Nijmegen will host the EuroGames this summer

“If one person comes out of the closet through the EuroGames, then the event is already successful”.

The EuroGames 2022 will be held in Nijmegen this year. From 27 to 30 July this international sports and meeting event for LGBT+ persons will take place at various locations in the city. Everybody is welcome to participate in this annual ‘love to move’ happening, including heterosexuals.

Nijmegen – The association with the Olympic Games, which is about to have its closing ceremony this weekend, is obvious, but the comparison is flawed. “During the EuroGames we sport together in 19 disciplines, but it is not a top sports event”, explains project manager Joost van Wijngaarden. “The games are accessible to everyone accessible, also if you are not a top player. The most important goal of the EuroGames is the meeting of LGBT+ people, who often cannot express their sexual orientation in their own country, even in the sport they play. Unfortunately, the world is not yet that we can all be who we are in freedom. That is why the EuroGames are still needed.”

Joost’s explanation is an answer to the question he often gets. Why is it necessary that a sporting event be held especially for LGBTQ+ people? “It would be nice if this event was no longer necessary. In the Netherlands and a number of other countries we are well on the way with the emancipation of LGBT+ persons, but also in our country, it is still a sensitive issue. The time when you can come out of the closet as a football player, for example, without concerns is still far away. Many LGBT+ athletes feel the need to play sports in a safe environment, where they don’t have to be afraid to come out for their sexual orientation.”

Bridge and petanque

Joost compares the EuroGames with a festival rather than a sports event. “The meeting is central, not the sporting performance”. Besides the sports programme there are also various festivities and cultural events. The programme also includes sports that are suitable for older participants, such as bridge and petanque.”

The organisers expect around 2,500 participants from all over Europe, supplemented by athletes from the rest of the world. “For some athletes it is very exciting to participate. There are, for example, participants from Eastern Europe who do not want their name to appear in the results, because then they would have to fear for their jobs when they return to their country. We also make the EuroGames possible for them by being creative with the results and participants lists.

Out of the closet

The sports competitions are organised by Nijmegen clubs. The knife cuts both ways: the clubs know their sport and have access to sports fields and locations, and it is also a moment for them to pay attention to their own culture in which LGBT+ people can feel safe. “If one member of a Nijmegen sports club dares to come out of the closet after the EuroGames, the event is already successful for me. Being able to be who you are in freedom is our goal, not sports performance.”

Do you want to participate in this event? Everyone is welcome, there is still room for participants. You do not have to qualify like at the Olympics. Spectators are also warmly invited to take part in this festival of love, for example at the opening ceremony on 27 July on the Waalkade.

Photo caption: EuroGames project manager Joost van Wijngaarden at the Waalkade where the the opening ceremony is held. Photo: Gerrit Jan Griepsma

Original article in Dutch: