Gay Games VI - Sydney 2003

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Sydney Gay Games 2003

Chatting to some straight friends before I left, one of them asked in a narrow minded manner, why gay people needed to have their own gay Olympics, how did the participants prove that they were gay and could the event be classified as sexual discrimination because you couldn’t have a “Straight Games” equivalent. It's the same sort of question that some people have been known to ask about the Mr Gay competitions, you couldn't have a Mr Straight UK yet you can have a Mr Gay UK.

At the end of the day it's just a bit of fun. The Gay Games isn't a gay equivalent of the Olympics at all, it's a sport orientated event aimed towards gay pride, participation, celebration and personal best. The sporting events are open to everyone, whether you are gay, straight, in-between or unclassified, it’s basically just a good excuse for LGBT people around the world to come together, become a stronger community, while competing in their favourite sport and meeting new like minded friends. It’s very unlike the Olympics where participants have to compete in their own country first and then only the elite of each go on to compete. With the Gay Games, anyone can enter any event they want, whether you’re a novice or pro. You needn’t be any good at the sport either, it’s about participation. Some athletes even got dressing up in wild costumes to compete in. The mix between fun and serious competitiveness is what makes the games unique, although it can be distracting on those entrants who are intent on achieving personal best or a medal-winning position.  

Age wasn’t an issue either; there were people with ages ranging from 18 – 89 taking part. Each sport usually had 5 different age medial categories for both males and females. Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded for these and they were all well deserved from the fantastic talent displayed, but it was the participation medal which most people really entered for.

Twenty years on from the first Gay Games held in San Francisco, it's now grown into one of, if not the, world's greatest gay event. It’s actually bigger than the Olympics if you’re comparing, with over 13,000 athletes taking part. They travelled in from more than 70 countries, and competed in 31 different sports. A guy called Tom Waddell started it in 1982, he has since sadly passed away, but his dream was a sporting event based on the philosophy that "doing one's personal best should be the paramount goal in any athletic endeavour." Sarah, his former partner said at the closing ceremony of this year’s event “I think the highlight for me over the whole seven days was the opening ceremony, watching India and Pakistan walking in, arm in arm. That’s what we’re all about: teaching the world.”

One of the sports which I took part in was the Triathlon, even though I’d never done a triathlon ever before in my life. While doing it I met up with a lovely lady from California, Megan Dwyer who told me she was a 10 year veteran of the sport. Surprisingly she also said how she’d only just finished chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer less than 5 weeks beforehand. She and her girlfriend of 7 years had been planning to come to the Games to compete for the past 2 years. “As soon as we could sign up for the Games we did” she said, “I do triathlons one or two times a year and I thought what better place to do one than Sydney”. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer in June it “kind of threw everything up in the air” she said. This lead to months of exhausting and nauseating chemotherapy treatment which left her unable to get off the couch a week at a time. Nevertheless she persisted with her training programme, going for runs when she was physically able. Her final chemotherapy treatment at the end of September was scheduled to allow enough recovery time for her to compete. “My goal for the triathlon was two hours, which is kind of slow for me, but having done so little training I really was just looking to finish” she said. When she ran over the finish line at a time of one hour and 58 minutes she received a big cheer from the watching crowd. She told me the games themselves and her trip to Australia had been an amazing journey, and the perfect recovery from an otherwise trying year.

Gay Games VII (7) will be held in Montreal, Canada (29th July - 5th August 2006). It's an event you should book mark in you diary now and make your perfect excuse to aim your fitness schedule too, it’s the ideal ambition scheduler. Remember the Gay Games is about pride, participation, celebration and personal best, and these are the key things to being a great person who enjoys the most out of life.

Find out more info at Federation of Gay Games

For a pdf map of Sydney’s gay scene Click Here