Although the Sydney 2002 Gay Games are remembered primarily as a week-long party and piss-up by many people, there was a serious sporting side to the event as well. Indeed, some consider that the most important legacy of the Gay Games is that they helped foster gay and lesbian community activity awayÂ from the bars and clubs.
So, how are Sydney’s gay and lesbian sporting organisations doing, one year down the track?
The StarÂ put this question to representatives of a number of Sydney-based gay and lesbian sporting clubs this week. Responses varied -“ some clubs have gained members while others have lost members -“ but all the sources agreed that the Games had given their members a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for their sport.
One club which will be celebrating the first anniversary of the Games is Sydney Frontrunners. They won a total of 85 medals at the event, making them the single most successful athletic team at the Games, and also the most successful team from Sydney.
Club secretary and coach Wayne Morgan told the StarÂ that Sydney Frontrunners had increased its overall membership since the Games, and had attracted more women.
Internationally, Sydney is now regarded as having one of the better-performing running groups, Morgan said. A Sydney Frontrunners team will make its way to Seattle next year for a gay and lesbian athletics competition, he added.
Another group still riding high on Gay Games success is the Bent Sticks hockey club. Co-president Danny Caretti told the StarÂ that the hockey competition during the Games had gone fantastically well and spurred on the formation of an international gay and lesbian hockey association. Although the sport is not currently slated for inclusion in the 2006 Montr? Gay Games, Caretti said the aim was to get hockey on the schedule.
We’re much stronger, and we’ve gathered a lot of momentum, Caretti said. There was a possibility that a Bent Sticks contingent would compete in the EuroGames in Munich during July, he said.
Sydney’s touch football association, POOFTA, is also looking at the feasibility of a European tour in 2004. The Mark Bingham Cup will be contested in Manchester in May, and POOFTA could well be there -“ despite the fact that the matches will involve tackling rather than touching. (The cup is named in honour of Mark Bingham, a gay rugby player who is believed to have been one of a number of passengers who overpowered hijackers on the September 11 flight which crashed in Pennsylvania.)
POOFTA member Steve Batten told the StarÂ that enthusiasm remains high in the club, despite a slight drop-off in numbers since the Games.
Batten said the Games were definitely a positive experience for the club members, and one effect of the competition was that the rule book came out and some members started taking the rules of the game more seriously.
Sydney’s gay and lesbian squash club, G Squash, is also powering on with plans to compete in the Munich EuroGames.
Club coordinator Carin Clonda told the StarÂ that G Squash’s membership had increased since the Games, although the club had lost a few women members.
The Games generated enthusiasm for us to do other things, she said. An all-gay team from G Squash was now competing in a Sydney’s men’s competition (a first), and many members were keen on competing in Montr? in 2006, she said.
We’re hoping to have a 30-strong team for Montr?, Clonda said. We’re already speaking to sponsors, and we’ve got one on board -“ LookPrint are sponsoring our uniforms.
Other teams reported a bit of a lull in the 12 months since the Gay Games.
Women’s soccer coordinator Annette Ussher said numbers have stayed about the same in the women’s soccer teams, and Ron Langham from the Sydney Rams tenpin bowling club said the group had basically maintained its level.
We lost some old members and picked up some new members, he said, but stressed that the Games had put a bit of enthusiasm into people about competing at future Games.
Similar comments came from Sydney Spokes (cycling) member Kate Rowe, who reported that a lot more women have joined the club since the Gay Games.
Team Sydney co-president Ian Davis said that a number of sporting groups which formed for the Gay Games were continuing to flourish, such as the gay and lesbian waterpolo club. Other clubs had formed since the Games as well, he said, including a diving group and a rowing group.
Team Sydney itself had had a relatively quiet year, Davis admitted. Although there had been discussion about staging an Australian Games event in 2004, it would not be hosted by Team Sydney. However, the group will once again stage next year’s Mardi Gras sports festival, he said.
It’s been a bit of a breather for us after an intense year last year, Davis said.
Kate Rowe, who was involved in helping organise the cycling events for the Gay Games, sums up the feeling of post-Gay Games torpor -“ or at least the desire just to concentrate on the sport for a while.
Mention the word -˜meeting’ to me and I run a mile, she says. I imagine a lot of people feel the same.
OTHER LEGACIES OF THE GAMES
-Friendship and romance
Many gay and lesbian Sydneysiders formed new friendships because of the Games. A few lucky ones began relationships which still continue.
One source close to the StarÂ revealed she knew three athletes who were still hobbling about and in need of knee reconstructions because of injuries sustained during competition.
Many Sydneysiders made contact with the gay and lesbian community for the first time because of the scope of the event. The StarÂ knows of at least one young man whose first proper experience of gay culture came about because of the Games.
The Gay Games provided a great opportunity to launch new products, organisations and services, some of which are just now celebrating their first anniversary, including The Colombian Hotel, Bent magazine and The Pink Directory.
-Less public sex
It is generally accepted that the wild excesses of the Gay Games Black party has led to a clamping down on public sex at community dance parties, including Mardi Gras and Sleaze Ball.
Sydney 2002 Gay Games went bust amid much acrimony and hostility. Friendships were severed, relationships damaged -¦ and there are some people in Sydney’s gay and lesbian community who are stillÂ not talking to each other.
-Companies got burnt
Some sponsors lost cash because of their involvement with the Gay Games and are now thinking twice about supporting events like Mardi Gras.
-The Federation got anxious
As the StarÂ revealed last week, the losses incurred by Sydney 2002 have scared the Federation of Gay Games into taking an extremely conservative approach in planning the 2006 event, which has brought them to loggerheads with the Montr? 2006 organisers.
-Sydney was showcased
Our city maintained and built on its reputation as one of the world’s great gay cities. We may have done it by the skin of our teeth, but we did it.
-We challenged stereotypes
Mainstream media interest in the Games helped us smash a few stereotypes, like the idea that dykes can’t dance and gay men can’t catch a ball.