Antwerp in Belgium is getting ready to host it's own 'gay Olympics' next year - the World Outgames is a four-yearly LGBT sports event attracting competitors from around the globe.
Gay Star News recently caught up with Jerko Bozikovic, marketing and communications manager for the event, to get an update on what participants can look forward to from the worldOutgames experience.
How many athletes will be participating in the World Outgames in Antwerp?
We’re expecting between 8,000 and 10,000 athletes from all over the world.
How many sports will be part of the event?
About 35 ranging from bridge and bowling, to soccer, volleyball and basketball, field hockey and golf, swimming, water polo, diving and synchronized swimming, tennis and badminton, ballroom dancing and so much more. All sports are on our website and we’re looking into some extra ones that have not yet been confirmed.
What are the key activities that will be part of the World Outgames in Antwerp?
The World Outgames consists of three equally important pillars: The sports competition; a cultural festival with exhibitions, theatre events, museum shows, opening and closing ceremonies and plenty of parties, with a combined reach of some 250,000 visitors; and a human rights conference with 1,000 participants.
Why was the city of Antwerp keen to host the World Outgames?
There were a number of reasons. We hosted the [LGBT] Eurogames in 2007, which were very successful with 3,300 athletes in about 10 sports. Not only did the whole city get involved, but also financially we had a positive result.
This was the start of the bidding procedure for the World Outgames. Since a lot of sportspeople from Antwerp went to the World Outgames in Montreal in 2006, we knew what the potential regarding impact for the city was. The city of Antwerp had also recently made the strategic decision to promote Antwerp as a top LGBT destination, and during Antwerp Pride in 2010 the city had hosted the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association convention during which everyone was very enthusiastic and supportive of getting the World Outgames to Antwerp. So it’s been a long journey.
Why was archer Ivan Denis chosen as an ambassador for the World Outgames in Antwerp?
Ivan represents many aspects: he’s an openly gay athlete on the highest level, he’s in the army, he’s very supportive and a great spokesperson and he’s young, so a great example that events like the World Outgames are not only for more mature LGBT people but also can be interesting for the younger crowd.
Why are LGBT specific sports events such as World Outgames important?
On one hand we hope that one day we won’t need to organize any more events like the World Outgames, because everybody would be free being themselves in all aspects of society, whether it is in sports, cultural, military, relationships or anything else.
On the other side, we’re still not yet there. In many countries the rights of LGBT people are well protected, however, in about 80 countries it is illegal, with possible imprisonment, and in five countries there is the death penalty. So not it is not only for us that games like these are important, to have fun and be together, but also for those who live in less fortunate situations.
What are some of the challenges involved in putting together an event such as World Outgames?
We have many stakeholders, who all want to be part of the creation process, and sometimes they are opposite to what we are aiming for, so we feel sometimes like tightrope walkers, trying to keep the balance, keeping everybody happy and involved without losing our focus. The economic crisis is of course also a challenge, so we are doing our best to make the games as attainable as possible for everybody.
Where will most of the participants come from for the World Outgames in 2013?
We hope to have about 30% come from North America, 50% from Europe, 10% from Asia Pacific and 10% from Latin America and Africa or the Middle East. Our human rights conference will include an outreach program where we want to focus a lot on Africa, since Belgium has a long history with that continent due to its colonial past.
What can people expect when they visit Antwerp for the World Outgames?
To have a city bathing in rainbow colors, a very positive atmosphere, smiling people from all over the world, beautiful weather, great sports and cultural events plus Antwerp’s well known qualities like shopping, chocolate, beers, architecture, art, great food and a great nightlife.
The World Outgames will be held in Antwerp from 4 to 10 August 2013. Gay Star News is supporting the event as a media partner.