An expected audience of 40,000. Twelve thousand competitors. Two and a half thousand performers, including 600 volunteer dancers. Massed choirs and marching bands. A swag of the world’s best out performers. This opening ceremony is shaping up to be the gayest show on Earth.
The entertainment roll-call reads like a lesbian and gay Who’s Who: kd lang and Jimmy Somerville will be joined by the likes of Judi Connelli, Paul Capsis, Bob Downe, Deborah Cheetham, Peretta Anggerek, Shauna Jensen, and (seemingly) every working drag queen in Sydney. Justice Michael Kirby will give the keynote speech, and there will be appearances by a whole host of other people, including Molly Meldrum and Vanessa Wagner. The only way this show will get any gayer is if they somehow summon up Judy’s ghost for a guest appearance.
Like the marathon-esque Olympic opening ceremony, the opening ceremony of the Gay Games has been split into distinct parts. First comes the Prelude, in which Bob Downe, Portia Turbo and Gillian Minervini will do their best to warm up the crowd, and which precedes the March Of The Heroes (that’s the athletes’ parade). Next comes Welcome To Sydney 2002; Struggle: Persecution & Perseverance; Remembrance; Acceptance: Love & Pride; and Celebration: Under New Skies. Following all that is the official opening, featuring the governor of New South Wales, Her Excellency Marie Bashir AC, and various speakers from Sydney 2002 and the Federation of Gay Games. The night will then come to a finale that promises to be both spectacular and fabulous.
While the opening ceremony organisers are keen to keep a few surprises for the big night, there are a few things they can say for certain. First: expect glitter. Lots of it.
Footballers will be picking glitter out of their navels for the next 10 years, promises the director of the opening ceremony, Ignatius Jones.
There are a number of big picture moments, he says. Without doubt, when kd lang sings with all the candles in the audience, that will be a moment. There’s also a pompom stunt -“ everyone in the audience has pompoms and we’ll get them to do a cheerleader thing. And the finale is going to be pretty much like a big dance party out there, with drag queens on the stage.
In addition to the drags, there will be convicts, policemen, Mardi Gras 78ers and a rainbow serpent all dancing their way across the field of Aussie Stadium. Other elements to watch out for: the Dykes on Bikes, a special tribute to Australia’s first gay club, The Purple Onion, and an outline of Australia formed by hundreds of volunteer dancers (including, rather cheekily, an almost all-lesbian map of Tassie).
Each team has been asked to get into the spirit of the event by bringing along a prop to wave at the crowd. A spokes-person for Team Sydney says that all people marching as part of that group will be provided with a gift suitable for waving and adding colour and movement. They won’t say what it is.
While the big-name performers are the obvious drawcards for the event, the involvement of the volunteers is no less crucial to the success of the ceremony.
We have 2, 500 performers, including choirs, marching bands and about 600 dancers, Jones says. Some of them have been doing 9 to 5 every day on the weekend, which is a really big commitment. They’ve been great.