Olympians and Paralympians are being offered free entry to the ninth quadrennial Gay Games, due to take place in the US in 2014.
The Federation of Gay Games announced the launch of “From Games to Games” at a Pride House event in London.
Athletes, coaches, officials and team staff from the 2012 and 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games will have their entry fees waived under the scheme.
South African archer Karen Hultzer, who publicly confirmed her sexuality for the first time at the London Olympics, was among the first to take up the offer for the Gay Games IX in Cleveland, Ohio.
She said: “Before becoming officially ‘out’ during these Olympic Games, my status was already known back in Cape Town. I hope that the increased profile of archery as a result of the current focus on the Olympics will introduce more people to the sport which is accessible to everyone regardless of age, physical fitness, or physical ability.
“Although archery isn’t on the program for Gay Games I look forward to participating is some manner which attests to the spirit of the Games. And I’ll do my best to promote archery as a sport for Gay Games X in 2018!”
Team GB’s Paralympic sitting volleyball player Claire Harvey has also taken up the offer, saying: “I’m a big fan of LGBT sport and have been involved here in the UK for several years. I’m told that the Gay Games are for everyone, and I hope that my presence will highlight the principle of inclusion that is part of the Gay Games and of LGBT sport in general.
“I’d very much like to see some sitting volleyball there, because it’s particularly inclusive, allowing participation of able-bodied and disabled athletes in the same event.”
US swimmer Bruce Hayes, a gold medallist at both the Olympics and the Gay Games said: “I was of course thrilled to compete in the Olympics and bring home a gold medal for the USA. But I also look forward every four years to participating in the Gay Games, where I find a spirit of inclusion and friendship that goes beyond the satisfaction of doing my best in a race. It’s a unique event, and I hope that this new program will encourage more athletes to discover the values and atmosphere of LGBT sport.”
FGG Co-president Emy Ritt said: “Olympians and Paralympians are role models for young people, and for athletes of all levels. But the program is not reserved for LGBT athletes: on the contrary, the aim is to share the message that the Gay Games are for everyone.
“Beyond that message, we know that today’s Olympians are tomorrow’s leaders in the Olympic Movement, in international federations, and in national Olympic committees, and we want to build ties so that our concerns about homophobia in sport are heard at the highest level, and that the interests of competitive recreational sport events like the Gay Games are not neglected.”
Paul Oostenbrug, chair of the FGG’s Scholarship Committee, added: “We’re a privately organized event where participants pay a large share of the cost of the Gay Games. To allow athletes and artists from lesser-developed nations to participate, we offer scholarships, for which we’re always seeking donations.
“‘From Games to Games’ will operate similarly, with the goal of increasing diversity among our participants. And like our scholarships, we are seeking funding so as to allow the greatest number of Olympians to be part of Gay Games 9.”
Read more about the Games to Games programme here.