Its opening ceremony is still more than a year away, but organisers of the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago are confident their event will build on the success of the Sydney Games three years ago.

Some 13,000 people are expected to take part in the event next July, which will take in 30 sports and a wide-ranging arts and culture festival.

The 2006 Gay Games’ sporting program will centre on four sports villages, grouping similar events at the same venue.

The four sports village concept is a little bit different than what happened in Sydney, Kevin Boyer, 2006 Gay Games Co Vice-Chair told Sydney Star Observer.

It makes the athlete experience definitely better.

Rowing, sailing, dance sport and rugby are some of the events on next year’s program, which will centre on Chicago’s lakefront parks.

A lot of the events are actually taking place on the parklands, Boyer said.

It’s a tremendous benefit for a sporting event like the Gay Games, because it means a lot of the sports facilities can happen in central locations.

The Games’ cultural program, meanwhile, will include core elements such as a band and chorus, as well as a colour guard marching event and cheer squads.

An arts festival, similar to the Mardi Gras festival, will run concurrently with the Games.

Boyer said the 2006 Gay Games, under the slogan Where The World Meets, would showcase Chicago’s gay and lesbian culture and ethnic diversity.

However, the staging in Canada of rival event Outgames soon after the Gay Games may take some of the shine off the Chicago event.

Outgames was formed after Montr?, originally the first choice for the 2006 Gay Games, withdrew from the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) in late 2003 after disagreement about the scope of the event.

Boyer conceded the Outgames, which open a week after the Gay Games close, would probably affect potential visitor numbers in Chicago.

Indeed, Outgames plans to attract some 16,000 participants, according to its website.

We’re disappointed that they chose to do an event in the same year as the Gay Games, Boyer said.

For info and participant registration for the 2006 Gay Games visit www.gaygameschicago.org For Outgames visit www.montreal2006.org

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