While Vancouver’s Olympics were the first to introduce an open house venue for all gay and lesbian athletes, Skjellerup, a short-track speed skater from New Zealand, still felt the stigma against gay athletes and waited until after the Games to come out as gay.
This July, his visit to the city was in celebration of LGBT athletes as he competed and delivered a keynote address at the 2011 North American OutGames.
The games are an international event designed to celebrate sports, culture and human rights in the LGBT community. Skjellerup was one of many athletes to take part.
The North American OutGames started in Calgary in 2007 after Montreal hosted the first World OutGames in 2006. Vancouver’s OutGames included events such as soccer, badminton, poker, volleyball, dance, tennis, softball, golf and an eco-challenge among others. Skjellerup took home gold in the men’s under-30 10-kilometre run.
Combined with Vancouver’s Pride festivities, celebrations of diversity and inclusion were at the forefront throughout the city. The OutGames, which focus primarily on providing athletic opportunities for the LGBT community, welcome all participants regardless of sexual orientation. That means many competitors were heterosexual.
In the dance competition, competitors could dance in pairings of any gender combination.
Soccer was one of the most popular sports at the Games — roughly 250 players on 13 teams competed in two divisions on the UBC campus. The competition doubled as the International Gay and Lesbian Football Association North American Championship. New York upset Seattle in the final to take home gold.
Of course, no major sport celebration would be complete without a party — especially during Vancouver’s Pride festivities. The OutGames did not disappoint.
Things got going when Canadian band Dragonette took to the stage at Vancouver’s Plaza of Nations, opening with their hit single “Hello.”
The big draw, however, was Ace of Base. Transported from the ’90s, the Swedish pop band blasted through their catalogue of hit songs. The crowd sang along to every word of “The Sign,” “Cruel Summer” and “Beautiful Life” as if they were only just released last week.
Vancouver proved it could put on a great sporting event and throw an awesome party without riot police.
Keegan Epp is the USSU Pride Centre co-ordinator.