What's So Fabulous About Outgames?

By: Rachel Marsden

This week, the first "World Outgames" are being held in Montreal -- not to be confused with the "Gay Games," which have been around since 1982, and which are also purported to be the "gay Olympics."

The qualification standards for the Outgames can be summarized in one word: Gay. Or, if you prefer, "fabulous" -- which is why there are nearly 400 fabulous swimmers competing in the 100-metre freestyle event alone. Disneyland rides have tougher admission standards.

I have nothing against gay people, but this event raises a lot of questions. For instance, the Outgames website warns that an athlete can be drug-tested at any time, but everyone gets a medal. Wouldn't that defeat the whole purpose of the drugs?

The games consist of various Olympic sports, along with an event called the "Out-Splash!" -- an aquatic team event with "acrobatics, humour, choreography and costumes." Participants are judged on the following criteria -- pride, "out" and having a "flamboyant, outrageous theme." Doesn't figure skating already have all this covered?

Despite rocking a tight leather cowboy outfit at last year's Calgary Stampede, Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't have very many fans in the Outgames crowd. While an international war was raging in the Mideast, he was attacked for not visiting the Outgames, and sending Public Works Minister Michael Fortier instead.

During the opening ceremonies, the Conservative minister was booed by many of the beacons of acceptance, diversity, and equality in attendance. I guess these values don't extend to people of different ideologies.

There may be some starry-eyed young conservative out there who dreams of being the first straight guy to win a gold medal at the Gay Games. Think of all the obstacles and bigotry he would have to overcome to reach that goal! Witnessing all that booing may have cruelly shattered his dream.

That takes a lot of courage, by the way, to boo a Conservative official and storm the beaches with the "Outgames message" in Montreal. You know what would have really been brave? Holding the event in Tehran.

Naturally, you and I are helping to foot the bill for this party. This, from the federal website for "youth," dated Aug/Sept 2005: "The Government of Canada promotes active participation in sports... In fact, the government will be a partner in a number of Quebec festivals and competitions, such as ... the first Montreal World Outgames ... Take advantage of these events to channel your energy!"

There may be a little too much "energy channeling" going on at taxpayer expense. Montreal clinics have reportedly loaded up on "morning-after" treatment to help stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases during these games. Is it possible to have any Olympics -- gay or straight -- where sex isn't the real main event?

For years, I officiated at swimming competitions in the Special Olympics, World Transplant Games, and games for athletes with physical disabilities. One has to marvel at the obstacles these folks have to overcome as athletes. But I really don't get that same sense of awe with the Outgames. I don’t say to myself, "Wow! Look at that guy’s breaststroke! You’d never know from watching him that he really prefers the ‘backstroke’!”

I'm not sure what a "gay Olympics" is supposed to prove. So you're the best wrestler in the world -- who digs other dudes? Big deal. Outgames organizer, Mark Tewksbury, is gay -- and a real Olympic gold medallist. Now that's an achievement.