After an extended season of protest against Russia’s “anti-gay propaganda” law and arguments about the suitability of Sochi as a host city, the Olympics are upon us. The protests are too, but Russian President Vladimir Putin’s security forces and SORM (translated: System for Operative Investigative Activities), which removes any expectation of privacy on Russian soil or cyberspace, have made space for a spectacle, a presentation that only barely cleaves to reality. When, on Feb 7, the opening ceremonies are broadcast from Sochi, demonstrators will register their opposition from the designated protest zones in Khosta, 12 kilometres away. What happens when the Olympic and Paralympic Games leave Russia is anyone’s guess.
LGBT inclusion in sport is not only a key issue at the Winter Games, it is also a crucial factor in promoting diversity, health, and social justice. The following seven multisport events are taking place in 2014. They will all welcome LGBT and allied players and spectators.
Russian Open Games: Moscow, Russia
Scheduled to leverage the time (and media attention) between the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, the Russian Open Games will offer tournaments in eight sports: badminton, basketball, futsal, skiing, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball. Welcoming LGBT amateur athletes and allies, the Open Games will also include a culture program.
Russia and LGBT Rights
When the Duma (parliament) passed the “anti-gay propaganda” law in mid-2013, LGBT Russians suddenly became subjected to additional restrictions and penalties in an already-hostile environment. Although lawmakers decriminalized same-sex sexual activity in 1993, Russian society is far from tolerant, even in Moscow, the capital city, where a 100-year ban on gay pride parades went into effect last year. Moscow’s largest gay club, Central Station, has repeatedly come under attack and President Putin continues to publicly conflate homosexuality with pedophilia. A law that would strip LGBT parents of their parental right was sidelined in late 2013 and there is some concern that its passage is merely being delayed until after the Olympic Games.
The Russian Open Games run Feb 26 - March 3. For information and to register, visit russianopengames.ru
Prague Rainbow Spring: Prague, Czech Republic
This European multisport event turns 15 this year. Originally organized as a volleyball tournament, Prague Rainbow Spring proved to be so popular that it increased in size and finally added new sports. In 2014, it will include tournaments in volleyball, table tennis, badminton, squash, and swimming.
Czechoslovakia and LGBT Rights
Prague is one of the most hospitable places for LGBT people in central Europe. Same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1962 and while same-sex marriage has yet to be legalized, lawmakers made registered partnerships for same-sex couples available in 2006. Prague also has some legal recognition of, and protections for, trans people. The city’s first Pride parade took place in 2011 with the support of the local government.
Prague Rainbow Spring runs May 1-4. For information and to register, visit praguerainbow.eu
Asia Pacific Outgames: Darwin, Australia
One of the largest sports and culture events in the region, the third Asia Pacific Outgames will be hosted by Darwin, Australia. Participants can compete in an array of sports from dragon boat to soccer to roller derby — a robust program that is complemented by human rights and culture components.
Australia and LGBT Rights
Australia is increasingly progressive on LGBT rights. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal since 1994 and lawmakers enshrined LGBT protections in the Sex Discrimination Act last year. Though the continent is still working towards marriage equality, in the Northern Territory, where Darwin is located, same-sex unions are regarded as de facto relationships as they relate to common law.
The Asia Pacific Outgames run May 10-16. For more information and to register, visit darwinoutgames.com.au
Tournoi International de Paris: Paris, France
Founded in 2003 and organized by the Fédération Sportive Gaie et Lesbienne, this annual weekend-long multisport midsummer event attracts thousands of athletes representing dozens of nationalities participating in more than 20 sports.
France and LGBT Rights
Although France decriminalized homosexuality in 1791, it took until 2013 for the nation to legalize same-sex marriage and LGBT adoption. As the country’s cultural, artistic and intellectual centre, Paris is extremely welcoming to LGBT people and the TIP presents an opportunity to participate in the city’s equally impressive sports legacy.
Tournoi International de Paris runs June 6-9. For more information and to register, visit paris-tournament.com
Gay Games: Cleveland and Akron, Unites States
The first Gay Games took place in San Francisco in 1982 and since, the quadrennial event has grown so much in size that it regularly draws more athletes than the Olympics. Organizers of the 2014 Games, hosted by Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, are preparing for an expected 11,000 participants. Welcoming amateur athletes that are LGBT (and allied), the Games offer a full week of sports and culture events.
The United States and LGBT Rights
The United States has a spotty record when it comes to LGBT rights. In the past several years, the movement towards marriage equality has gained momentum (and achieved success in a growing number of states), but Ohio has yet to pass same-sex marriage legislation. There does, however, appear to be a progressive trend in the seat of Cuyahoga County. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, for example, enthusiastically supported the Gay Games bid and is a vocal proponent of marriage equality. These days, Cleveland seems intent on extending its Midwestern welcome to all: when the winning bid for the Games was announced, it illuminated its famous Terminal Tower in rainbow lights.
Gay Games 9 runs August 9-16. For more information and to register, visit gg9cle.com
PanGames: Copenhagen, Denmark
Organized by LGBT sports club Pan Idræt, the Pan Games is a multisport event scheduled to coincide with Copenhagen Pride. Sports tournaments include tennis, running, badminton, football, handball, volleyball, swimming and water polo (yoga, squash, and rugby are possible, but not yet confirmed). The event also promises parties and social events.
Denmark and LGBT Rights
Denmark has an excellent LGBT rights record and Copenhagen, as the nation’s capital city and home to many universities, is cosmopolitan and youthful. Denmark became the first country in the world to recognize registered partnerships for same-sex couples (in 1989) and in 2012 it recognized same-sex marriage. The city even has experience with large-scale LGBT sporting tournaments — in 2009 it was the host of the World Outgames.
PanGames run August 27-31. For more information or to register, visit pangames2014.dk
Panteresports: Barcelona, Spain
In 2014, organizing sports club Panteres Grogues turns 20 years old. Its three-day tournament, Panteresports, is scheduled for mid-September in Barcelona. Though it’s early days for sport-specific details, in past years the event has included tournaments in running, swimming, squash, football, volleyball and table tennis. Open to LGBT amateur athletes and allies.
Spain and LGBT Rights
Perhaps surprisingly, due to the country’s strong Catholic tradition, Spain is now one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world. Same-sex marriage is legal, as is LGBT adoption, and gay people can serve openly in the military. Spaniards also have the right to change their legal gender without undergoing surgery.
Panteresports runs Sept 19-21. For more information or to register, visit panteresports.cat