report that the first World Outgames so far appear to have got off to a slow start, attracting more participants than spectators.

As the games for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered athletes enter the third day of competition, athletes have outnumbered the fans at many events.

According to CBC News, a swimming event attracted 70 spectators to the Olympic pool, which can accommodate 2,000. Only 17 showed up to watch a women’s soccer game between Spain and the US.

Across town at a volleyball match, six fans cheered on Mexico and France.

Olympic gold medal swimmer and Outgames co-president Mark Tewksbury said: “When I swam at the highest level of amateur sport in Canada there were 30 people in the stands to watch me break a world record – other than the swimming mums and dads.

“That’s just a very common challenge of this level as opposed to the Olympic level of amateur sport.”

Games organisers told reporters they expect bigger crowds as the finals approach toward the end of the week. They said the event is more about the athletes than the spectators.

Marc Sampson, of Vancouver, won two gold medals in the rowing finals on Sunday,

“For us, it’s a big celebration. I mean, if there would be more spectators it would be great, but I think it’s the first Outgames and it’s good to have a little bit of exposure,” he told CBC News.

“Eventually, it will become, you know, better and better… every time we have games,” he added.

The Outgames web site says that more than 12,000 athletes from 111 countries are participating in the games, which were officially opened with a huge ceremony Saturday night. More than 40,000 people cheered entertainers such as k.d. lang, Cirque du Soleil, Sylvie Desgroseilliers and Diane Dufresne.

Before the official opening, more than 1,500 delegates took part in five plenary sessions and 200 workshops on Friday, at the first International Conference on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) Human Rights.

Montreal was originally awarded the Gay Games (held in Chicago July 15-22), but in a dispute over the number of participants, organisation and fundamental philosophy about what the games represent, organisers broke away from the U.S-based Federation of Gay Games in 2003 and, with the support of other athletic groups, formed the Gay and Lesbian International Sporting Association.

The Outgames close this Saturday.

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