July 28, 2023
Reported as Europe’s biggest LGBTIQ+ sporting event, the EuroGames 2023 kicked off on July 26 in the Swiss capital of Bern. The Games are welcoming thousands of athletes across 20 sports in a celebration of inclusion and diversity in sexual orientation, sex characteristics and gender identity -- all culminating tomorrow at BernPride. Nijmegen, The Netherlands held the previous event in 2022.
Licensed by the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF), the multi-sport event has been held in cities across Europe since 1992. It was initially created to support gay and lesbian athletes in their coming out, increase awareness of LGBTIQ+ sports and to facilitate networking between gay and lesbian sports clubs across the continent. This has since expanded to a sports-for-all event which is open for participation irrespective of sexual orientation, gender identity, age or skill level. The belief is that by opening up the community, the Games can set an example for the sports world and advance change.
Research shows that 5.9% of Europeans identify as part of the LGBTIQ+ community. Out of 30 countries, Switzerland has the highest proportion of people who identify as transgender, non-binary or gender fluid. An additional study revealed that 20% of LGBTQI+ people refrain from participating in sports due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It is therefore important for inclusive spaces to exist that allow these athletes to play sports free of discrimination.
“Even today, the world of sports is not open to everyone. Some athletes are barred from competition based on their gender identity. Others experience a hostile atmosphere that forces them to hide their sexual orientation from their teammates, their coach and the public eye. Others again live in a country that persecutes them based on their identity. The EuroGames are a place where none of this matters. Where people can unite and play sports, regardless of who they are,” states EuroGames 2023’s website.
The official EuroGames sports program includes basketball, field hockey, football, swimming, tennis, volleyball and more. There are also activities for the wider public who aren’t athletes but still want to be active during the tournament, including hiking, mental training, equality dance workshops and city night walks.
The Games’ goals now include promoting the inclusion and emancipation of LGBTIQ people in sport, enabling and supporting the visibility of amateur and professional LGBTIQ athletes, combatting homophobia and transphobia in sport and demonstrating innovation by organizing competitions beyond the gender barrier.
Many local organizations are among those taking part, including some members of PrideZ Switzerland at Zurich Insurance. Encompassing seven colleagues who will be competing in swimming, tennis, running, mini-golf and hiking, the team felt it was a natural moment to participate. "Sport offers a key platform to advance social change and advocate for further inclusion and acceptance in sports and the society mode widely," stated Nicolas Amiel, one of the PrideZ participants.
The event also has an outreach program to reduce barriers such as financial difficulties, discrimination and fear, as well as any complications with visa applications, so that as many athletes wishing to participate can. The program strengthens the goal of inclusion and is targeted at European countries that are not fully accepting of the LGBTIQ community.
Since 2016, Bern has been a member of the Rainbow Cities Network, an international association of cities working to achieve the legal and actual equality of LGBTIQ people in all areas of life. It is the second time the country is hosting the Games – in 2000 they were held in Zurich.
Beyond Sport is collaborating with Z Zurich Foundation and Zurich North America on “Head In the Game” which is launching in the US this Autumn. One of the target groups of the program is LGBTQ+ youth. Click here to learn more.