Bombing disrupts Outgames event

by Roger Brigham

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday July 29, 2009

A Seattle-area athlete needed medical treatment Tuesday after small bombs were thrown onto the track at the start of a relay run at the World Outgames. This attack is the second to take place against on attendees since the global LGBT multi-sport event opened last weekend. Three men have been detained as a result of the incidents and police said they are looking for a fourth suspect.

It was not known at press time whether the attacks were related or what the motives were, but police were treating the weekend incident, in which two Danish men reportedly punched and kicked three men from the United Kingdom, Sweden and Norway in a gay-bar district in Copenhagen as they returned from the opening ceremony on Town Hall Square.

Dean Koga of the Seattle Frontrunners team was in the starting block for the 4x200-meter relay on Tuesday afternoon in the newly opened ?sterbro Stadium when one or two explosive devices were hurled over a wall at the athletes on the track. No other athletes were injured. Koga's right hand was injured and required medical personnel to remove shrapnel and stitching, according to his teammates. Koga told his teammates he expected to be able to run in the meet Wednesday.

Less than an hour after the first bomb, another explosion rocked the stadium and a man was seen fleeing a nearby church building, believed to be the site where the bombs were thrown from. Police said they apprehended a 31-year-old Danish man and were looking for a second suspect.

With uniformed and plain clothes police more visible following the incident, the athletes elected to continue after a 90-minute delay from the first bomb.

"All agreed to stop would be to give in to this hateful person," the Seattle team reported.

Members added the number of uniformed and plainclothes officers appeared to increase following the incident.

Police said they were holding two Danish men, ages 28 and 33, after witnesses said they saw the two men yell "homo pig" before beating and kicking the World Outgames visitors after Saturday's opening. Police said they would detain the two men until after the games close and would treat the incident as a hate crime. Danish hate crimes are subject to longer jail terms if the motivation is shown to be related to sexual orientation, religion or race.

LGBT sports activists quickly denounced both incidents.

Uffe Elbaek, the chief executive officer of World Outgames 2, called the police response "exemplary" and said Saturday night attacks were "an example of what homosexuals around the world risk if they are exposed, and it shows why an event such as World Outgames is necessary."

"This is a reprehensible incident," Seattle Frontrunners' Kelly Stevens said. "This is horrible news. I am sickened. It shows that even in what appears to be the safest gay-friendly areas, we still face risks. The gay sports movement and the gay rights movement are not done."

"We condemn the violent attacks against LGBT athletes and spectators during the Outgames," the Federation of Gay Games said in a written statement. "This week we are all Copenhageners and we stand in solidarity with Outgames organizers and the very gay-friendly people of Copenhagen against this kind of violence. Our thoughts are with the runner injured by the explosive devices at the track stadium today and the people who were attacked. We are pleased to hear that all injuries have been minor and that runner will still likely be able to compete. We extend our full support to all the participants at the OutGames."

The FGG described the Danish capital as having "a reputation as one of the most LGBT friendly places on Earth."

"Even there, we are reminded that our community still faces those that would deny us our basic human rights, even the freedom to run in a track meet in safety," it continued. "But we will not be discouraged; rather, we will run, swim, jump, throw, grapple, volley and perform at events like the Gay Games and Outgames, celebrating our right to love who we want."

A report issued by World Outgames organizers just before the start of this year's games remarked that in terms of gay acceptance, Danish corporations were reluctant to be connected to the event.

Roger Brigham, a freelance writer and communications consultant, is the San Francisco Editor of EDGE. He lives in Oakland with his husband, Eduardo.