Nothing’s Rotten In Denmark
Athletes head to Copenhagen’s Out Games II
BY MICHAEL T. LUONGO
The countdown to Copenhagen continues, with less than a month to go before the World Out Games begin. If you have not made plans to go, there is still time to head to the Danish capital for summer fun and to cheer on your fellow New Yorkers on.
The World Out Games II will take place from July 25 through August 2, with more than 5,000 athletes expected to take part. The highlights include the swimming competitions, bicycling, wrestling, hockey, golf, and soccer. Unlike 2006, during the first Out Games in Montreal, there won’t be a nearly concurrent Gay Games, meaning you don’t have that difficult choice to make. The theme of the Games this year is “Love of Freedom, Freedom to Love.”
In addition to sports, there is the Human Rights Conference that will take place simultaneously, with gay rights leaders, opinion makers, and politicians tackling issues of significance to the worldwide LGBT community. In its 2006 incarnation in Montreal, more than 1,500 participated, including representatives from developing countries, making it a truly one of a kind event.
This year’s Games will also host a Cultural Festival. Arts have always been part of both the Out Games and the Gay Games; this time, the events have been expanded. Highlights include the Queer Tango Festival; the Copenhagen Gay Film Festival, which will highlight local film directors; the Out Choir Festival, and the sure to be intriguing Out Leather Festival.
Despite these significant draws, however, it’s clear the worldwide economic crisis has impacted the Out Games. According to Ole Udsholt, project manager for Out Games Campaigns, “The recession has meant a decrease in people traveling and spending money on things that are not considered a must. But we are actually very pleased with the number of North Americans coming all the way to Copenhagen, more than 600 from US and almost 500 from Canada.” Udsholt explained that “Denmark, Germany, Holland, and United Kingdom are the European countries with the most coming.” He is especially happy that at least 95 different countries will be represented, adding, “Copenhagen 2009 will be a truly global event.”
According to Udsholt, it’s too late to register as an athlete for the Games, but people can register for cultural events and as spectators for sports competitions up until the beginning of the events.
Americans will make up more than ten percent of attendees, a spectacular number considering the economy. While it’s hard to know specifically how many New Yorkers are going, Linda Laugesen, the junior project manager, did a quick database scan and estimated at least 250 will be coming across a range of sports, cultural, and human rights events, what she called, “a very good number.”
One New Yorker who is definitely going is Jack Mackenroth, the designer, athlete, and HIV activist who came to international fame on “Project Runway.” He’ll be there for the swimming competition, and said, “I’m hoping to do well in my breaststroke events and a few relays.” He pointed out that swimming is one of the sexiest events at the Games, commenting, “What’s not to love about men and women in Speedos?”
Beyond the eye candy though, Jack said that at the Games, “You get to meet really amazing people from all over the world, and everyone is in a festive mood and excited about the competitions. The great thing about gay athletics is that it’s all about friendly competition.” He added, “The opening ceremony alone fills you with such a sense of pride and accomplishment. Besides the athletic events, there are fabulous parties every night!”
GETTING THERE & STAYING THERE
The economy is on your side. Flights are still available on many airlines heading to Copenhagen, including on the Scandinavian airline SAS, which has direct flights from Newark. Currently, round trips are running about $900. Look up the options on their website, flysas.com.
There are also plenty of hotel choices still available, from five star internationals to local budget hotels. For instance, the Marriott, a few blocks from the Tivoli Gardens and near the Out Games headquarters, still has space available. (Kalvebod Brygge 5; +45-8833-9900; copenhagenmarriott.com) The Out Games website (copenhagen2009.org, click on Copenhagen) also lists a variety of hotels, hostels, and other accommodations, including staying in the home of locals.
There’s plenty to do in Copenhagen, whether this is your first time or your 100th. The Out Games are making full use of the small, easily navigated city, with many events near the famed Tivoli Gardens, in the heart of the city. If you stay in the center of town, most of what you want to see as a tourist beyond the Games is walkable. Copenhagen is also one of the world’s most bicycle friendly cities, and rentals are readily available. Highlights not to be missed include the Radhuspladsen, the square in front of City Hall; Nyhavn Dock, with pubs and restaurants overlooking the water; and Amalienborg Palace. The city’s most famous site is the Little Mermaid, sitting all alone facing the sea along the old city fortifications. Make sure to stand beside her for an only-in-Copenhagen photo for your Facebook page. The Little Mermaid is part of Copenhagen’s gay history too, as her famed creator, Hans Christian Anderson is thought to have been a lover of both women and men. You can day-trip from Copenhagen to his birthplace in Odense.
Copenhagen was gay-friendly long before it became trendy. In 1989, Denmark distinguished itself as the first nation to legalize gay marriage. So whether you’re looking for a permanent partner to settle into this cozy country with, or just a late-night Danish, there are plenty of places in Copenhagen to get close to the locals. Oscar Bar Café is a mainstay, and just around the corner from City Hall, so is sure to be popular during the Games.Things start in the afternoon and really get going in the evening. (Radhuspladsen 77; + 45-3312-0999; oscarbarcafe.dk). The Cosy Bar is one of the city’s oldest, and especially popular as an afterhours hangout. The street the bar is on, Studiestraede, also has other gay venues and is close to the University of Copenhagen. (Studiestraede 24; +45-3312-7427; myspace.com/cosybar) Centralhjornet is the city’s oldest gay bar, and has lots of drag entertainment. (Kattesundet 18; +45/33 11 85 49; centralhjornet.dk) Ladies head to Chaca, spread over two floors with karaoke, a café, and varied events, sure to be especially busy during the Games, with the athletes in town looking to unwind. (Studiestræde 39; +45/3167-4655; chaca.dk)
For more gay information, visit copenhagen-gay-life.dk or the Out Games’ official website copenhagen2009.org. Denmark’s official travel website, visitdenmark.com, has extensive information on what to do in Copenhagen and beyond, and the city’s official tourism website is visitcopenhagen.com.
It’s definitely worth adding extra time after the Games to explore Copenhagen and Denmark, something Jack Mackenroth plans to do. He said Copenhagen is “a beautiful city, so I’m excited to explore all the sights and culture once I’m finished competing,” adding, “I can testify that when thousands of gays descend on a city, the energy completely transforms in a glorious way, I can’t wait!”