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Zurich hosts gay sporting competition

Opening ceremony of the EuroGames in Zurich

(Keystone)

Switzerland's largest sporting event of the year is underway in Zurich. Eurogames 2000 is aimed primarily at the lesbian and gay community, inviting 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 in the sporting bonanza which ends on Sunday. A total of 19 sporting events will be held throughout the city, covering the more traditional athletic competitions to the less conventional, such as ballroom dancing and cheerleading.

"This championships must serve to foster the peaceful integration of sexual minorities in society," said Vreni Spoerry, Zurich's cantonal representative in the Senate, at the games' opening ceremony. "This international event, held in Switzerland's largest city, could bridge the cultural divide."

Thousands of people have flocked to the games, attracted not only by the sports programme, but also by a packed cultural and party programme.

The city's Helvetiaplatz has been 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 religious groups who opposed the event taking place in the city.

The Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, sent his best wishes to the organisers.

by Tom O'Brien


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