The recession has affected turnout and one team has an unusual fund-raising tool. Also, being a gay Danish team in a straight league, a man and his tattoo and funny nicknames.
Related: Day 2 photo gallery
COPENHAGEN – The global recession has provided a backdrop to the 2009 World Outgames. Registration is way down from predicted estimates, in part because of the shaky world economy. And athletes I’ve spoken to about the obstacles they faced in coming to Copenhagen and why others did not come invariably mention money.
|A swimmer from the U.S., left, and Italy. Check out our photo gallery from Day 2.|
No country, though, might have been slammed harder by the last year’s economic tsunami than Iceland, which effectively saw its currency (the krona) become worthless to the rest of the world. As one soccer player said, everything cost twice as much overnight. This has made overseas travel for Icelanders prohibitively expensive, which is why the soccer players and swimmers here at the Outgames needed to aggressively fund-raise to afford to come.
The athletes used fund-raising techniques that I learned here are common to Icelandic sports teams – they sell vegetables and toilet paper. “It cheap and doesn’t expire,” swimmer Jon Orvar Gestsson said of toilet paper. He has a point. A soccer player told me that “everyone has to take a shit.” Another good point.
It was just funny to an American raised on selling candy and cookies that in Iceland toilet paper is the big money-maker. And we’re talking packages with 20 rolls. One soccer player sold 95 packages, and another lamented all the toilet paper his partner has stored in the trunk of his car.
Hospitality: One way many of the Icelandic players can afford to come to Copenhagen is hosted housing. There are a lot of Icelanders living in Denmark and they have opened their doors to the athletes. –Jim Buzinski
Gays in straight leagues: The issues that gay teams face while playing in mainstream (presumably) straight leagues has long been a topic for Outsports readers. These issues seem to be the same facing gay teams in Denmark.
Anders Kyhl plays soccer for the Pan Denmark team, named after what used to be the biggest gay night club in Copenhagen. Pan is an umbrella organization for other gay sports, so Pan is synonymous with gay to Danes.
Kyhl said that his Pan team faces slurs from some of the teams they face, and they often increase when the other team realizes it’s about to lose to a bunch of gay guys. He said there is special difficulty with teams composed of Muslims, which Kyhl attributes to ignorant cultural attitudes. --JB
Tattoo man: I loved Kyhl’s double male symbol tattoo, which he happily showed (see it here and see him here). The tattoo goes down a little further than shown, but this is not an X-rated site. –JB
Take a dive: I watched some of the soccer and diving is just as common here as it is in the pros. You know, the time of a game when a player tries to convince the ref he has been fouled, then acts like his leg was just gnawed off by a crocodile. I saw a Belgian player writhe in pain for 10 seconds, to no avail (the ref basically just shrugged). He got up and 30 seconds later was sprinting down the field as if he had just entered the game. I was told that the Mexican and Italian players here are the best divers, kind of like at the international pro level. --JB
Lucky 'do: Eduardo Velazquez, 23, played soccer for the Tri-Gay soccer team from Mexico City and he was easily spotted – with a ragged Mohawk that appeared to cut by a teammate after a few Coronas.
“I like it ‘because I’m crazy, but it doesn’t help with my soccer,” he said. “I’ve had it for about two years, though others [on my team] don’t really like it. --Ross Forman
All in the hand: Team handball is a fast-paced game of 7 on 7, with dribbling, passing, tackling and a lot of scoring. It is huge in Europe and the Danes share the passion. The venue at the Outgames for a Norway-Denmark men’s match had as big a crowd as I’ve seen so far. It’s puzzling why the sport has not caught on in North America, given how up-tempo the game is and how relatively easy the rules look. –JB
Handball hotties, but ...: Rikke Wulff was among the 11 players on the Team SAS handball team from Copenhagen and, at 17, the youngest team member of their 11 all-female players. And all are straight.
So why play in the World Outgames? “Because we had the opportunity to and we knew we’d have fun. [Our] coach said we could play in it if we wanted to, and everyone voted Yes.”
Wulff and her team also attended the Opening Ceremony, which she labeled, “beautiful with very good songs.” --RF
Quick turnaround: Hans Martin, 44, from Germany, was the winner Sunday afternoon of the 26.2-mile marathon, which had 90 participants. He finished in 2:40.
But Martin (photo here) didn’t get much time to celebrate; he had to be working back in Berlin at 7 a.m., and his flight home was that night.
“It was a good marathon, but not an easy course,” he said. “I prepared quite well [for this race]. This was an important race for me.” --RF
Hi, my name is: Dave Steeves made his World Outgames debut Sunday on a beach volleyball team comprised of three Americans and one from Belgium. He’s also playing softball, just as he does in his native Cleveland’s LGBT league, and that team was a make-shift crew. Several others here, in several sports, are playing with new teammates – and most seem to like the new friendship and new competitive challenge. --RF
Team names: One highlight of any gay sports competition is the nicknames teams come up with. Two I laughed at Monday were WANQ (water polo, named after a combined team from West Hollywood, Atlanta, New York and Queer Aquatics Utah) and Vicious Delicious (a Toronto volleyball team that goes by VD and has the cheer “make it burn.”) –JB