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Gay sporting competition opens in Zurich



Switzerland's largest sporting event of the year is underway in Zurich. Eurogames 2000 is aimed primarily at the lesbian and gay community, and the organisers have invited athletes and clubs to take part in an "open to all" sports competition.

Some 4,200 participants from 30 countries are registered to take part. A total of 19 sporting events over four days, beginning on Thursday, will be held throughout the city. They range from the more traditional athletic competitions to the less conventional, such as ballroom dancing and cheerleading.

About 15,000 visitors are expected to attend, attracted not only by the sports events, but also by a packed cultural and party programme.

The city's Helvetiaplatz is being renamed "Rainbow Square" for the duration of Eurogames. Large parties are being held every night in three venues around the square, to provide a festival atmosphere.

Among the cultural highlights is an exhibition on lesbian and gay rights in Switzerland at the National Museum as well as a lesbian and gay film festival.

Support has come from a wide variety of government and business organisations. The city of Zurich has offered free use of all sporting facilities as well as accommodation for up to 500 athletes within the city's nuclear shelters.

Zurich's mayor, Josef Estermann, told swissinfo that Eurogames will "bring life and joy and sporting effort to Zurich".

Earlier in the year, Estermann, along with the Zurich's cantonal government, fought off opposition to the event by right-wing religious groups.

The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, sent his best wishes to the organisers. A recorded address by Ogi is being broadcast at the opening ceremony.

by Tom O'Brien

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