Limerick limbers up for 2018 Gay Games bid that could add €80m to region's coffers

John Hickey: "Sexual orientation shouldn't be an issue, but it clearly is if people can't be open about it." photograph: alan place

John Hickey: "Sexual orientation shouldn't be an issue, but it clearly is if people can't be open about it." photograph: alan place


IRISH LIVES:Limerick will bid to host the 2018 Gay Games, which could bring in millions

There are no macho men looking like members of the Village People pop group in the video compiled as part of Limerick’s bid to host the 2018 Gay Games. But there are plenty of images of Tipperary and Limerick hurlers clashing and grainy footage of Munster’s legendary 1978 victory over the All Blacks.

John Hickey, the Clare-born man behind the bid, which officially gets submitted on February 28th, says he wants the focus to be on the sporting abilities of gay athletes – not their choice of sexual partners.

“I saw it as a way of having a conversation about the ability of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual athletes rather than their sexual orientation.”

Hickey says he wants to showcase Limerick’s sporting prowess and its accepting nature. As a gay man, he has never encountered prejudice from people in the city. “I haven’t had that. I’ve been lucky,” he says.

Synchronised swimming

The Gay Games, which are held every four years, began in San Francisco in 1982. They allow for certain types of sports shunned elsewhere, such as male synchronised swimming and same-sex pairings in ice-skating. London, Paris, Amsterdam and Orlando are also vying to host the 2018 games.

Hickey says few sportspeople are openly gay. “In the recent London Olympics, of the 10,000 athletes attending, between eight and 10 were openly out,” he says. Ireland is no exception, with Cork hurler Donal Óg Cusack the only top Irish sportsman to state he is gay. “Sexual orientation shouldn’t be an issue but it clearly is if people can’t be open about it,” says Hickey.

The Gay Games are open to anyone regardless of sexual orientation and athletes don’t have to qualify for any of the 35 events. “You just register, pay your money and show up,” he says. “It’s not always about winning that gold medal – it’s about participating and going for the gold medal.”

Limerick’s bid might seem fanciful until you consider the groups to have put up the $10,000 (€7,500) as part of the initial application. These include Fáilte Ireland, Shannon Development, Shannon Airport, University of Limerick, Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau, Limerick Chamber, Limerick City Council and Analog Devices. The 10,000 athletes and up to 15,000 supporters the games attract have got such groups interested.

Cash incentive

Hosting the games could bring €60-€80 million to the area. “The profile the region would get for an event like this would be amazing,” says Karen Brosnahan of the Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau.

Limerick has already put its stamp on the games after getting wheelchair rugby and boxing included in the list of sports.

A shortlist of three cities will be announced in May and another $10,000 will be needed to continue the application. The winning city will be announced in September or October.

Game on: Just don't say Olympics

The 10th Gay Games will be held in 2018. The 2014 games are to be held in Cleveland, Ohio.

The games are not part of the Olympics and an attempt to label them the “gay Olympics” in 1982 prompted a lawsuit from the International Olympic Committee.

The Gay Games are also different from the World Out Games, formed after a dispute with the organisers of the Gay Games in 2006.

A team of 100 Irish athletes participated in the last Gay Games in Cologne in 2010. Other outlets for gay athletes include the soccer team, the Dublin Devils, and rugby team, the Emerald Warriors.

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