Pan Idræt was bidding to host EuroGames 2021 back in 2017, with the election held in March 2018, because they wanted to raise the bar for inclusivity and for global impact. As the organiser of EuroGames 2003, World OutGames 2009, Pan Games 2014, numerous single-sport tournaments throughout the years and as a long-time collaborating partner of the Danish Gymnastics and Sports Associations (DGI) and the Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF), Pan Idræt were eager to bring this extensive experience to the table and put together a sporting event that was professional from start to finish.
As a standard-bearer in matters of inclusivity, Pan Idræt wanted to create a sporting event that saw participants of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions as equals. And as a partner in Copenhagen 2021, Pan Idræt wanted to create a sporting event that unifies our community and strives to break down the barriers facing the LGBTI+ sports community on all levels. Pan Idræt were determined to make this event truly inclusive at all levels of participation and across all parameters of representation. In Greater Copenhagen, everyone would feel like part of a team, because #YouAreIncluded.
In the original bidbook EuroGames 2021 planned to offer 27 sports and these were carefully chosen from sports that were already organised in Pan Idræt or sports that have previously been popular and attracted a large number of athletes from around Europe.
Diving, Artistic swimming, Swimming, Water polo, Basketball, Dodgeball, Floorball, Handball, Volleyball, Badminton, Squash, Tennis, Cycling, Running, Track and field, Triathlon, Ballroom Dancing, Curling, Bowling, Bridge, E-sport, Field hockey, Golf, and Ice hockey.
Some proved difficult, and changes were made along the way. Cycling was difficult to organize during the event and was taken out in 2019 and curling was replaced by figure skating as well on the request of the Malmö organising team. Running was split into two events: 5km/10km run and half-marathon. Line Dancing, Roller Derby and Basketball were added to the event, so we initially ended up offering 29 sports.
Inclusion and participation
We were striving to offer competitions without gender divisions, but initially where this was not possible for sanctioning or practical reasons, we were working on making it possible for participants to self-declare their gender category. The gender identity of all athletes would be respected with reference to our gender policy and the principles of fair play. We believed that athletes themselves could assess whether competing as one gender over another provides them with unfair advantages, hence we would let them decide for themselves what gender they wish to compete as. However, a participant had to stick to one gender category for the whole of EuroGames and not for example choose one gender category for one event and another for a second event.
We strived to ensure trans, intersex and non-binary inclusion, and we engaged with activists from these communities to receive advice from those with expertise. We acknowledged that there could be obstacles to achieving this goal in the competitions sanctioned by official bodies with stricter gender policies. In those cases, we engaged in dialogue with those, challenged their policies and tried to find solutions to make EuroGames as inclusive as possible even when other bodies have a different set of rules. This meant that we overall offered our sport as un-sanctioned to make sure that we had the most inclusive rules.
Recruiting women was one of the key findings from World OutGames 2009 in Copenhagen in that it is possible to increase the share of women in our sporting events. 30 percent of the participants back then were women. For 2021, we wanted to build on this and commit ourselves to have more than 30 percent women in our event. We wanted to do so by fostering relations with sports clubs around Europe targeting lesbian and bisexual women that were not necessarily members of EGLSF, and by advertising and pitching news stories in magazines targeting lesbian and bisexual women. Furthermore, we wanted to repeat a success from the World OutGames 2009: A dedicated Women’s Space to make sure that the women taking part in this event do not feel left out in venues dominated by men.
We operated under a Fair Play policy that we operated under and which most likely will be accepted and adapted for future EuroGames as part of our legacy.
We added three gender categories into our registration system and the possibility for participants to choose the most suitable option.
Copenhagen 2021 affirms and supports the rights of athletes to compete as their true selves and to compete in the gender category that accords with their gender identity
- Male – Participants who identify as male
- Female – Participants who identify as female
- Non-binary – Participants who do not identify with the binary definition
Male categories are open to all who identify as male, and female categories open to all who identify as female. We recognize that a binary definition of gender excludes people who are non-binary, and so in those sports where there are different gender categories, we will have a third category for non-binary athletes.
Sports Leader Conference
The Sports Leader Conference was originally planned as a mix between best-practice experience based, and new presentations which could be used to strengthen the leadership and management of various LGBTI+ sports clubs and associations across Europe.
Topics were originally thought about challenges and areas where inclusion of gender and sexuality was the focus. A mix of presentations and workshops was planned, where the presentations were to be at the participants’ level and should not strive for an academic approach.
We had planned the conference to be on 16/17 August in DGI city in Copenhagen and we expected approx. 200-220 participants for the event and conference to be connected to the opening of the Human Rights Conference in Øksnehallen on Tuesday and continue under their own auspices, where participants could use personal experiences and challenges in relation to an exchange of experience between clubs and participants to develop opportunities for inclusion.
During the lockdown and the different pandemic restrictions from March 2020 through to late May 2021, we kept planning for EuroGames 2021.
It was more and more a question of whether participants would be able to travel to Copenhagen than anything else. In April 2021 we were confident that we could organise our sport tournaments, but more worried about our large events like the Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony. We kept planning and organizing as much as possible with changes to the above ceremonies constantly over the period from March 2021 all the way up to the execution. Indeed, the last restrictions were changed less than a week before the start of EuroGames.
When we reached late June, it was obvious that the initial 29 sports would have to be revised. This was mainly due to a low number of sign-ups for a few sports and for one sport the organizing group fell apart during the pandemic, so we agreed a final plan of 22 sports tournaments.
Sports and tournament preparations
The EuroGames sports team, together with the original 29 steering groups and 19 Venue Managers, coordinated and ensured the organisation of the tournaments and all the practicalities surrounding EuroGames in August 2021. In addition, we had a collaboration with Malmö Stad, led by project manager Camilla Ekelund and her team. The sports steering groups were a combination of Pan Idræts’ voluntary steering groups, the Danish Sports Federation, and several commercial partners.
Volunteers for EuroGames
Venue Managers (VM) were recruited during the month of April when the restrictions were loosened slightly. They were introduced and brought into the project by the Sports Tournament Coordinator, as these were essential for the management and conduct of the tournaments at the various sports venues. The VMs were primarily recruited from Pan Idræt but also from sports-interested volunteers.
We recruited 19 VMs spread over the eight main venues in Copenhagen, and these worked together with primarily sports managers from the City of Copenhagen, but also venue managers from the commercial places we had rented directly.
In early June the team, together with the project’s Volunteer Team, started recruiting more volunteers via our short-term volunteering system, where general task descriptions were updated with the sports areas. We started out by hoping to get about 500 volunteers and 1000 shifts (average 6-hour shifts and including venue managers).
At the end of July, when EuroGames had been scaled down, we reduced to a level of about 250 volunteers and 500 shifts (average of 6 hours shifts and including venue managers).
EuroGames sports tournaments and their venues
EuroGames tournaments took place on 17-20 August 2021, and a total of 22 sports were conducted spread across Copenhagen, and a single sport in Malmö. A total of 1,826 athletes competed at EuroGames 2021. More than 2,000 were registered, but when travel restrictions in Denmark remained in place until a week before the EuroGames a lot of athletes from the UK and especially Russia had to cancel, and we decided to refund those athletes.
We had initially planned for 4,000 participants, but with very tough travel restrictions in Asia and Asia Pacific it was clear that we would lose probably 5-800 participants from that region. Tough travel restrictions and the Danish government deciding to halt visa procedures all the way through April, May and most of June meant that most countries with visa requirements would not have the opportunity to attend the EuroGames.
When a renovation of Valby Hallen dragged on, Volleyball had to be moved quite late from Valby Hallen to Sundby Hallen, and we went ahead with the following tournament venues:
- Amager Strand: Triathlon & Half Marathon
- Bellahoj: Swimming, Water Polo, Artistic Swimming and Handball
- Grondal MultiCenter: Badminton, Squash, Bowling
- Hal C: Ballroom Dancing
- Islands Brygge: Chess
- Kastellet: 5k/10k
- Østerbro Stadium: Tennis, Athletics, Dodgeball
- Sundby: Volleyball
- Valby: Football, Field Hockey, Floorball, Beach Volleyball
- Royal Golf Center: Golf
- Malmö Arena: Figure Skating
City of Copenhagen
The relationship and cooperation with the City of Copenhagen worked at different levels. The sports director and management of the City of Copenhagen KFF’s sports development department arranged several joint meetings with the senior management of KFF’s sports development department (Thomas Bach and Rikke Rasmussen), and the decentralized managers and the sports tournament coordinator, where work was done on inclusion and preparation for the event, so that all employees at sports venues could also be prepared for the challenges that could arise along the way.
External commercial partners
The collaboration with Hafnia Hallen was separate from the municipality but proved to be an excellent partner during this event. Royal Golf Club was also an independent entity and cooperated closely with the golf tournament’s steering committee and provided a professional tournament framework.
Ironman Denmark was one of the major partners in Triathlon planning and execution. The dialogue with Ironman Denmark was professional and they delivered on the agreement.
Sparta was a collaborator at the Half Marathon, Athletics and Running. All tournaments were professionally organised.
Malmö was the host of Ice Hockey, Basketball, Roller Derby and Figure Skating, and was responsible for steering groups and coordination of these tournaments. We ended up with only Figure Skating being executed since there were only a very small number of registrations for the other sports and also the many pandemic restrictions in Malmö made it difficult to complete these tournaments.
The Sports Village was created in a good area that focused on sports in cosy and inclusive settings. Islands Brygge foreshore is a large wide area where during a summer day, it would have created a fantastic connection between the area, the harbour swimming pools and the lawns there.
We were the first few days very unlucky with the weather, but especially the Rainbow Playground worked super well Thursday and Friday when the sun was shining. If we had built a little more shelter, as well as some light chains, then the first few days would probably have been a bigger success. We experienced both local and EuroGames participants at all events at Rainbow Playground, so there was a good mix of activities and local families with children as well as EuroGames participants were welcome. Up to 150 people participated in Sports to the People activities in the Sports Village. In addition, there were more than 300 visitors and participants at the Samba Show, six-hour bike event and Silent Disco, respectively.
On the school ship George Stage there were more than 3,000 visitors from August 16-20 in the Sports Village.
EuroGames Opening Ceremony
On Wednesday we held the official opening of EuroGames. This was an event that targeted the EuroGames athletes and was a show to welcome all nationalities to Copenhagen and celebrate EuroGames and diversity in sport.
We had planned an event which was divided into three parts. The first part should allow all participants to have something to eat and drink, greet each other, and listen to music. The middle part was supposed to be the official show with speakers and presentation of all nationalities. Finally, we set the place for a festive evening of music and dance.
All athletes, as well as federations, Pan Sports members were invited to Fælledparken, which was divided into three sections. Due to pandemic restrictions, we were allowed to have 2,500 people in each section. The stage was built up in the middle of the three sections, so there were spectators all around and three big screens facing separate sections. In each section there was food and drink stall. We opened at 6pm, an hour and a half before the show start, where contestants were given the opportunity to buy food and drink and greet each other before the show starts.
At 7.30pm we showed a movie on the three big screens, which was the original EuroGames feature film. The official part of the program first featured a sporty drag show, which was entertaining and festive. Then we had four speakers on stage. First the Chairperson of DGI, Charlotte Bach Thomassen, who gave a speech on behalf of Danish sport. Then Lord Mayor Lars Weiss, who spoke on behalf of Copenhagen. Next, EGLSF, licensor of EuroGames, was on stage handing out trophies to the City of Copenhagen, Copenhagen 2021/ Happy Copenhagen and Pan Idræt. Finally, Christian Bigom was on stage giving a speech on behalf of Pan Idræt, official host of EuroGames 2021.
After the four speeches were conducted, Jean Michel performed music, which was followed by the presentation of all countries at EuroGames 2021. A total of 49 nationalities were present, all of whom were welcomed by the host from the stage, while camera production filmed the athletes among the audience from each country and sent up on the three big screens. Shortly after the presentation, there was a concert with Safri Duo. Then the official program ended, and the evening continued with DJ Robin Skouteris for those who wanted to linger.
We had participants for EuroGames from 49 different nationalities, Pan Sport members, volunteers, and organizations from different collaborators, but despite the bad weather we would estimate that about 2,500 people attended.
Sports to the People
Sports to the People was a public programme that included a number of drop-in sports for all the people living and visiting Copenhagen and Malmö during Copenhagen 2021. These could for example include Drag Olympics, Rainbow family sports, Roller-skating through the city, Bicycle workshops, Skiing on the Copenhagen ski slope and many more fun sports events. It was organised in collaboration with DGI and with generous financial support from Nordea-fonden.
Sports to the People had a total of 71 activities from 14 – 20 August 2021. Of these, 24 took place in the Sports Village at Islands Brygge from 17-20 August. The remaining activities took place around Copenhagen.
There were a total of 33 clubs and associations involved in the program around diversity in sport. In addition, three football clubs participated outside the program.
They were all invited to a workshop with DGI, Happy Copenhagen and inclusion consultant Adam Holmegaard before the event was held. Here the focus was on diversity in sport and how clubs could best hold their event during Sports to the People, as well as how they can work with diversity in their association going forward.
All Sports to the People activities were training sessions open to all: Copenhageners, tourists, EuroGames and WorldPride participants.
EuroGames Outreach Program
As a result of the outreach program, over 30 athletes received a combination of free sports participation, accommodation, travel costs covered, and extra food tickets. Twenty-five athletes directly received some form of support directly from us. We were working with the European Commission’s CEEYOUSPORT project and managed to attract a good group from Eastern Europe through that. In total, we received 37 applications for the EuroGames outreach program. The only people who were rejected were either not European, not resident in Europe or participants who could not enter the country due to travel restrictions and without the travel restrictions would have expected at least three or four times as many applications for the Outreach Program.
Sports Leader Conference
Unfortunately, the travel restrictions, which were not relaxed until immediately before the event, meant that we had to change a large part of the program, as about 50% of workshop leaders and panellists came from the UK and at the time they still could not participate in person.
The Sports Leader Conference was then compressed down to one day – Monday 16 August, and then participants were able to fully participate at the Human Rights Conference on Tuesday with workshops on this conference. On Tuesday at the Human Rights Conference, several sports-issues were on the program, and we were lucky to have the Norwegian Minister of Sport and Culture and a group of athletes from Taiwan making presentations.
We had a good working relationship with many different LGBTI+ sports clubs and organizations and we also got several participants from Eastern European clubs through the European Commission project, CEEYOUSPORT.
We ended up with just over 50 participants, which was somewhat below expectations, but this event was hit hard by the travel restrictions.
In Memoriam: Etienne Burguy
Etienne Burguy was a 35 year-old athlete from France who suffered a medical emergency at Bellahøj. He was not competing at the time and his condition was not related to the sporting activity. Despite being given immediate medical assistance, and being transported to hospital, Etienne later passed away.
Moments of silence to remember Etienne were held across our events, and we provided support to his family, friends and team-mates, and extend our deepest condolences to everyone who knew him.