Chicago organisers of the 2006 Gay Games have announced they now have more than 10,000 participants from over 45 countries committed to attending the event in July.

“With just 100 days to go before the 2006 Gay Games open in Chicago,” said Brian McGuinness, Gay Games Chicago executive director, “our registration rates remain ahead of expectations with 12,000 participating athletes and artists expected to march into the 15 July 2006 Opening Ceremony at Chicago’s Soldier Field.”

Gay Games “Late Registration” begins on Sunday 16 April 2006, with significant fees assessed for those who register late. Gay Games VII registration opened in July of 2004, earlier than any previous Gay Games.

“Historically, 20% of Gay Games participants register in the last three months before the big event,” said Suzanne Arnold, Gay Games Chicago board co-chair. “We strongly encourage athletes to register by 15 April 2006 to ensure access to their preferred sport and so they can make appropriate travel and lodging arrangements.”

Badminton, soccer and ice hockey are nearly full. Tennis, swimming, volleyball and Basketball are running significantly ahead of projections and organisers encourage participants in each of these sports to register soon. Two sports are full, golf and sailing.

Individuals looking for teams and teams needing players can use the online Gay Games “Team Sport Matchmaker” system. “All athletes will be matched with teams,” said Nancy Harris, Gay Games Chicago sports director, “so there is no need to delay registration.”

With tens of thousands expected to go to Chicago for the 2006 Gay Games, many athletes, artists, family and fans are now turning their attention to travel, housing and immigration issues. Gay Games Chicago offers discounted travel and lodging but many housing options are filling fast.

Gay Games Chicago immigration staff are working directly with several U.S. embassies throughout the world to ensure the smooth entry of participants into the U.S.

The Gay Games VII Sports and Cultural Festival will take place 15-22 July 2006. Over 12,000 athletes from more than 100 countries will compete in 30 sports ranging from softball to dancesport, swimming to tennis. The weeklong event will include band, cheerleading and colour guard performances, chorus, an ancillary arts festival, and a series of community-organized social events and parties.

The opening ceremony is scheduled for 15 July at Soldier Field, the lakefront home stadium of American football’s Chicago Bears. The Closing ceremony will be 22 July at Wrigley Field, the home of Major League Baseball’s Chicago Cubs, located in the heart of Chicago’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender neighbourhood.