Thursday, 25 April 2013

On Track to the Outgames - Part 5

Less than a year after the inaugural North American Outgames in 2007, the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (GLISA) held the first Outgames in the southern hemisphere. It was one of their continental games and was the 1st Asia-Pacific Outgames and were held between 30th January and 3rd February 2008.

The impetus to host an international lgbt sports festival in Melbourne, Australia, came from a group of Melbourne competitors who had been to the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney. They submitted a bid to GLISA to host an Asia-Pacific Outgames even before the first World Outgames had taken place in Montréal in 2006. Their bid was accepted in February 2007.

The main catchment area for participating athletes was countries in the Pacific Ocean and eastern Asia. Representatives and athletes from 21 countries converged on Melbourne.

As was the case with the other Outgames Melbourne planned an arts festival and lgbt rights conference to go with the games. Melbourne had an annual 3-week-long arts festival called Midsumma which usually ended with the Melbourne Pride march. It was Midsumma, that was celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2008, which was the central focus of the bid.

The third element of the Outgames, the conference, was once again organised as the prelude to the games. Called “Rainbow Conversations” the 2-day conference began on 30th January 2008. Many delegates came from eastern Asia and spoke of the difficulties the lgbt community still faces in some countries such as China. In fact, the organisers of the Asia-Pacific Outgames found their website blocked by the Chinese government and used other methods of outreach to the Chinese lgbt community.

The conference was held in Melbourne town hall and ended with a cocktail reception party, after which the arrival of the athletes parade took place. Marching through the city streets the parade entered the grand ballroom and the official opening ceremony began.

There were 1,191 registered athletes for the games which began the following morning. Whereas the first North American Outgames had 8 sports, the Asia-Pacific games had 12 – badminton, 10-pin bowling, dance-sport, hockey, lawn bowls, rowing, running, squash, swimming, tennis, volleyball and water polo. Volleyball had the most competitors with 181 taking part, 3 more than for the swimming events.

Most of the sports were officially sanctioned by their governing bodies within Australia. This meant, among other things, that any Australian records broken at the Asia-Pacific Outgames would be recognised within the sport, and that the governing bodies considered the Outgames to be of a sufficiently high standard of competition. Not all of the sports results are available online. There are also very few reports of the competitions, and any information will be a great addition to my files and database. My email address is on my Contact page.

One aspect of the first Asia-Pacific Outgames which was of particular interest to a vexillologist like myself was the introduction of the official games flag, which became known as the Melbourne flag (shown on the right, below). As with the summer and winter Olympic flags (the Antwerp and Oslo flags respectively), the intention of the Melbourne flag is for it to be handed from one host city to the next. At the end of the games the Deputy Premier of the state of Victoria, Hon. Rob Hulls, handed over the Melbourne flag to Wessel van Kampen, the Co-President of GLISA.

Next month I continue the history of the Outgames with the first venture onto European soil for the 2nd World Outgames in Copenhagen in 2009.

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