Have you ever been watching the paralympic swimming, and seen a swimmer with one arm and one leg go faster than you and suddenly feel embarrassed? As if you dont deserve legs. Well that’s good. Part of the reason they games are so important is because they raise awareness. Perhaps the same could be said of the ‘gaymes’.

What do the gym, the Ancient Greece and gymnastics all have in common? Homosexuality of course. So on that level, and on the level of raising awareness, having gay games works. The 2018 edition of the event, the 10th. Has just concluded. Paris held it this year but other host cities include San Francisco, who held the first two editions in 1982 and ‘86, Amsterdam, in 1998, and Sydney in 2002. Where there is a large gay community or culture, the games are likely to be a good fit.

It is very similar to the Olympic games proper; Tina Turner sung an anthem at the inaugral games for example. As well as the usual sports, like swimming and basketball, there are some unusual ones thrown in too. Dancesport and racquetball were present in the 2014 edition for example. It calls itself the “world’s largest sporting, cultural and festive event open to all.” It is amateur and it also has artists.

Australian soccer player Danielle Warby competed in her second games. Talking about their importance she told the ABC “”For me it’s all about visibility, and it’s about having a go,” she said. “The theme of the game is participation, inclusion, personal best. It’s very much about that.

In these current times the games are a beacon, a torch if you will, of hope and inclusiveness. What we also have right now is games celebrating mental diversity. Yes, that phrase sounds like something you might find in the works of Sigmund Freud but mental illness is quickly becoming one of the largest killers in the world. It probably always was but we have the made great strides in the field of medicine and can now identify it. It has become so important that the British Labour Party had a shadow minister for mental health.

The fight for better awareness and diagnosis of mental health began when the Special Olympics was founded in 1962. Without that initiative, which came at a time of great change in the mental health industry, along with people such as Ken Kesey, who wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest, and others like him we would probably not have the methods of reducing symptoms of mental illness we do now.

What these different sporting events have shown is that sport, not politics, may be the true equaliser. Look at the world cup- on the football field Ghana has the same chance as Germany to do well. In cricket Kenya, and occasionally Zimbabwe, have stood up to the big boys India and Australia. In swimming Hungary can compete. Georgia has an excellent rugby team. Malaysia has many social challenges but can compete in table tennis and badminton.

Sport has done more for international co-operation in the last 12 months than the UN has in a year. That’s why Thierry Henry can play in America, and Del Piero can play in Sydney. At the recent winter Olympics Korea fielded a joint team. Thats incredible. What’s next? A joint Palestinian and Israeli team? This is the terrific power sport has in normalising disability whilst still placing in on a pedestal.

By Megapodius.

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