Other Swim Groups
by Jim Provenzano
A waddling penguin might be familiar to tourists at the Sydney Zoo, as are many of the continent's unusual and beautiful creatures, but when he's six foot tall and followed by a slew of pink drag queens, then a musical number, it can only be Pink Flamingos, aka Aqua-Mania.
While many sports wound up to their exciting final matches, including touch Rugby, Tennis, Badminton and Bowling, the highlight of the evening was all wet. After fans spent days in the pleasantly hot sun or catching the efficient trains and buses all over town, being all wet is a good thing.
The annual International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics meet, having merged this year with the Games, regularly concludes its serious swimming competition with a grandly funny series of vignettes and tributes incorporating divers, floating inflatable dolls, palm trees, and anything else the creative swimmers could come up with. Some did it within days or minutes of the show, all incorporating this year's South Pacific theme.
Among the grandest, the Parisian flag-unfurling over the diving platform above a dance line of loinclothed dancers. The best storyline goes to Team New York, for its Sopranos-inspired "South Passaic," where everybody ends up named Swims With Fishes.
The winning number, presented by Team Tsunami, fully encompassed one large pool. It wasn't the massive numbers of wet San Franciscans that convinced the judges, but the skillfully campy use of diving, swirling patterns, quick changes and simple design.
Okay, it was the massive numbers. Tsunami sent the largest swim contingent, and will host the next big gay swim event, IGLA 2003, August 22-24 at Stanford University's new pool, where over 1,000 lesbian and gay swimmers will set personal best, break records, and leave feathers stuck in pool drains.
Undisputedly the best party of all was not the most crowded, or even the most expensive. Oceania, held just after Aquamania, proved to be a giddy, cleansing joyride for hundreds.
Despite some confusion over automatic timed coin lockers, revellers were able to change into swimsuits and splash about in the huge kiddy pool with a water slide and mini-river raft loop. Tumbling down a chute of water with the gold medal water polo team? Priceless.
"This is so great!" giggled a multi-medaling track star. "I get to smooch with a guy in a hot tub at the Olympic Pool! Fuck those circuit parties!"
Those who forgot their Speedos danced to a small live band of percussionists, vocalists who kept partiers dancing on a lawn framed by colourfully lit palm trees.
"This is just like our parties back home!" shouted Nan, a young Samoan woman. Having travelled to watch a friend run track, she had not competed, but proudly showed not a gold medal, but a golden sea shell necklace.
Even the express train back to Sydney Central was eventful. Tennis players from San Diego traded pins with cyclists from Berlin. Others shared opinions about their temporary favourite restaurant or nightclub.
The handy maps and guides would soon become treasured souvenirs. All disputes over wins and scores were settled with the knowledge that complete scores would soon be posted on the Sydney2002 official web site.
For many, with matches and games continuing all week, the pleasure of having completed competition was enough, but combined with the campy, splashy evening, the first opportunity to sleep or stay up late, beckoned.