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Perspective on the World Outgames Bombing

Hurray for Outsports for covering this event so thoroughly. Some other gay media are pretty much ignoring it. I posted an article about it at the Bilerico Project, and would like to repost and share some of that perspective here, about the ramifications of this outbreak of violence at these international Games.

The fact is -- all across Europe recently, anti-gay violence is ramping up -- attacks on gay men in long-tolerant Amsterdam, the murder of a transgender person in Portugal, ugly incidents at Pride events in Russia and Hungary. Like the U.S., many EU countries have yet to commit to reporting, and vigorously prosecuting, hate crimes against LGBT people. In turn, the anti-gay crime wave is part of a larger surge of European hostility against other groups -- Jews, Muslims, immigrants.

Social violence around sports is nothing new. During the ancient Olympics, when a galaxy of rival Greek states came together for play, the organizers found it necessary to impose a strict truce on fighting.

But since the 1960s, the sports world has seen an extraordinary spike in brutal high-profile attacks on athletes, both on and off the field -- as a reflection of how small the world is getting, and how explosive the issues are.

A recent Reuters story puts together the sad timeline, starting with the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich summer games. Since then, security at sports events has become ever more complicated. My 1974 novel The Front Runner points out how easy it is for a professional sniper to sit in a distant hide and draw a beat on a controversial athlete who is competing a thousand feet away. In 1993, champion tennis player Monica Seles was stabbed right on the court during a Hamburg match. In Iraq, repeated attacks on various teams by Islamic hardliners signal their hatred of Western sports. Last year, South African woman soccer star Eudy Simelane became a lightning rod for growing anti-lesbian hostility in that country when she was gang-raped and murdered. The trials of her killers have kept South Africa in an uproar.

Indeed, soccer has probably the longest, darkest record of assaults on athletes for all kinds of reasons, because the international political passions around that sport are so fierce, and the brawls among players and riots by fans are so frequent.

In March this year, the Huffington Post pointed out two landmark incidents in one week. First, as a reflection of how fatal the passions around cricket can be in the Far East, came a terrorist attack on a bus carrrying the Sri Lankan cricket team, with 8 people (including 6 police) killed during the firefight, and 6 of the players wounded.

Then, in Europe that same week, came Sweden's insistence that spectators be banned from its Davis Cup match with Israel, because of anti-Israeli demonstrations raging in the streets outside. This was a first. Some observers fear that Sweden's decision sends a message -- that a corner has been turned, that it's becoming impossible for event organizers to ensure athlete safety.

Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, the Outgames continue till August 2. Most of the competitors are amateur athletes, with many professionals still reluctant to come out while their careers are still active. We'll have to pray that the rest of the events go off without any further harm to anyone.