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Calgary’s Western Cup turns 26

Gay sporting event gets a boost post-OutGames

Brad Bostock was a toddler when the first annual Western Cup was held in 1981.

Now he presides over Apollo: Friends in Sport, the volunteer organization that produces the Western Cup. 2008 marks the 26th annual tournament, which anchors the Cup as the longest running annual queer multi-sport event in North America.

The theme this year is “refresh,” and more than 500 athletes will converge on Calgary to participate and reenergize during the Easter weekend in six sports: badminton, bowling, curling, ice hockey, swimming and volleyball.

“All kinds of people come,” Bostock says. “The diversity at the tournament mirrors our community as a whole.” Participants come from all ages and sexual orientations, he notes, and teams are participating from major cities across the country. Some even come out just for the social events.

2008’s revitalizing social activities include a Thursday night reception, Friday night banquet and comedy show and the Saturday night Western Cup dance. The dance has a high profile in Calgary’s queer community — it often sells out, giving both locals and out-of-towners a hyperactive mixer.

“We’re going out with a bang this year with the dance on Saturday night,” Bostock explains. “Traditionally we have held a brunch on Easter Sunday, but decided to change things around with the addition of the banquet and comedy show to the program.”

Also different is the legacy left by last year’s OutGames. In 2007, Apollo partnered with the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA) to produce the first ever North American OutGames. It was the continental version of the international sporting event — a sort-of Western Cup on steroids.

“The legacy of OutGames has been a much higher level of brand awareness for the Western Cup,” Bostock says. “So many people know that we are here now — even some Calgarians who didn’t before! It seems to me that Calgary is coming into its own as a cosmopolitan city. I think some people were shocked that we were able to produce the games in Calgary.”

Like the city, the Western Cup has gotten more sophisticated over the years. The first tournament happened when a Calgary volleyball team invited a team from Edmonton to come down for the weekend.

“Eventually more sports came to the table, but in the early days the events took place in community halls with participants registering in the bars — now we are in hotels and great sporting facilities,” Bostock retells the history.

Surprisingly the Western Cup is completely organized by volunteers. “I am on my fourth year working with the Western Cup,” Bostock says. “I think that the tournament has become such an engrained part of our community, such an annual event, that you really see people wanting to contribute and be involved to make it a success.”

Apollo Friend in Sports Western Cup.
Calgary, Alberta.
Mar 20-22, 2008.

www.westerncup.com.
www.apollocalgary.com.