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Outgames hit early registration goals

2,300 people registered, 45 countries already represented.

By Ross Forman

Early indications show that the 2009 World Outgames in Copenhagen will not only meet pre-event participation predictions, but they very well may surpass them. And the U.S. will have a major impact on the second-ever Olympic-style gay sports and cultural showcase, first held in Montreal in 2006.

The early-bird registration period ended Oct. 1, and Outgames organizers in Denmark hoped for 2,000 pair registrants. They got 2,295.

“We were very happy about that (total),” said Uffe Elbaek, who serves as the event’s CEO.

The early-bird registrants represent more than 45 countries. The United States, Germany, Canada, Holland, England and Australia have among the highest number of participants already confirmed. In addition, the Outgames will include participants from smaller countries, such as Cameroon, French Polynesia, Panama and Qatar.

Organizers hope for 8,000 paid participants – and another 10,000 gay tourists – next summer when the nine-day gala kicks off on July 25.

Elbaek said that about 500 or 600 of the early-bird registrants are from the U.S., and the event’s airline sponsor, Scandinavian Airlines, has already sold more than 300 tickets from North America airports. He said the most American registrants so far are from Seattle and Chicago, including a large contingent of Seattle runners.

The most registrants so far are for badminton, dancing, running, tennis, volleyball, track & field, triathlon, and the top-draw to date is swimming.

The sports with the lowest registration totals so far are diving, billiards and shooting.

Elbaek said none of the sports with low registration will be forced to be cancelled as of right now, but a final decision on that matter will be made on May 1.

“We’ve known all along that we only have 2 ½ years to create an international event, so we really have been running busy,” Elbaek said. “I think we’re getting a lot of things to materialize in front of us. We’re now dealing with a lot of concrete issues, if that makes sense. Such as, how is the Opening Ceremony going to take place? How should we build up the stages and platforms for the Opening Ceremony? What musicians should perform?

“I think what is so meaningful about the Outgames and the event in Copenhagen is, it’s a celebration of the life energy of the LGBT community. At the same time, I think people will remember that this is a long walk and there are a lot of [LGBT-related] issues to deal with now and in the future.”

Especially since 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City and the 20th anniversary “for the first partnership law in the world, which took place here in Copenhagen in 1989,” Elbaek said.

For more information on the 2009 World Outgames in Copenhagen, including registration information, go to: www.copenhagen2009.dk