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May 15, 2024

Adelaide laces up for Gay Games bid

Adelaide is in the top ten cities bidding to host the Gay Games in 2030, hoping to showcase its love of cultural events and sport on the international stage.

  • Words: Helen Karakulak
  • Graphic: Jayde Vandborg

Feast Festival is at the helm of the bid to bring the Gay Games – the world’s largest LGBTQIA+ sports and culture event – to Adelaide.


Follow along with the selection process for 2030 via the Gay Games website.

The Gay Games have run every four years since 1982, with competition open to people of all genders, sexuality, age and ethnicity.

The Gay Games Federation is a non-profit and receives the same funds from all bidding countries, staged throughout the bidding process so it’s an equal and open process. Meaning, unlike other sports events where your bid is all about how much you can pay, this process is about pitching Adelaide as the best host.

Josh Cavallo is the first and only openly gay soccer player in Australia, after coming out publicly in 2021. This picture: Stuart Kerr/Adelaide United.

“We have to highlight everything that’s great about Adelaide, from our venues to the culture and the safety, which was a really important part for the Gay Games is that it must be hosted in a city that is inclusive and safe,” says Feast CEO Tish Naughton.

Adelaide is competing with two other Australian cities within the top ten; Melbourne and Perth. By the end of 2024, the top ten will be slashed to the top three, with the winning city announced in 2025.

“We want everyone to rally behind Adelaide because this is putting us on a global level in not just sports, but arts and culture and also inclusivity and all those elements combined,” Tish says.

“It’s such a unique opportunity and this is 2030 right, so the world is going to change a lot more between now and then.”

Adelaide United midfielder Josh Cavallo says the opportunity to host the Gay Games in Adelaide is “incredibly exciting”.

“Hosting the Gay Games in Adelaide wouldn’t just be a win for the LGBTQIA+ community – it would also be a win for everyone, because sport is for everyone – regardless of gender, sexuality, race or religion,” he said.

Tish says although we’ve seen greater appetite to support diversity in sport in recent years and the women’s game in particular is having an exciting moment post the Women’s World Cup, there are still hurdles sportspeople face with publicly addressing their sexuality.

“The challenging thing that we obviously find is that homophobia is still quite rife in sport, particularly men’s sport,” Tish says.

“Where it’s almost expected that a female sports person would be gay, so no one even bats an eye if someone comes out as lesbian.

“Whereas we have male sports starts that come out and are celebrated and raised to a whole new platform, just because they come out as being gay, which then leads them to becoming spokespeople whether they want to be or not.”

Tish says no AFL player has come out as gay.

In April, Port Adelaide player Jeremy Finlayson was given a three-game ban for using a homophobic slur during a game.

In a statement, the AFL acknowledged that this and other incidents hinder their goal to make LGBTQI+ communities feel safe playing and attending games.

“We are not making it safe for them to come out and that is something which we’re all responsible for,” Tish says.

“Even just the lead up to this event and talking about this event, if mainstream media embrace [the Gay Games], and we all start talking about it, it changes society and that’s why visibility is so important.

“We shouldn’t have to talk about the fact that we’re not equal but unfortunately, we’re in a position where it’s still not okay for a gay man to be out in a high-level sport and that’s sad.

“We hope it changes and that’s why the Gay Games exists and has to exist because it’s still not okay to be out in the sporting world.”

The state government and the tourism commission support hosting the Gay Games but Feast is taking the lead in the bidding process.

“Obviously, it’s about equality and the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important that that’s not tokenistic and so the government couldn’t essentially do it without us,” Tish says.

“Normally in other cities, a sporting club will choose to lead the bid but our process was a unique bid in the sense that we bring that cultural element to the table.”

In addition to sporting events including aquatics, bowling, court sports, cycling and martial arts, the Gay Games cultural events include music, art exhibitions, poetry performances and cheerleading.

“You have to host cultural events as well, it’s not just about sports and that’s what’s really exciting about this event,” Tish says.

“It’s 10,000 participants who, yes, are competing, but then there’s their families and their friends and so it’s they’re going to be spectators and that’s part of the engagement.”

Tish says Adelaide’s world-class sporting venues, our local LGBTQIA+ history and capacity to activate arts venues and parklands are all elements of the city take-over event they’re proposing.

The host city curates the sports that are programmed across the 10 days of the Gay Games based on the sporting venues and communities in their city.

The upcoming 2026 Gay Games will be hosted in Valencia, Spain, with over 30 sports, including traditional Valencian pilota (a handball sport), the previously fictional sport of quidditch and e-sport events planned.

Tish says an event she’d love to see in Adelaide’s Gay Games is Roller Derby – which has been played in the games before – and has a large community here in Adelaide.

Skater Alex Knopoff – aka Rage Ruthless – says Adelaide Roller Derby would be very happy to see the Gay Games come to Adelaide in 2030.

“Like many of our league members I am part of the LGBTIQ+ community and I think a lot of us would love to get involved if the bid was successful,” Alex says.

“Roller derby has historically been an incredibly inclusive sport and is still ahead of many other mainstream sports in terms of our gender inclusion policy, which is similar to the one used by the Gay Games.

“As home of The Great Southern Slam (one of the biggest roller derby tournaments in the world) Adelaide is already recognised internationally by the roller derby community, so we would love to see that recognition extend more broadly into the world of sports.”

Adelaide Roller Derby are a non-profit sporting league run by members. This picture: Adelaide Roller Derby

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