NOT ALL GAY GAMES VISITORS WILL BE RICH AMERICANS -“ SOME OF OUR CLOSEST NEIGHBOURS ARE BATTLING TO TAKE THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE ON THE STARTING LINE. STACY FARRAR FINDS A WAY TO HELP.

November is just around the corner, and in the world’s more famous gay cities richer athletes are ordering new team colours and working out their after-match drinking songs.

But for others -“ especially those from third world countries -“ getting to Sydney 2002 is going to take some more serious organising and as much fundraising as possible.

A group of 60 athletes, artists and conference delegates from Samoa, Tonga and Fiji as well as a couple of New Zealanders have received scholarships to compete at the Games, but need to raise about $24,000 for accommodation and Games-time expenses.

Helping them out is Moana Pacifika, a committee formed as part of the Gay Games Outreach Program aimed at increasing Games participation from poorer countries.

Moana Pacifika committee member Rex Turnbull reckons it’s time to get behind the group’s bid for Games involvement -“ for the sake of the Games and also for raising the profile of gay and lesbian people in the Pacific.

These are people who just can’t afford to come, basically. It’s hard enough being gay in some of these places -“ it makes it really hard to fundraise, he says.

It’s really important that they come, especially because the Games are in Australia -“ if they were anywhere else there’s no way they’d be able to make it. There was no representation from these places at the last Games, except from New Zealand.

Gay Games organisers have given the athletes subsidies on their registration, and are also running a hosted housing program for athletes who might not be able to afford hotel rooms.

But Rex thinks the visitors will be too overwhelmed by the whole Games experience to stay in hosted housing and hopes the fundraising efforts will make it possible for them all to stay in the same place.

Most of these people have never left their countries before, they’ll be totally overawed. It makes sense to keep them together.

The Moana Pacifika Committee are holding a fundraising function to help them get over the line at the South Sydney Leagues Club on Sunday 25 August.

Rex promises the night will be a six-hour (2pm-8pm) entertainment bonanza with non-stop entertainment from good-looking young Maori band Akinga and other entertainers and dance troupes.

The show will cost $25 per person and include food, entertainment, prizes, raffles and lots of fun.

This will be a chance for Sydney athletes as well as casual sporting observers to step up and help make the Gay Games as diverse as possible.

After all, it’s in everyone’s best interests -“ whether playing or watching -“ to ensure there are as many different bodies from as many different countries taking part.

To donate to the Moana Pacifika cause, contact Linda on 9386 5943. To get more than personal satisfaction and a nice warm feeling for your dollar, go along to the show. Bookings can be made by calling Linda or Uma on 9518 1459.

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