Over 130 LGBT athletes from all over the country will fly to Paris in the coming days to represent Ireland at the 10th edition of Gay Games. Irish athletes will participate in 15 of the 40 sports on offer over the eight day competition, including athletics, cycling, football, badminton, swimming, hockey and boxing, and for the first time, will be sending athletes in fencing, squash and tennis.
A key objective of Team Ireland, who are sponsored by Axa and The George, is to promote the importance of sport and fitness to members of the LGBT community, which has a much lower participation rate in sport than the general public. A recent survey found that 55% of LGBT men and 56% of LGBT women were not active enough to maintain good health, compared with 33% and 45% respectively of the general public.
Aidan Walsh, Chairperson of the National Gay Games Committee says:
"Homophobia and homophobic language is unfortunately still prevalent in many
locker rooms around the country and this becomes a barrier to participation for
many within the LGBT community, especially among teenagers and young people.
We hope that Team Ireland’s high profile involvement in the Gay Games will help
to break down barriers and continue to make sport a more inclusive and
welcoming place for the LGBT community."
Over 60 members of Team Ireland were recently invited to Aras an Uachtarain to meet President Michael D Higgins, who referenced gay footballer Justin Fashnanu and Gay Games founder and 1968 Olympian Dr Tom Waddell, in a rousing speech about the importance of Team Ireland’s visibility and involvement in the Gay Games. President Higgins said:
"Whether or not you gain medals, you participate as citizens of whom we can be
very proud, excellent role models, truly participative members of society, who
have the courage to stand up in support of sport becoming a source of tolerance,
fairness and equality.”
Almost 12,000 athletes from over 80 countries will take part in the Gay Games OpeningCeremony on Saturday 4th August in the 20,000 capacity Stade Jean-Bouin, home of the Stade Francais rugby team. You can follow the progress of Team Ireland from Sat 4th to Sun 12th Aug on Facebook or Twitter. To read President Higgins’ address to Team Ireland @ Gay Games, click here.
For further information, contact:
Press Liaison: Philippa Ryder
Chairperson: Aidan Walsh