The International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships have as much to do with aquatics as the Sports Illustratedswimsuit issue has to do with swimsuits. As much as the Miss America pageant has to do with America. As much as the war in Iraq has to do with weapons of mass destruction. Honestly, the fact that some waxed merman can complete the 800-meter butterfly in three nanoseconds is all well and good -- but the real question is, how does he fill out that bikini?
Still, event organizer Jonathan Olsen (no relation to Mary-Kate and Ashley) puts on one helluva diplomat act. "We have 1,000 athletes from 12 countries, and everyone has their own agenda. Some people are serious and will go to bed early every night," he insists. But, yes, "some people are here to be social." Since 100 women will compete, Olsen is adamantly gender-neutral when talking about the athletes. And he emphasizes that straight people are welcome too. "These games are no different than a regular swim meet. Except... they may be a little more colorful."
Olsen and his teammates on the South Florida Nadadores began lobbying, Olympic-style, to host the IGLA championships right after the Gay Games in Sydney in 2002. (They even bribed Vice Mayor Dean J. Trantalis by giving him a judgeship.) Sure, swimming, diving, and water polo will be featured events. There's also synchronized swimming and, for the first time, a one-mile ocean race. But the main event is the Pink Flamingo -- which began as a four-person relay but somehow evolved into a campy skit competition/synchronized swim/fashion show. To give you an idea what you're in for, read the contest rules: "When arranging your Pink Flamingo, please refrain from using nudity, glitter, sequins, feathers, small plastic items, dyes, body paints, tissue paper, silly string, glass, confetti, sticky items, metal chains, or potentially damaging/hazardous props."
Sorry, registration is closed -- but partying is open. There will be plenty of action around the pool, at the beach, and at our version of the Athletes' Village -- the Yankee Clipper Hotel (1140 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). More fun can be had on Friday night at the Parker Playhouse, with a wickedly funny performance by Kinsey Sicks, a San Francisco-based barbershop quartet in drag whose show is called "I Want to Be a Republican" (see www.dragapella.com). Then, there's an afterparty at Cathode Ray (307 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). On Friday night, athletes will converge at Georgie's Alibi (2266 Wilton Dr., Fort Lauderdale), and on Sunday evening, anybody who can still stand upright will head over to Beach Bums (219 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale).
"So, basically," we ask Olsen, "there will be a lot of hot guys with foreign accents and swimmers' builds?"
"In Speedos." -- Deirdra Funcheon