Featured events

7-9 September 2012
Brussels Games

Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.

Learn more HERE.
26-28 October 2012
Bern, Switzerland

The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.

Learn more HERE.
17-20 January 2013
Sin City Shootout
Las Vegas
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.

Learn more HERE.

13-16 June 2013
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.

Learn more HERE.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Gay Games, or "another idea of performance", in French sports review

In the latest issue of Sport et plein air, the magazine of the French workers' sport federation FSGT, dedicated to the theme "Another type of competition is possible", sociologist Philippe Liotard writes of the Gay Games as "another idea of performance". .

You can download this special section (in French) HERE or read our translation:

The traditional sports model is driven by discrimination: in the context of very strict rules, individuals or teams are ranked with the goal of determining a winner. To do so, selections take place so as to keep only the "best", and consequently exclude those who don't "make the grade". This system is based on a rationalization of exclusion that justifies eliminating the weakest. Performance, defined as the best response in a sporting event, is the value that justifies discrimination.

The Olympic Games, like most organized sport, thus according to its own rules, regularly excludes players because of their level. Sporting rules organize a segregation of individuals and divides them (again, in the name of performance) by categories of age, sex, weight, level, handicap, etc. This is just the way sports rules are. As Daniel Denis said, with irony, "What do you want? It's the law of sport" (in Aux chiottes l’arbitre, 1978). But is there another way?

Participation, inclusion, personal best

Without a doubt, if you look at the creation of the Gay Games, a sports event organized every four years since 1982 for homosexuals and trans persons and all those who choose to join them. By organizing this sports and culture festival, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) seeks to promote equality. To do so, it has reconsidered its governance (with, for example, a system of male and female co-presidents), and has invented an event that corresponds to the values it defends.

The Gay Games thus illustrate the dual meaning of "institution". First, they take their inspiration from what is already there, what is instituted and that perpetuates itself, namely the model of the Olympics. But they do not limit themselves to reproducing the existing model: they institute a new way of playing. In so doing, the Gay Games prove the creative power of "active minorities", who by their action, question the establishment. The regulation of behaviors doesn't come from imposing rules, laws, and constraints from on high, but from a public debate lead by the players of the movement. The values thus affirmed become shared principles that regulate individual and group behaviors.

To do this, the inventor of the Gay Games, Dr Tom Waddell, finalist in the decathlon at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, founded the Gay Games on three cardinal principles that guide the choice of rules: Participation, inclusion, and personal best. In the end, the aim is to redefine corporal excellence by "avoid[ing] the destructive and divisive concept, and prevalent belief, that 'beating someone else' constitutes winning. We wish to propagate the concept that 'doing one's best' creates an entire field of winners"(*). To do this, the Gay Games reject what the traditional model of sports and the Olympic movement consider as obvious: selection based on performance. This is a major break in the system of rules: Everyone can participate. You just have to want to.

Defending inclusion means fighting exclusion

The entire organization of the Gay Games derives from this. Defending inclusion supposes that one combats exclusion. On this basis, participation in the Gay Games takes place whatever the levels of practice, the age, the degree of disability, as well as the sexual orientation of participants. In association with the notion of participation, inclusion creates a new way of coming together that gives value to "playing together" with (and despite) differences. It is thus possible in individual sports to share the same stadium, the same pool, the same gymnasium, with men and women, abled and disabled athletes, beginners or elite athletes, straight persons and gays.

The third value results from this organization. Giving the best of oneself gains all the more importance because the final ranking that comes out of athletic performance is not the only end in sight, and because it takes second place to participation and inclusion. In swimming, for example, a former Olympic athlete will not seek to beat an 80-year-old swimmer or a swimmer weakened due to illness. Each refer to their own performance that takes its meaning in the present moment, depending on ones abilities at that point in time.

The organization also has meaning within sport, since the rules used are those of international governing bodies. The Gay Games are thus an event where records can be set (in particular in masters categories). If international sporting rules are used, they are adapted to allow for the participation of non-elite men and women.

Solidarity and fellowship, values that bring people together

In volleyball, for example, it is possible to choose among four divisions, depending on ones level of play. The policy of the FGG is explicit. These adaptations of rules are close to the adaptations used for learning purposes in schools, or the choices made in certain affinity-based federations like the FSGT (workers' sport) or the UNSS (school sport). They are made to allow the participation of novices, or older athletes, people who are often excluded from traditional sports structures.

This dual use of international sports rules (respect and adaptation) allows participants to invest themselves with respect to performance, but to also take part in events in which they may not be specialists (it's possible, for example, for swimmers to register for both swimming and volleyball, with the goal of playing volleyball with their friends, in, perhaps, a mixed-gender team). The Gay Games thus allow, within a single event, to choose ones level of engagement.

Lastly, beyond the activism present in the event, there is another political consequences of these Games, where "playing together" reduces the generally perverse effects of the pursuit of performance. They offer the possibility of participating in social debate, by the ethical question raised by the Gay Games in terms of accepting differences. These Games show that there can be another way of practicing sport, that differences do not have to be erased in the name of performance, and that values of solidarity and fellowship are still able to bring a society closer together.

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