For those not in the know, the Gay Games have been underway this week in Cologne, Germany, with over 10,000 gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, and straight competitors participating in more than 30 different sport disciplines. Founded in 1982 by former Olympic athlete Tom Waddell, the Games have been taking place every four years since then. The Games this year are running from July 31 through to August 7.
Xtra spoke with Canadian hockey player Wayne Belkosky, who is participating in the Gay Games for the first time, along with his team the Toronto Wolfpack. Toronto’s Hogtown Boys are also competing. Today was the last day of ice hockey competition, so check back soon for results and more interviews with Canadian athletes competing in Cologne.
Listen to freelancer Jonathan Brenneman’s interview with Belkosky or read below:
XTRA: Would you say that, for you as a gay person, this is a bit like going to the Olympics?
BELKOSKY: It would be a stretch to say that, but certainly as far as tournaments go, it’s the pinnacle of gay hockey tournaments. And we have done a few of them… We’ve played as a team in Toronto and Montreal together. But certainly because of the distance and the logistics involved and the sheer size of the tournament, it is extremely exciting, and all the guys are enjoying themselves immensely just being part of this. It’s such a well-run event.
XTRA: Is this competition really about the competing and the winning of the games? What are the Gay Games about for you?
BELKOSKY: Well, I mean… you don’t travel 6,000km to lose. We’d like to win, we came here to win, and we’re gonna do our best to do that. But at the same time, losing is not the end of the world.
XTRA: Even though I already know the answer because we talked before the mic was on, what did you think of the Opening Ceremonies?
BELKOSKY: [laughs]. As you know, I was quite tired after the trip from Toronto and through Amsterdam. I slept through them, this is what you’re getting at, isn’t it? I slept through the Opening Ceremonies. But I woke up in time for the Opening Party which is really I think what the Gay Games is all about. I understand the vice-chancellor was at the Opening Ceremonies, and gave a very eloquent speech of which I’ll be certain to partake later on Youtube.
XTRA: How was the Opening Party?
BELKOSKY: It was a lot of fun. There was some sort of carnival-type swing ride there, the swings are on chains and it’s spinning around on this large thing. I was a little worried about that with so much alcohol in the place, that it would turn into a grotesque abstract painting, but fortunately that never happened and it looked like it was a lot of fun.
XTRA: Lastly, why are the Gay Games important for you?
BELKOSKY: They’re important because it’s nice to be able to be yourself, and do what you like. The Gay Games, and the TGHA and organizations like it in New York and Colorado and countless cities across North America, and I hope in Europe — although the Hockey contingent here doesn’t seem to give me a lot of hope for that, but — it allows people in those places to play the sport they love as themselves. They don’t have to be fearful in the locker room talking about what they did the night before, or what they’re going home to. They can just be open and be themselves, and play the sport they love, and the Gay Games and those other organizations really allow people to do that, and I’m fortunate to be part of it, and I appreciate it.