Lesbian and gay Sydney-siders got their first taste of Gay Games excitement with yesterday’s launch of ticket sales for a range of sporting, cultural and celebratory events.

A total of 120,000 tickets have gone on sale, including tickets to the opening ceremony, the five Gay Games parties, the cultural program highlight events and sporting finals.

Sydney 2002 Gay Games organisers also revealed that the closing ceremony of the Games, Corroboree, will be a free event at Fox Studios -“ kicking off with that most Aussie institution, a big barbecue.

In launching the ticket sales, the minister for Tourism and Small Business, Sandra Nori, said that the October/ November event will generate more than $100 million for the NSW economy and should translate to about 1,500 jobs.

The minister also surprised some media and community representatives gathered at Aussie Stadium for yesterday’s launch by announcing her intention to compete in the ballroom dancing section of the Games.

Today I made the call to my ballroom dance teacher, Nori explained. I said, -˜I really want to go in the Gay Games. Do you think you can find me a partner and teach me one routine in 20 hours, because that’s all I’ve got between now and September?’

Nori said the Games would provide flow-on benefits to the city and the state and would send the world a message about Sydney.

Staging the largest gay and lesbian sporting and cultural festival ever held in Australia sends an important message to the world -“ you can visit Sydney and be yourself, Nori said. Sydneysiders should take this opportunity to show the world once again that we live in a beautiful city with an enviable lifestyle and I am confident Sydney will put on the best Gay Games ever.

Sydney 2002 Gay Games co-chair Bev Lange said the political and social importance of the Gay Games should not be under-estimated.

It is an event that takes our freedom, our civil rights as gay men and lesbians, bis and trannies, to a different level -“ certainly to a different level than we’ve ever seen in Australia before, Lange said. In November this year we need to stand up with the 14,000 participants and the 25,000 guests for our rights. I invite you to be part of that celebration.

For some locals, the launch of ticket sales will reveal for the first time the full size and scope of the Sydney 2002 Gay Games program. With more cultural event details to be released in August, the program already boasts a world premiere opera (Opera Australia’s Lindy), a mass choral event (Sing Out To The World, featuring 500 singers in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall), dance, theatre, visual art and circus.

The sporting program is led by four showcase events -“ physique, ice skating, dance and pool-based sports. Finals tickets and day passes to a range of other sporting competitions are also on sale.

Tickets are available through the Sydney 2002 Gay Games website (www.sydney2002. org.au) or via Ticketek.

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