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    First Published: Before August 2002
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Bill Wassmer's shouting so loudly down the phone that I have to hold the receiver a good two feet away from my ear. But the Male Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games has every reason to sound excited.
He's just learnt that after only 40 days of registration 1,981 participants have put themselves forward from 46 different countries. That's nearly 15% of the projected 14,000 athletes who are expected at Sydney 2002.

"You guys are getting your asses kicked," yells Wassmer. Compared to the US, Australia, The Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand and France gay and lesbian athletes in the UK have been somewhat slow off the mark in registering. The UK has fallen to 8th in the registration table and is in danger of falling off the top ten list altogether.

It's the 2000 Summer Olympics that are one of the reasons for the unprecedented level of interest in next year's Gay Games in Sydney. "There were people who glued themselves to the TV sets last summer watching the Olympics, the track and field, the swimming, and sports like volleyball. They said to themselves 'in 24 months I'm gonna be on running on that same Olympic track, swimming in the same Olympic pool, playing on that same Olympic court'" says Wassmer.

Sydney is host to the sixth Gay Games. The first and second were held in San Francisco in 1982 and 1986. Since then they've taken place in Vancouver 1990, New York 1994, and most recently Amsterdam in 1998. "We're getting a lot better at this," admits Wassmer. "We have standardized a lot of the competition so it stays the same from one Gay Games to the next and athletes know what to expect when they enter the Gay Games."

Sporting performances have also improved immensely over the years. "At the very first Gay Games you could enter almost anything and win a medal. That's not true anymore," says Wassmer. Indeed, as recent games have shown, it's not uncommon for athletes to break world records for their age group.

But it's not so much about breaking records as it is about breaking stereotypes. It may be a cliche, but when it comes to the Gay Games it really is the taking part, not the winning, that's important. "There will be people competing from countries where it's illegal to be gay," says Wassmer. "Just by showing up those people will be making a huge statement. We are internationalizing gay and lesbian sport."

That has to be a good thing. After all, for too long now the sports world has been perceived as a straight's only zone. "The gay & lesbian press gives that impression by staying silent," says Wassmer. "(The UK) has a gay rugby club, a gay swim team and a gay soccer team. There are thousands and thousands of gays and lesbians going to different Gay and Lesbian World Championships every year and yet the gay and lesbian press never write a word about it."
"Do you know how many people were at the World Gay & Lesbian Soccer Championships last year in Cologne Germany? 1,600 - and you absolutely missed it. There are tens of thousands of gay and lesbian athletes the world over playing sport and competing on a regular basis, getting ready for the Gay Games and achieving their personal best."

The Gay Games prove his point. It's expected that come November 2002 more the 14,000 gay and lesbian athletes will represent 80 countries, by taking part in 31 sporting events that include aerobics, gymnastics, dancing, swimming, track and field, wrestling, figure skating and touch rugby.

If you're thinking of competing, Wassmer urges you to register right away "There are people training for this now. getting registered, and getting in competition condition. We want all athletes to come to Sydney use the best facilities on the face of the planet and score their personal best. We are also inviting all Gays and Lesbians to be part of a life changing experience that is known as the Gay Games".

Indeed Wassmer is quick to point out that now is just the right time to register - they already have 1981 compeditors and number 2002 wins free flights from anywhere in the world. You can register for the Gay Games at the Sydney 2002 website.

If you're thinking of going to Sydney then it's also worth checking out our Clubbers Guide.

OutUK Preview - The 2002 Sydney Gay Games.

Sydney 2002 - Gay Games Heading For Success


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