By Kevin Reader
During the 2018 Paris Gay Games, the International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) Association officially announced to the world that the bid to host the 2020 IGLA Championships in Melbourne was successful.
Alan Godfrey and Alan Shepherd, co-presidents of Melbourne 2020, had spent two years making submissions which included lots of detailed planning. Formed in association with Glamourhead Sharks and Melbourne Surge, Melbourne2020 is now the official hub for the championships, with the competition beginning in earnest tomorrow!
The IGLA Championships have previously been hosted in international cities such as Los Angeles, Montreal, Paris, Honolulu, Reykjavik and Stockholm, and are an inspiring example of the diversity within international sports. It is considered a great honour to be selected to be the host city.
Shepherd remembers having mixed feelings when they announced Melbourne was going to host: relief that all the effort had paid off, but also a sense of the enormity of what was ahead.
“It is a great honour to be showcasing Melbourne and Australia to an international aquatics sports community,” says Shepherd. “IGLA has always celebrated the participation of LGBTIQ people in aquatic sports and this is a great opportunity to bring that to Melbourne and show people how good a competition we can put on.”
The championships are governed by the IGLA Association, the leading international governing body devoted to developing and promoting gay and lesbian aquatics clubs, within the sports of swimming, diving, synchronised swimming, water polo, and open water swimming.
Their mission is to promote participation in aquatic sports among lesbians, gay men and friends of our community, and to ensure maintenance of the highest standards for aquatic competitions and international standards for all Gay Games and IGLA Championships.
Over 650 competitors across five sports are planned to participate in Melbourne2020. Roughly half of these are from Australia, and the rest representing 15 countries from around the world.
Shepherd acknowledges the high standards expected from both competitors and attendees and believes that Melbourne2020 will bring a uniquely Australian flavour to the event.
“We are also hoping to make the attendance a more fun participatory experience so people can truly connect with each other and share experiences as well as have a good strong competition in the pool.”
Melbourne2020 will be predominantly centred around one of Australia’s principal aquatics sporting venues, The Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC), located just South of Melbourne’s CBD near Albert Park Lake.
Proudly hosted by two of Melbourne’s best-known aquatic teams, the Glamourhead Sharks and Melbourne Surge, the event will feature a wide variety of activities, including a woman’s program, as part of a fantastic social calendar.
President of the Glamourhead Sharks, Brendan Knox, recalls that the Glamourheads were born in preparation for the 2002 gay games and how Melbourne2020 takes them right back to the origins and foundations as a club. “We are currently in full planning preparation for the biggest swimming event in our club’s history and are immensely proud and honoured to host the Melbourne 2020 IGLA Championships.”
Competing at local, national and international events, the Glamourheads aim to provide an encouraging and supportive environment for LGBTI swimmers and friends of all abilities to improve their fitness and swimming skills while having fun and developing friendships.
Caleb Hawk, President of the Surge Water Polo Club, notes the importance of hosting event like Melbourne2020 in order to continue to address homophobia, transphobia and broader LGBTIQ discrimination in sport. “Events like the Gay Games and IGLA championships continue to keep that dialogue going while also offering an opportunity for LGBTIQ community members to play and compete in an international arena that not only supports them but celebrates their diversity.”
Since its start in the lead up to the 2002 Gay Games, Surge continues to be one of the fastest growing water polo clubs in Australia and now enters five competitive teams in Water Polo Victoria’s State League Championships in addition to recreational and competitive teams in interstate and international competitions. Surge is proud to offer a safe and inclusive environment for both social and competitive players across the LGBTI communities.
While the events down in Melbourne close with the famous Pink Flamingo event that Caleb wonderfully describes as “camp tomfoolery at its finest”, Melbourne2020 is also timed to align with the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
Mr Shepherd notes that there was a conscious decision for Melbourne2020 to provide more than just a sporting event as an attraction for international visitors. Not only can we look forward to a Melbourne2020 IGLA float in this year’s parade, but we can also excitingly expect a string of parade floats from the teams behind Sydney Stingers, Melbourne Surge and the Sydney Wett Ones.
FEBRUARY 20 – 25
You can find out more information about all the fun by visiting the official Melbourne2020 website melbourne2020.org/