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World Outgames open in Antwerp

Athletes from more than 100 countries save a special cheer for gay Russian competitors

Credit: Steven Bereznai

Hotties from more than 100 countries marked the opening of the 2013 World Outgames in Antwerp, Belgium, this weekend.

Xtra was at the opening ceremony to catch all the action, from the fabulous to the outright flamboyant.

The loudest cheering was reserved for the Russian athletes, who took the stage Aug 3 while an ABBA remix blared from the speakers. “It’s so amazing that you’re here; it gives me shivers down my spine,” the event’s master of ceremonies said.

Xtra chatted with Konstantin Iablotckii, a gay activist and athlete with the Russian LGBT Sports Federation, who spoke about a new anti-gay law in his country.

“It’s awful, it’s impossible,” says Iablotckii, who is used to cutting the ice in figure skating. However, that sport is not on this year’s Outgames program, so two months ago he picked up ballroom dancing in the arms of his good friend (and much more experienced dancer) Ivan Erlikh. “It’s the closest thing I could find to figure skating,” Iablotckii says, laughing.

When it comes to human rights, especially in light of the coming Olympics in Sochi, Iablotckii is more serious. While a boycott of Russian vodka is making headlines around the world, many athletes in Antwerp are talking about a full boycott of the Sochi Games. Iablotckii is against that idea.

“No more boycotts,” he says. Instead, his group is “calling on every athlete from LGBT-friendly countries to hold hands during the opening ceremonies, to wear and carry rainbow flags, and hang rainbow flags at Olympic venues.”

Check out Xtra's photo slideshow above. In addition, Xtra talked with some Canadian athletes to watch at this year’s Outgames.