We would love to expand this write-up with perspectives from various people who experienced GLLAM 2014. Please send your perspectives (including photos) to committee members who will continue to edit this piece and gather them together into a cohesive whole...
You can find a link to the GLLAM final results at the bottom of the article.
Saturday 29 March 2014 will go down in history as a very significant day: the day that gay marriage became legal in England & Wales, and a day deserving of much celebration within both gay and straight communities.
In the midst of such an historic moment, Out To Swim, the 22-year old swimming and water polo club for gays, lesbians and their friends was celebrating in its own way – enjoying a most fabulous swimming meet at the Aquatic centre in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford. GLLAM (the Gay & Lesbian London Aquatic Meet), has now established itself on the Masters’ swimming calendar in the UK, and is simply the swim meet to be seen at. Visitors from clubs all over the UK and Europe, gay and straight, came together to compete, meet up with old friends, and have a great day out.
What an amazing venue! From the moment we arrived, each of us knew this was going to be special and a little bit different. The freshly opened aquatic centre is stunning. Gone is the rather clumsy extra seating extending out on each side (which nevertheless served us well when we went to watch our swimming heroes in 2012). Instead, the visitor is greeted by vast floor to ceiling windows, curving up to touch the undulating wave of the roof on top. For those of us arriving early, the magic was only compounded by the initial emptiness of the centre, the sun streaming in from all sides onto the sparkling jewel in the British aquatic crown: the mighty Olympic pool, and its famous sister, the 5 metre deep diving pool. Although configured for GLLAM in a two by 25 metre arrangement (as opposed to the long-course 50 metre length), jumping into that Olympic pool was an experience few of us will forget. Swimming backstroke at four in the afternoon during warm-up, spectators and curious members of the public appeared as shadowy silhouettes, and even the newest swimmer must have felt rather special.
Sporting bright pink and blue GLLAM T-shirts, our GLLAM volunteers did a great job of shepherding us all to our races, especially as we never did quite work out whether lane 10 was lane 0, or whether we needed to subtract one from the lane number on the heat sheet; or did we have to double the lane number and take away the number we first thought of? In any case, most of us made our races (including the 25 metre duckling races) and we enjoyed seeing our names pop up on the huge electronic results screen for all the world to see. Our now legendary GLLAM announcer, Jean (Stephen L’s tireless mother), gave us minute-by-minute updates on what was happening, including “vox populi” interviews with swimmers and visitors from around the centre; another touch that sets GLLAM apart.
The competition ended with the squadron race. This is always a scramble and Otter swimming club deserves a special mention as it seems they were the only team to realise (correctly) that 600 metres divided by 50 metres equals 12 – while every Out To Swim team ran only 10 swimmers – no wonder we finished so quickly... but we all had fun.
For the GLLAM social, a group of happy but tired swimmers and their friends gathered for drinks at “The Cow”, a pub adjacent to the Olympic Park entrance. Bemused local Strafordians looked on as we turned their Saturday night watering hole into an impromptu gay & lesbian bar – but most of them had to admit that the evening (and the music) was the better for it!
Every one of our volunteers, referees, starters, planners and organisers deserves a huge thank you from every member of the club – but we must call out Alex D for all the hard work she put in as GLLAM project manager. I know there were some scary moments in the run-up to that initial starting gun, but from a competitor’s perspective, everything ran like clockwork.
Thank you Out To Swim!!
And here are the results...