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Olympians and Paralympians bring inclusive message to historic Mardi Gras

4 March 2016

ONE TEAM: The 2016 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Saturday will be the first time a float full of Olympians, Paralympians and their supporters has been entered in the annual event to celebrate diversity and raise awareness of discrimination. 

The float, orchestrated by Olympic gold medallist Daniel Kowalski, will walk the famous parade route up Oxford Street to show support to LGBTIQ communities and reinforce the message that Australia's athletes want a sporting community free of homophobia. 

The float will feature over 80 gay and straight athletes; plus their partners and friends. The float titled #OneTeam, is unequivocally supported by the Australian Olympic Committee and Australian Paralympic Committee. 

The Rio theming and soundtrack is set to get a great response from the thousands of people lining the streets. 

Dual Olympian Kowalski has been overwhelmed with the number and broad range of people keen to be involved.

“The uptake from athletes, gay and straight, along with their family, friends and supporters has been amazing,” Kowalski said.

“This week, for the very first time we march in support for inclusiveness, acceptance without discrimination and diversity. We do this for the young boy and girls, men and women of Australia as a show of support that their goals and dreams of representing this amazing country should not be compromised due to sexuality.

“Our involvement is bigger than any one individual; it's about a collective show of support. In total we have over 80 marchers, 13 sports represented, including Summer and Winter. There are more than 20 Olympic & Paralympic medals between all marchers, but as we all know, sports are most importantly about the process not the outcome.”

Seven Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists will participate and every summer Olympic Team since 1976 is represented, as well as winter Paralympic Teams. 

Beijing 2008 diving gold medallist Matthew Mitcham has the most Mardi Gras experience after leading the 2009 parade. Former rugby player and now Olympic bobsleigh hopeful Simon Dunn will be representing aspiring Olympians. And while the Australian women’s football team are in Japan trying to qualify for Rio 2016 the recently retired Athens Olympian Sally Shipard will be on the float in Sydney.     

Kowalski has been driving the float with help from the participants and friends. He is thankful for the endorsement and support of the AOC and APC. 

“I am so thankful and appreciative of the Australian Olympic Committee and Australian Paralympic Committee for the overwhelming support of this float. It’s an honour to be a part of this movement and I’m looking forward to marching in the parade for a cause so close to my heart. 

“Whilst sport has come a long way in recent years accepting and understanding the LGBTIQ community there is still a long way to go. We want young people of Australia and the wider community to know Olympians and Paralympians, straight and gay, support inclusiveness, diversity and believe there is no place for Homophobia in sport,” Kowalski added. 

Supporters of this message are encouraged to share content from the parade on the @AUSOlympicTeam social media channels, #OneTeam.


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