When it comes to hosting Europe’s biggest gay sports event, cities don’t come any more suitable than Stockholm, which hosted the 15th EuroGames last week, and Attitude was in the heart of the action.
The EuroGames were created in 1992 as a sports event open to people of all sexualities, gender, race, and ability, and is a truly international event, embracing diversity and equality from a global spread of visiting teams. This year nearly 5,000 contestants from 71 countries landed in Stockholm safe in the knowledge that they were not only coming to do their best on the sporting fields, tracks and pools, but that they would also be enjoying one of the greatest LGBT cities in the world.
The Scandinavian capital is one of the most tolerant cities in the world, where homosexuality has been legal since 1944, and the Swedish language’s gender neutral pronoun is making a comeback, in the age of transgender equality. Stockholm opened its doors to host events across the entire city, including at the Olympic Stadium from the 1912 games, with events including an ultra-marathon, table tennis and same-sex ballroom dancing.
Any gay sporting event has obvious appeal – there were many athletic men in suitably revealing outfits all over the place, and as hard as they competed by day, they also partied hard at night, at the beautiful opening reception in the City Hall (the site of the annual Nobel Prize banquets), and the official evening parties at the city’s beautiful 18th century Opera House. The summer gay hot spot Malarpaviljongen – a floating bar/restaurant which employs LGBT asylum seekers – is another place where athletes and spectators congregated.
I spoke to the President of EuroGames Stockholm, Jakob Jansson, who felt the event was a great success. “The fact that we have engaged and attracted more than 5,000 participants – around the record for the EuroGames – would be our highlight. To empower sport and equality in such manifest for human rights could not have been more amazing.” He also pointed out that this year involved more people identifying as trans or queer than ever before. “It’s for the greater good, and to be able to know that so much change will come of this – I could not be more happy.”
There were success stories from home with the Stonewall Football Club from London taking a Gold and a Silver in their tournament, and the London Orcas were out in full force in water polo – which seemed to be one of the most popular sports taking place, and needless to say, also attracted many spectators. I spoke to captain Darren Whittingslow, who praised all the teams involved but had a special mention for the girls.
“Our newly formed women’s team made for the pivotal moment in Orcas recent history. The amount of training that these women have gone through…they have put blood, sweat and tears into this. Some of them could barely swim when they joined but they have pushed and broken down barriers, training tirelessly day and night. To go from not being able to swim to lasting 6 games in a tournament is beyond what anyone could have asked for.”
The games aren’t held every year – usually standing aside for the Gay Games or the World Outgames – but they will be held in 2016, where they’ll hop across the border into Finland’s capital Helsinki. Even though the EuroGames have left, Stockholm remains a must-see European capital.
WORDS: Ben Kelly
Additional picture by Emily Dahl