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Sydney Wins Gay Games

Sydney Wins Gay Games

15 November 1997
Sydney's successful bid for the Gay Games in 2002 will provide a $100 million boost to the NSW economy, with gay and straight people encouraged to participate in a carnival of traditional sporting events, cultural festivals and political forums.

The State Government welcomed the decision by the Federation of Gay Games to award Sydney the sixth games, saying it would help Sydney through the slump expected after the 2000 Olympics.

But the games have been attacked by both the National Party and the Rev Fred Nile of the Christian Democratic Party, who dubbed it the "Sad Games" and said overseas athletes should be tested for HIV/AIDS before being granted visas.

More than 10,000 people are expected to participate in 30 official sports, six demonstration sports, artistic events, lectures on gender and sexuality in sport and a giant dance party.

Visitor numbers to NSW are expected to top 30,000 with many of the events, including the opening ceremony, to be held in the new facilities at Sydney Olympic Park.

The organisers, Sydney 2002 Gay Games, were told early yesterday at a presentation ceremony in Denver, Colorado, that they had beaten Dallas, Long Beach, Montreal and Toronto. It is the third attempt by Sydney to win the games, which began in San Francisco in 1982.

The chairman of the organising committee, Mr Tom Seddon, said the games and the cultural festival were aimed at being an international and inclusive event, with straight people, disabled and a range of ethnic groups being encouraged to participate.

The Sports Minister, Ms Harrison, described the games as very important for Sydney, with a likely economic boost of $100 million for NSW.

"I think when you're looking at tourism and jobs people will accept these games and support them," Mrs Harrison said.

But the NSW National Party Leader, Mr Armstrong, dismissed the games as a minority event for which the Government should not provide any funding.

Mr Nile was outraged at the win and warned that the event would spark protest. "Like the majority of Australians I am very disappointed that Sydney's bid has won the 2002 Sad Games," he said.

"The Carr Government is to be condemned that in the middle of a pedophile scare they actively promoted the Sydney bid and gave thousands of taxpayer dollars to help finance the bid. Sydney has enough social and moral problems without thousands of homosexuals descending on the city."

In April the State Government made a grant of $75,000 to assist the bid.

Mrs Harrison said no decision had been made on government grants to the games.

A Sydney spokeswoman for the organisers, Ms Bronte Morris, said the games represented a "coming of age" for Sydney as a gay mecca and a safe and tolerant society.

Ms Morris said the swimming great Dawn Fraser had been involved in the bid process and that the team hoped she would play a role, possibly as an ambassador.

"I'm also hoping it will encourage the gay and lesbian athletes who exist within the mainstream sporting area to come out," Ms Morris said.

The games will have a budget of $11.5 million.

The managing director of Tourism Council Australia, Mr Bruce Baird, said the games had the potential to bring to Australia 40,000 visitors and he predicted they would inject at least $160 million into the NSW economy.

Discus thrower is eager to be in because she's "out"

Lisa-Marie Vizaniari caught the news on television yesterday. She wasn't surprised.

Earlier this year, when an official from Athletics Australia told her Australia was bidding for the 2002 Gay Games, our top discus-thrower Vizaniari knew we would be in with a big show.

Now all the woman who was a finalist in the recent World Athletics Championships is waiting for is to see if her busy athletics schedule will allow her to compete.

Vizaniari believes she is the first, and so far only, lesbian Olympian in the world to come out of the closet. Of course, that doesn't mean she will be the only lesbian to compete at an Olympics. Athletes around the world are known to be gay or lesbian but have yet to declare it publicly.

That is one reason Vizaniari came out publicly.

"I've always been out, I've never hidden it from my family or friends or training partners, but to the public I've hidden it," Vizaniari, 25, said.

"So I did it because I think we need to have more role models to look up to in the gay community.

"These Games will be good to have because it means people can see gays doing things other than being flamboyant and partying, like you do at the Mardi Gras.

"We're successful people, talented people."

Many of the athletes for the Games, some 11,000, will come largely from within the gay community. It is not right to say there are very few high-profile gay athletes, only that there are very few high-profile gay athletes who are "out".

Former American diving gold medallist Greg Louganis is gay. Former American decathlete Tom Waddell, who is credited with playing a leading role in starting the Gay Games, has also declared his homosexuality.

It is Vizaniari's hope that, in the next five years, more gay athletes will come forward to take part in these Games.

In all, there will be 30 sports played at the games.

They are: aerobics, badminton, basketball, billiards, ten-pin bowling, cycling, diving, figure skating, golf, hockey, ice hockey, marathon, martial arts and judo, netball, physique, power lifting, sailing, soccer, softball, squash, swimming, table tennis, tennis, touch football, track and field, triathlon, volleyball, water polo, wrestling and ballroom dancing.

And while the event will be called the Gay Games, competition will not be limited to gay people. Gays, bisexuals and heterosexuals are all welcome.

Ballroom dancing, of course, will be with same sex partners.

This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010

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