Hate Crimes Mar World OutGames

July 29, 2009
World OutGames, Copenhagen 2009

World OutGames, Copenhagen 2009

According to local news reports and on-the-ground reports from OutSports.com, several explosive devices were thrown and detonated at a track meet during the World OutGames in Copenhagen, Denmark on Tuesday, July 28, 2009.

The World OutGames is a sporting, cultural and human rights event for LGBT people. The first World OutGames, held in 2006, drew as many as 12,000 participants to Montreal, Canada. The second World OutGames started July 25 and run through August 2.

Although Denmark is considered to be very gay-friendly (in 1989 it became the first country in the world to recognize same-sex partnerships), two hate crime incidents have taken place since the opening ceremonies.

According to local reports, two men were arrested for yelling anti-gay epithets and attacking three athletes following the Opening Ceremonies. The three men, from England, Norway and Sweden were hospitalized for injuries incurred after being punched and kicked and later released.

The police are charging the two attackers with hate crimes and the judge has ordered them to remain in jail until the end of the World OutGames. According to Danish law, a hate crime requires proof that the person charged was motivated by sexual orientation, religion or race. Hate crimes are considered aggravating circumstances and can result in longer jail terms.

After the attack, a member of the Canadian curling team told Danish TV, "Obviously it's scary. That fear will haunt you forever. Hate crimes go beyond bruises, go beyond broken bones and they affect you as an individual and it scars you for life."

Koga with injured hand continues to compete.

Koga with injured hand continues to compete.

The second attack came yesterday at a track and field event. According to reports from Outsports.com, the Advocate and other sources several explosive devices were hurled onto the track just prior to a race. Police arrested a 31-year-old man and have charged him with a hate crime for the attacks. A Seattle-area athlete, Dean Koga, was taken to the hospital to remove shrapnel from his hand and released.

In an exclusive interview with Outsports.com, Koga related his story:

"The [bomb] container hit the ground and everyone yelled to run," said Koga, who was in his running lane and then headed for the infield area. "That's when I felt the impact" from the shrapnel that ricocheted off the ground and into the top part of his right hand.

Koga returned the next day to compete in the 800 meters.

Stephen Stuehling, another athlete present during the attack, said, "I was scared and shocked. It was just disheartening to see that. Because of how open Denmark is, I felt pretty darn safe and this kind of corrupts that feeling."

“The World OutGames are intended to create a safe space and bring together LGBT athletes and artists from all over the world, many from countries where being gay remains illegal,” said Senior Director of Media Programs Rashad Robinson.

“Attacks of this kind affect not only the individual athletes, but frighten participants and mar the experience for all attending. We urge the media to report these incidents and continue to delve into the dangers of homophobia here and abroad.”

GLAAD will continue to monitor coverage of this and other events.