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    First Published: November 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
It’s official. The Sydney 2002 Gay Games are go.
The weekend saw the opening ceremony rock off at Aussie Stadium, the biggest extravaganza seen since the Olympic opener, reports OutUK's Christopher Kelly in Sydney. Headlined by k.d. Lang and Jimmy Somerville, the 4-hour show tapped into themes of persecution, love, perseverance, pride, remembrance, and acceptance. 25,000 volunteer performers took part in the show that finished with a full-on finale so spectacular the only thing missing were elephants flying out of cannons.
OutUK's Hot Money columnist Chris Morgan wins Gold in the Power Lifting 75 kg Open Category. (Photo by Dave Murphy courtesy OutSports.com)

Gay Games Daily Reports  Official Results

Over 13,000 competitors are here in Sydney taking part in 31 sports as diverse as badminton, netball, baskteball, bowling, bridge, chess, dancing, golf, judo, physique, powerlifting, figure skating, martial arts and touch rugby.

With flags flying, Oxford Street, Sydney’s road to ruin, is heaving. You’re queuing round corners for schooners. New venues have sprung up; old ones have spruced up. According to Games spokesperson Matt Jones, the Bali bombs don’t seem to have had much of an affect on visitor numbers, estimated to be around 30,000 in all.

“What we’re hearing from tourism bodies in Australia is that Bali isn’t having an impact on inbound tourism to Australia,” he says. “It’s likely the tragic events in Bali will actually be good for Australia, in that it will encourage domestic travel.”

Walking along Oxford Street is like tuning in to Radio International. So many foreign tongues! There are competitors here from all over, including Gay Swim Amsterdam, Hot Helsinki, Team Israel, Team Iceland, Team Hong Kong and Team South Africa. Flying the Jack, there's Out in Sport GB, Team Manchester, Team Ireland and Team Wales. They're also individuals representing states like Iraq where homosexuality is punishable by death.

“We’ve got people of all sizes, shapes, colours, ages, sexualities and abilities who have arrived in from every part of the planet,” says Matt. “It’s a wonderful, international carnival of sport, culture, celebration and fun. “It is like Mardi Gras – quadrupled,”

Despite drip-fed hype, domestic interest in the Games has been slow to build. Only two sporting events (wrestling and aerobics) have so far sold out. Slow ticket sales have led to reports of a cash flow crisis and serious reservations about the viability of the Games.

However, Jones says sales are better than expected. “We kept our expectations for ticket sales to sporting events very low, so we’re already exceeding expectations in a lot of events.”

But, of course, it’s not about the money. It’s about the being there. It’s about participation, inclusion and personal best. And shattering misconceptions along the way. Sport’s not a straights-only zone; not all poofs throw like girls.

One participant Dermot Dawson who was born in Ireland, but now lives in Sydney, will compete in the Marathon. He'll be joined by Doug Woessner who's an American, “I’ve lived in Ireland for around fourteen years,” he said. Woessner will be competing in everything from wrestling to table tennis. “We just all sort of gathered together and decided to form a Team Ireland, even though we’re from all over.”

Competing in the Games, says Jones, is a life-changing experience. “If you were a soccer player out there in Alice Springs,” says Jones. “You’d think you were the only gay soccer player in the world. But coming to the Games you realise there are thousands. It’s a very empowering experience.”

Nowhere was this more obvious than in the speech at the Opening Ceremony by Justice Michael Kirby of the Australian High Court. He'd been the target of a smear campaign by right wing politicians, and he turned round Aussie opinion by publicly coming out. “When there is so much fear and danger, anger and destruction, this event represents an alternative vision,” said Kirby. “Struggling for the soul of humanity, this is the compelling idea; acceptance, diversity, inclusiveness, participation, tolerance and joy. Ours is a world of love. We are here because whatever our sexuality, we know that the days of exclusion are numbered.”

 

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