Two days before the Chicago Gay Games kick off with a celebrity-filled opening ceremony, Australian athletes are confident of a strong showing against their seasoned international rivals.

Several past Gay Games gold medallists will feature in the 300-strong Australian team, the largest contingent after host country the United States.

Geoff Lyne from Team Sydney said Australians would be strong contenders in athletics, sailing, water polo and volleyball once the Gay Games got under way on Saturday.

We may not have representation in every event, but we’ve got some big contingents going, Lyne told Sydney Star Observer.

We have a lot of athletics [competitors] -¦ we’ve got a very strong sailing contingent. Our volleyballers do very well in the local competitions, and they’ll all give it their best shot, but it’s a tall order to try and win, he said.

Lyne said the Australians could expect strong competition from North American teams, Germany and the Netherlands.

[But] the Gay Games are more about inclusion and everyone having a go and everyone doing their own personal best.

About 12,000 people will take part in the seventh Gay Games, including participants in the arts and cultural program.

The event will begin with an opening ceremony on Saturday night, US time, at Chicago’s Soldier Field stadium.

Organisers are promising an Olympic Games-style ceremony featuring more than 1,400 dancers, acrobats and musicians and thousands of athletes.

Celebrities including Will & Grace star Megan Mullally, comedian Margaret Cho and Andy Bell from pop group Erasure will add colour to proceedings.

Stars confirmed for the Gay Games closing ceremony on 22 July include 1980s pop siren Cyndi Lauper and gay R&B singer Ari Gold.

Gay Games organisers will be keen to forget the difficulties of recent months, including the unexplained dismissal of executive director Brian McGuinness and an ongoing rivalry with breakaway event Outgames, which starts in Montr? on 26 July.

Link: Skate from the heart

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