One of the most popular events that takes place at every Gay Games, the only event outside of the opening ceremonies that they will actually charge for tickets is the famous (or infamous) Pink Flamingo event.

What is the Pink Flamingo you ask? Well, it’s a bird that eats a lot of shrimp and algae. Oh, you mean that OTHER Pink Flamingo? That’s a John Water’s movie that inspired a whole generation of gay men to symbolize the algae and shrimp birds as a subtle declaration of their sexual orientation. Oh, you mean the IGLA/ Gay Games Pink Flamingo! Simply put… It’s an event that combines synchronized swimming with a drag show. It’s full of camp, energy, fun, dancing and by the end the lifeguard is usually fishing out a wig or shoe with the pool net. The rules are, no glitter, no feathers, no nudity.

Well, the last rule was more of a “guideline” as it were, as there was definitely some “Moulin Rouge” inspired performances with quite a lot of risqué acts. Including a titillating performance with some nipple tassels like a grand French Cabaret. The theme was “French Kiss” so you can imagine there was a lot of making out going on. From drag queens, boys in speedos, lesbians and even Putin and Trump (just in case you thought it didn’t get political). Sadly, no Trudeau and Macron kissing.

The Pink Flamingo is actually a competition, where the teams put on their performances and are judged by a jury of completely inexperienced people who will try to determine various rankings: better show, better costumes, better music, etc. In brief, it is a fun competition.” Judges included the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who were tasked on selecting the winner. There were 7 teams competing, Sydney Stingers, Berlin Aquaholics, DCAC, Brussels Mannekenfish, Tel Aviv Nemo, London Out to Swim, and TNYA. All teams put on an awesome show, and it took the judges quite a bit of time to decide on the winners. 4th Place: Sydney Stingers, 3rd Place: Brussels Mannekenfish, 2nd Place: Tel Aviv Nemo and 1st Place: London Out to Swim.

To finish of the show, Paris Aquatique (who, as the hosts, were not eligible to compete) put on one of their famous Pink Flamingo shows. Paris Aquatique has taken part in Pink Flamingo at almost every IGLA with amazing performances and this one was definitely their best. At the beginning of the week (way back on August 5th) and every day of swim competition, there were banners hanging down on the side of the pool in the colors of the rainbow. Nobody gave a passing to it because we just figured it was a nice decoration to get into the spirit of the Gay Games. With an arousing performance including a simulated, synchronized swimming chess game and the entirety of the team from Paris Aquatique taking to the deck. Including many fabulous drag queens with awesome costumes as well as an entire synchronized swimming routine done in heels. We eventually learned that those banners which graced the pool were just props for the team to create a giant rainbow flag across the length of the pool. It was the most fabulous epitome of camp and what the Pink Flamingo truly is.

The Pink Flamingo traces its history back to the very first Gay Games in 1982 in San Francisco when, at an after-competition party, swimmer named Charlie Carson from New York dressed up as Esther Williams and with 2 swimmers from LA and a “chariot” fashioned out of some of their swimming medals. The performance began at the party and made its way to the pool and ended with a rendition of “Sea Animals of the World.” At subsequent IGLA and Gay Games, the Pink Flamingo was more of a relay race using a plastic pink flamingo lawn ornament as a baton with the swimmers dressed in big dresses. The event did not take on its current form until the 1990 Gay Games in Vancouver.

Since then, the Pink Flamingo has become the “must see” event of every Gay Games and IGLA, with performances every year being outrageous, tacky and fun! The themes are set by the hosts and the performances are often a parody of the hosts’ culture, politics, history and well, anything. This year’s shows were no exception, with everything from Moulin Rouge and the World Cup to Marie Antoinette losing her head (again).

Our drag queen host was sure to plug her new cologne “Eau Du Chlorine” which, as she put it, “from the waters of the swimming pool so you can smell like the water that everybody here has been in” and as the other queens fished out their heels floating in the pool we all cheered for the winners and the fantastic performances. It is always a rewarding way to end the week of competition.

By Dirk Smith