AsiaPacific Outgames participants in Wellington were formally welcomed to the city on Saturday in a poignant ceremony at Te Papa Marae.

Following a triumphant procession through Wellington’s central streets, organisers, volunteers and competitors alike crammed into the marae for the opening ceremony.

Outgames co-chair Virginia Hopkins-Burns addressed the competitors directly, saying that Outgames is “your event, your community [and] your time to shine”.

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said he stood in front of those gathered on behalf of the six gay and lesbian MPs currently in Parliament.

“Three in Labour, one in the Greens, one in National… and one recently independent.” This announcement was followed by laughter from many of the people present.

Robertson then introduced Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand (pictured), the patron of the Outgames, who said to the competitors, “The way in which you are being welcomed is at the very highest level.

“Some would say it’s only appropriate that you’re being welcomed by the Queen’s representative,” he continued, to further laughter.

The Governor-general outlined New Zealanders’ contributions to the advancement of human rights worldwide, such as being the first country to grant women the right to vote and, a century later, the addition of sexual orientation and disability to the Human Rights Act as grounds for unlawful discrimination.

He then declared the Outgames officially open – to thunderous applause.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown was another whose speech was well-received by the audience, confessing herself to be a proud GLBT ally.

“As a redheaded mayor on a bicycle, I obviously share the values of diversity in politics and in personality,” she told those present.

“When we have diversity and tolerance, a culture and a city will advance,” she said, before noting that “we must move beyond tolerance into treasuring diversity”.

The opening ceremony was followed by the triathlon medal ceremony – the first medal ceremony of the games – and a choir performance.

– Anna Loren, The Express

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