It was a generally low-key finish for the Sydney 2002 Gay Games at last Saturday’s closing ceremony, Corroboree.
But that feeling was offset by a moment of enormous power and poignancy: the standing ovation given to a straight airline cabin attendant from America called Alice Hoglan (pictured bottom left).
Hoglan’s son, Mark Bingham, died during the terrorist attacks on America on 11 September 2001. He is believed to have been one of a small group of men who overpowered hijackers on the flight which crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
A keen rugby player with the San Francisco Fog team, Bingham was intending to be in Sydney for the Gay Games.
Looking overcome with emotion at first, Hoglan told the crowd that it was truly an honour and a privilege to be here tonight, and to look out on to this sea of faces, and to take part in the spirit of the Gay Games 2002 here in Sydney.
Hoglan helped present the Tom Waddell award for service to the Gay Games movement -“ an award which she said exemplified those characteristics of leadership, heroism and glory that I associate with the memory of my son Mark.
For the first time, the award was presented to male and female co-recipients. The winners were Fed-eration of Gay Games vice-president Susan Kennedy and Sydney 2002 sports director Stuart Borrie.
Speech-time on the stage may have gone to officials (whose words were largely unheard, due to poor sound), but the word from Sydney 2002 Gay Games was that Corroboree was an event for the athletes. Thousands participated in the event, marching with medals, uniforms and props down Fox Studio’s Bent Street and into the show ring where the ceremony took place.
The athletes told their own stories of Gay Games moments.
Michael Mealiffe from the USA said he came to Sydney just to do the best time I could in his swimming events, but walked away with seven gold medals in the 60-64 age group category.
Sophia Symeou from Sydney said the highlight of the event was meeting people from around the world.
Her bowling team, the Aphrodites, got into the finals of the social bowling league, eventually placing 20th in a field of 24.
What was truly amazing was just how everybody was behind each other. We laughed for three days solid, it was so much fun, she said.
The public face of the Montr? 2006 Games, Mark Tewksbury, said an injured ankle kept him from competing, but he was able to observe over half the sport events.
It’s magical; a celebration of humanity, he said. There’s a place for elite sport, and for the guy who comes last. Really, it’s a unique thing.
Sarah Waddell Lowenstein, former partner of Gay Games founder Tom Waddell, said the Games got off to a flying start.
The opening ceremony was tremendous, she said. I think the highlight over the whole six days was watching India and Pakistan walking in, arm in arm. That’s what we’re all about: teaching the world.