Outgames hailed a success for gay community

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The organisers of the Outgames in Montreal have hailed the event a success after it closed last weekend.

Mark Tewksbury, the co president of the 1st World Outgames announced that participation and attendance targets were reached despite reports of a lack of interest in the event.

He said: “We are very proud to announce that we have reached our participation and attendance targets with more than half a million people at the sport competitions and cultural activities, 18,599 participants from 111 countries as conference delegates, athletes, volunteers or participants in the cultural programme.”

Last week, Canadian news sources reported that the Outgames had got off to a slow start, attracting more participants than spectators, however, Mr Tewskbury insisted there would be more interest nearer the finals.

For eleven days, Montréal was host of a major international event combining sport, culture and human rights. The International Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Human Rights brought together 1,516 participants from every corner of the globe to discuss the worldwide situation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The thirty-five sport disciplines drew 10,248 athletes, while 835 people came together for the cultural component of the programme. Some 5,200 volunteers worked tirelessly at all the events.

“The 1st World Outgames Montréal would not have known the success it has had without the exceptional contribution of its volunteers and partners and the unwavering support of the entire Montréal community. Thanks to this financial and logistical support, the 1st World Outgames have and will continue to have a significant social and economic impact for Montréal, Québec and the all of Canada”, said Louise Roy, chief executive of the organisation.

The 1st World Outgames were presented by the Government of Canada, the Government of Québec, the City of Montréal, Radio-Canada and Tourisme Montréal. The organisation also worked in partnership with Bell Canada, Labatt Breweries, CGI, the STM and Solotech. The 1st World Outgames also benefited from its association with Via Rail, Air Canada, the Borough of Ville-Marie, Fugues, Gaywired (H.I.M) and Out in America.

“Participants were impressed by the warm welcome they received from Montrealers and the organisers’ top-notch preparations for the games,” said Mr Tewksbury. Sports disciplines were officially sanctioned by provincial and national sport federations, which meant that any records broken would be officially recorded, as was the case in swimming on 4 August when American Daniel Veatch beat a world record in the 200m backstroke in his age category. Competitions were held at 41 sites throughout the city.

The Declaration of Montréal, unanimously endorsed by participants at the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights, remains one of the key moments of the 1st World Outgames. The five plenary sessions brought together 1,516 participants, including United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and international tennis champion Martina Navratilova. Over the coming months, the Declaration of Montréal will be delivered to officials at the United Nations and national governments around the world to seek meaningful support for the rights of the LGBT community.

It said: “The world has gradually accepted that individual human beings have different sexes, racial or ethnic origins, and religions, and that these differences must be respected and not be used as reasons for discrimination. But most countries still do not accept two other aspects of human diversity: that people have different sexual orientations and different gender identities; that two women or two men can fall in love with each other; and that a person’s identity, as female or male or neither, is not always determined by the type of body into which they were born.

“Refusal to accept and respect these differences means that oppression of LGBT people is still a daily reality in most parts of the world. In some countries, discrimination and violence against LGBT people are getting worse. But more and more, brave individuals and groups are standing up for LGBT human rights in every region of the world. In particular, LGBT individuals and groups in Asia, Africa, Latin

America and Eastern Europe no longer accept prejudice and discrimination, and are becoming increasingly impatient to achieve freedom and equality. But progress is very uneven and is not automatic. Worldwide, we are seeing advances and setbacks.

“Progress in realising LGBT human rights demands multi-layered change in all parts of the world: rights must be secured, laws changed, new policies designed and implemented, and institutional practices adapted. LGBT individuals and groups are the prime agents of change. But we will only win if we enlist others as allies in our struggle. The purpose of this declaration is to list and explain the changes that we need, and build an agenda for global action.”

According to Mr Tewksbury, hosting the Outgames also allowed Montréal to further establish the city as a prime destination for the LGBT community. “Montréal will enjoy significant social and economic benefits, both in the short and medium term.”

The Outgames organisation is proud to leave as its legacy a major international event. The event also gives the LGBT community worldwide a solid foundation upon which to continue to build a promising future. The Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (GLISA) will also enjoy, in addition to a legacy of future quadrennial games, continental Outgames to be held in North America in Calgary in 2007, and Asia-Pacific in Melbourne in 2008. GLISA intends to establish its headquarters in Montréal.

The next World Outgames will be held in Copenhagen in 2009. In recognition of this, the Mayor of Culture and Leisure of Copenhagen, Martin Geerson, was officially handed, during the Closing Ceremony, GLISA’s official flag, by the Mayor of Montréal, Gérald Tremblay.