2 min

The Outgames cometh

So where's the hype?

Gay Games athletes run the track in Burnaby Central Park at Celebration '90. Credit: James Loewen

Perched on a stool at the Pumpjack, Rogé Gariepy’s eyes widen.

“Get out! We’ve known since 2008? I don’t see any publicity,” he says when asked if he’s aware that the Outgames are coming to town.

“No one has talked to me about it,” he adds.

“I hope they’re planning a big blitz, because the time is now so people can plan, not two months before the event.”

Organizers should “start flying the Outgames flag down at English Bay, where they fly all the flags,” he suggests. “Anywhere they put an Olympic flag, stick an Outgames flag. And not just in the West End but in the whole city. It’s going to be a major event.”

Brett Chamberland, who works at Junction Pub, does recall hearing about the Outgames a year ago.

“I actually forgot about it,” he admits.

“You should have something where everyone comes down and they can meet some of the athletes,” he says. “Have a little mini-Games to get into the spirit. Have a hockey net set up, something like that would be fun to get the youth involved, just to get everyone like, ‘Yeah, it’s here, it’s exciting.’”

Kieran Kwiatkowski says he’s known about the Outgames coming for about a year, too.

“Other than that I haven’t heard any advertisement or seen any advertisement,” he says as he gets ready to leave a Thai restaurant on Davie St. “I think they should put more advertisements in the newspapers, on posters, so that people get more excited for it.”

Outgames president John Boychuk says the event’s representatives have been in all the businesses on Davie and Denman streets in the last two to three weeks talking about participation.

Boychuk acknowledges that awareness comes from “big banners and big posters.” But that costs money, and the organizing committee is wary about incurring debt.

“We’re not going to overspend to have some big splash out there,” he says. “We hope the community continues to rally around us as we move forward in these Games, and over these next couple months as we get closer and closer, our partnerships with other groups will show that.”

COPE city councillor Ellen Woodsworth praises the Outgames’ website but thinks more needs to be done to ratchet up excitement about the July 25 to 31 celebration.

“We need to be pushing the envelope: you’ve got the sports, you’ve got the human rights conference, you’ve got the cultural events. You really want to get it out there,” she says.

“We want it to go beyond Vancouver; we want it to go out to the Lower Mainland, throughout BC,” she continues. “So to do that, you have to get some mass media coverage.”

Gay and lesbian history archivist Ron Dutton says he’s surprised by the lack of awareness thus far. 

“I would have thought that by now we’d be seeing a good bit more as a lead-in to it, so that people are starting to get excited and interested and thinking about buying tickets,” he says.

“Maybe the theory is you hit people too soon and they go numb on it. You’ve got to hit them at the right moment to pump the interest.”

So far, 200 people have registered online to participate in the Outgames, Boychuk says. Organizers were initially hoping for 3,500 athletes but have now scaled that estimate back to 2,800.

Boychuk points to Vancouverites’ notoriety for doing things at the last minute. “We are anticipating that 75 percent of the registrations won’t come until the last minute,” he says.