Every year the number of gay sporting events seems to grow and as a precursor to the 2009 Outgames in Copenhagen, Melbourne, Australia will be hosting the inaugural Asia Pacific Outgames in 2008.

In cooperation with the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association, Melbourne Outgames has begun creating a sporting event, which will coincide with the annual Midsumma Festival.

The festival is Melbourne’s premier gay and lesbian cultural and arts festival, celebrating the pride and diversity of Melbourne’s allied communities within a safe and healthy environment.

GLISA is modelled after a multi-sport governing body.

Its members are international sporting federations, continental associations representing sport teams, and clubs from the major regions of the world, and host cities of GLISA’s World Outgames and Continental Outgames.

GLISA is responsible for last year’s first Outgames held in Montreal and although some have called it a financial disaster, it did manage to heighten the awareness and increase participation of gay athletes.

This first Asia Pacific Outgames will be a smaller scale event that will feature badminton, dancesport, field hockey, rowing, swimming event, tennis, volleyball and a few more team sports.

The event will include gay and gay-friendly participants from around the world.

The Midsumma Festival is a non-profit association and features

over 100 events over 21 days each January and February which comprise of visual art, theatre, cabaret, spoken word, literature, music, parties, community forums and sport.

This is an annual tradition recognised as a major event by State Government agencies such as Tourism Victoria and Arts Victoria, and the hope is that by adding the Outgames, Melbourne will secure it’s place as one of the leading cities for gay sporting events and will be considered for future large scale productions.

Melbourne Outgames Inc. has even secured the world-class Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre as the hub for the Games, which will also have a cultural component, and a Human Rights Conference as part of the event.

The Aquatic centre was home to both the 2006 Commonwealth games and the 2007 FINA Swimming world championships.

Melbourne Outgames Communications Director Graeme Lewsey told GAYinWA that organisers were planning an exciting programme for participants and spectators from around the region and around the world.

“Outgames will conclude with all the athletes marching as a part of the Melbourne Pride March, which will be a very exciting way to finish the event.”

There were, however, some concerns over the success of this new event given the recent financial losses at both the Montreal Outgames and the Gay Games in Chicago.

Mr. Lewsey assured those concerned that the Asia Pacific Outgames would be structured very differently in order to avoid those pitfalls.

“Both the World Outgames and Sydney’s Gay Games had about 15,000 competitors, whereas our regional Outgames is expected to attract a more manageable 1,500 competitors,” he said.

He added that, “The larger Outgames were forced to build their events from the ground up, whereas our competitions will take place as a part of established sports events within the Midsumma programme.”

Calgary recently staged a similar event called the North American

Outgames and it was very successful proving that these types of competitions can be financially feasible.

Also, Melbourne Outgames Inc. expresses their optimism about receiving support from both the Victorian Government and the City of Melbourne.

“We are very fortunate to have a number of gay councillors elected to local government within the City of Melbourne at the moment and the Deputy Lord Mayor has already expressed strong support.

“Hopefully, this translates into strong financial support too.”

Registration for the 1st Asia Pacific Outgames, Melbourne 2008 will begin in August 2007 and regular updates will be available on online at www.melbourneoutgames.org.