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Thursday, September 28, 2000

Sydney's gays plan an encore

 SYDNEY -- Return to Oz in 2002. That's the invitation to the world press from organizers of Gay Games VI who invaded the main press centre here a few days ago to make their case to some of the 20,000 journalists covering the 2000 Olympics.

 It will take some doing, but the intention, apparently, is to try and recreate the party atmosphere which has enveloped this city for nearly two weeks now and top the outrageously successful Gay Games V in Amsterdam two years ago.

 As those watching the Olympics know, Sydney loves to party. Its most famous partiers may be found in its homosexual community, which already hosts what is arguably the raunchiest annual gay parade in the world.

 Sydney's homosexuals rival those of San Francisco's in numbers and political clout. Like the rest of the city, they are agog over the Olympics. Along Oxford Street, which is the gay community's favourite playground, there are signs everywhere that they have been seized by the Olympic spirit.

 Bathhouses shout out that the Games are on television in their lounges. S(A)X Leather, which bills itself as "Australia's leading purveyor of fetish clothing, accessories and toys" urges Olympic visitors to purchase its "perverse collection of leather clad critters" including Master Roo, Koala Boy and Mistress Kooka. Or its special edition "Australian kangaroo hide floggers."

 "Olympic boy, where are you?" pleaded a personal ad in one newspaper. Several other personals from men seeking the same made it clear their most fervent wish was to personally congratulate a medal winner.

 No matter how big the stretch, almost every page in the gay press has an Olympic angle these days. The cover story in Capital Q Weekly was titled "Sex in the Olympic City: A Guide for Visitors to the Sex Industry." Its most amusing practical tip for those meeting a sex worker was to "try not to be too drunk."

 Capital Q announced that a local drag queen, who goes by the name Verushka, allegedly intends to marry Prince Albert of Monaco, a bachelor who is a member of the International Olympic Committee. Another article, whose author couldn't decide whether to be lurid or seriously intellectual, told readers about the all-male Olympic Games in Ancient Greece, when competitors "pranced around in the buff."

 The rather less scandalous Sydney Morning Herald, which has been doing a very thorough job of reporting every aspect of the 27th Olympiad, reported that a male escort had been called out to the Athlete's Village on assignment. But the fellow was turned back before he completed his mission because he lacked proper Olympic accreditation.

 As a prank, several American journalists were said to have smuggled three prostitutes into the media village last week. But the trio was unable to scare up any custom from tight-fisted hacks before the police discovered their presence and expelled them.

 This hardly seemed fair, as heterosexual and homosexual prostitution has been legal in Sydney for a couple of years.

 Not that the Olympics has been much of a bonanza to locals legally engaged in the world's oldest profession.

 The Australian media report that business has been booming, particularly at the top end of the market. However, that was not my impression from chats with taxi drivers and from a visit to two of the fanciest and most infamous sex emporiums in Sydney this week. There didn't seem to be any clients around when I dropped in, but it was hard to tell because, like the escort at the athletes' village and the prostitutes at the media village, I was ordered to leave immediately in the least polite way after I revealed I wanted to talk about whoopee, not make it.

 Perhaps if I'd had the right accreditation ...

 My guess is that the Gay Games VI will not be quite so difficult about documentation.