4 min

And they’re off!!

Team Vancouver heads for gold Down Under

MY LIFE IS ILLUMINATED BY IT. Tennis player Joe Crowell is a seasoned Gay Games attendee and volunteer who finds that the event has tansformed him for a person living with AIDS into a long-term survivor and proactive person involved in one of the largest affirmations of gay and lesbian culture. Credit: Tracey Page

The months of training are over, the uniforms are in and the pom-poms are packed. GayBars have been sold, cans shaken for Sydney and numerous T-dances held to raise the cash needed for the more than 350 athletic and cultural participants that Team Vancouver is sending to the Gay Games in Sydney, Australia.

No less than two soccer teams, two hockey teams, and two softball teams-one men’s, one women’s-will be among the clubs, leagues and individual athletes from Vancouver competing in the 2002 Games. This city is also sending a water polo team, a few wrestlers, swimmers, dancers, tennis players, runners, mountain bikers, martial artists, track & field participants-and a host of others who have their eye on gold medals, good clean competition and a hefty dose of partying in Oz.

Tennis player and Team Vancouver board member Joe Crowell is a seasoned Gay Games attendee. A volunteer at Celebration ’90 in Vancouver, Crowell registered as an athlete for the first time in ’94 in New York and later as a Team Vancouver board member, helping send over 200 competitors to the Games in Amsterdam in 1998.

“When I came home [from Amsterdam], I had no doubt in my mind that I’d be at the next one. If you have that thinking, you just go,” Crowell says. “I can’t say I’m alive because of it, but my life is illuminated by it.

“The Games were ignited in San Francisco, warmly glowed in Vancouver and exploded in New York City. In Amsterdam it became an illuminating standard. Nothing can stop us now; [Vancouver] set it up, this is the lamp post.”

Crowell credits the Gay Games-and tennis-with his own transformation from a person living with AIDS to a long-term survivor and proactive person involved in one of the largest affirmations of gay and lesbian culture.

For hockey player Trevor MacNeil, it’s the glitz, glamour, and warm, fuzzy feelings of the Games’ opening ceremonies that keeps him coming back for more.

“Nothing can prepare you for walking into that stadium,” he says. “It blows your mind, the feeling is wonderful, like you’re glowing inside. I can’t describe it. And [when you hear] the 80,000 spectators cheering you on you realize this is for us. It’s the main reason to go back.”

Sydney 2002 Gay Games unveiled its opening ceremonies line-up recently. Director of Ceremonies Ignatius Jones says the Aussie games will see the 13,000 participants become an integral part of the opening evening and will allow them to see the entire ceremonies. Jones also recently announced that Australian pop princess Tina Arena will be among the performers at the closing party, Farewell, on Nov 9.

“With kd lang, Jimmy Somerville, our amazing line-up of Australian artists, more than 2,000 volunteer performers, 13,000 participants and 38,000 audience members, the Opening Ceremonies is going to be one epic event,” Jones says. “After months and months of planning it is truly humbling to see it all come together.”

Surely it’s the Aussies’ experience at throwing the biggest queer bash in the world-Sydney’s Mardi Gras-that will be luring some folks to the Games in Sydney. Though MacNeil knows that the parties will be top notch, he says that many of his Cutting Edges teammates are taking their competition seriously.

“We got bronze last time. This time, why shouldn’t we aspire for gold?” he says. “We’re going all that way, it’s a big expense, and we’re not going to joke around. Let’s do it this time.”

Martial artist Chuck Newson is hoping that his competition is “over and done with quickly and painlessly” because, he says for him, the party aspect is “fabulous.”

Newson is a first time Gay Games competitor, though he did help out with Celebration ’90 in Vancouver. A solid competitor regionally, this brown belt Northern Praying Mantis kung fu artist has practiced martial arts since 1985. He’s hoping to win in the hand form and weapons category in his age division, but looks forward to hooking up with 13,000 of his closest friends.

Team Vancouver’s coup of securing a meeting place at the Dolphin Hotel in Sydney’s gay district, makes it easy for participants and friends to find out how teams and individuals did in their sports. Sponsored by Xtra West, the table will be staffed by a Team Vancouver board member each evening and matches, heats, games and round robins results will be posted on a board in the pub. And Team Vancouver delegates will be easy to spot wearing their stunning uniform. Vancouver’s uniform for the Amsterdam games was such a hit that it made the front cover of the daily Gay Games magazine and people were offering big coin to take it off Team Vancouver members’ backs.

Figure skater Ron Fremont is looking forward to his first judged competition in Sydney. Though he registered for the Games in Amsterdam, organizers didn’t receive proper sanctioning from the International Skating Union by show time, leaving Fremont to participate only in a mock competition.

Although disappointed with the last Games snafu, Fremont is determined to “kick some butt” this time around. “I’ll be entertaining the crowd and winning some hardware,” Fremont predicts. Having been in skates since he was four years old, training since he was age 10, skating with Disney for a year and spending eight years with the Canada Ice Dance Theatre, Fremont’s current 15 hours a week on the ice are sure to find him bringing home a medal around his neck.

“I’m a little more competitive than some, but it’s all about having fun,” he says. “The high end skater wants to win but to do a good job, too. And having different levels of skaters makes it fun.”

As one of only two skaters from Canada, Fremont will be competing in a short program that features some of his fancy footwork as well as in a long program, skating to local diva Kim Kuzma’s song, River.

For the rest of the 350-plus Team Vancouver participants, their partners, friends, lovers and families, this Gay Games may just be the most memorable one yet.


412 Crown St.

Surry Hills, New South Wales.

Australia 2010.