Participants at Saturday’s opening ceremony. © AL

The eighth quadrennial Gay Games kicked off on Saturday in Cologne, Germany, with an opening ceremony attended by Germany’s openly-gay Foreign Minister, Guido Westerwelle.

Almost 10,000 participants from seventy nations are taking part in the week-long Games, which features both sports and cultural events.

The opening ceremony, described by’s Jim Buzinski as “lacklustre”, at the RhineEnergie Stadium included a group of South African participants blowing Vuvuzuelas and a lone Angolan athlete.

“We will never forget the generation that fought for our freedom”, said Westerwelle at the event.

“Our thoughts are with all lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people in the world, who are still treated like criminals” he added.

The ‘oath of the athletes’ was recited by openly-gay Australian Olympic gold medal diver Matthew Mitcham.

Singers Agnes and Taylor Dayne – who sang the official hymn of the 2010 Gay Games, Facing a Miracle – entertained the 25,000-strong audience and a fireworks display concluded the ceremony.

It’s been reported that a number of athletes taking part in the event are doing so under false identities out of fear of being persecuted in their home countries.

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