More than 1,700 athletes and artists from across the world have now registered to take part in next year’s Gay Games being held in Cologne, Germany from 31 July.

Organisers say that participants from more than 30 nations have signed up to participate in the quadrennial sports and cultural event with many registered from Eastern European countries where it is still illegal to be gay.

The last Gaygames was held in Chicago in 2006 when former London Mayor Ken Livingstone commented:

“Sporting events such as the Outgames and Gay Games unite communities and break down stereotypes by giving sporting opportunities to lesbian and gay communities.”

There are 34 different sports and four cultural events being offered as part of the event, which organisers say could attract up to 10,000 athletes.

“Registrations have increased substantially in the last few months,” said Annette Wachter, CEO of Games Cologne.

“Summer LGBT sports programs in North America and Europe have helped drive registrations from the USA, Canada and Europe.

“The approach of the southern hemisphere’s summer has also increased registrations from Australia and South Africa. We are on target to have participation levels of 8,000 to 10,000 next July and August in Cologne.”

Two sports – golf and sailing – are nearing capacity. There are 34 sports and 4 cultural events being offered at the event.

“Now is the time to register for the 2010 Gay Games,” urged Kurt Dahl (Chicago) and Emy Ritt (Paris), co-presidents of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG). “Early registration secures a participant’s spot in a sport or cultural event that may otherwise sell out, and allows Cologne to better plan for next summer’s 8th Gay Games.”

FGG delegates from around the world will get a chance to review Cologne’s preparations as they head to the German host city September 26 to October 2, 2009, for its Annual meeting.

Gay Games VIII runs from July 31 to August 7, 2010, and will open with an Opening Ceremony at the RheinEnergie Stadium, the city’s football stadium.

Up to 48,000 people are expected at the Opening Ceremony according to Andrea Müller, head of the Games Cologne Ceremony & Culture Task Force.

Entertainment has not yet been announced but past Gay Games performers have included Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, Kylie Minogue, Erasure’s Andy Bell and Heather Small.