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Iceland takes the plunge for a gay aquatics invasion

Reykjavík will be awash with boys and girls in swimwear as the 2012 International Lesbian and Gay Aquatics championship hits town
Iceland's famous Blue Lagoon will be the setting for the opening party of IGLA 2012.

Reykjavík in Iceland is gearing up for the 2012 International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) championship from 29 May to 2 June.

And despite being the world's most nothermost national capital, this gay-friendly city, complete with a lesbian prime minister, is guaranteeing a warm welcome.

Hundreds of competitors will travel from across the world to compete in swimming, water polo, diving, and synchronized swimming.

Formed by the LGBT aquatics clubs around the world, the concept of IGLA began to take shape in line with the development of the Gay Games in 1982.

Today IGLA is the world’s foremost international organization solely devoted to developing and promoting gay and lesbian swimming, water polo, diving, and synchronized swimming - promoting participation in aquatic sports among lesbians and gay men and maintaining high competitive standards for all major gay and lesbian aquatic events.

Shane Ewen, from Team New York Aquatics, is expecting this year’s IGLA event to make quite a splash in the small city of Reykjavik: ‘The fact that it is taking place in such a small country means it will be an event with a big impact.

'I've been talking with the organizers and the amount of support they have from the local community, including interest from the local media, is amazing.’

The Toronto Triggerfish water polo club will have one of the biggest presences in Reykjavik, with a delegation of three water polo teams.

For Triggerfish vice-president, James Mullen, this will be his third IGLA tournament: ‘Our best standing for water polo so far was a bronze in Denmark in 2009 - this year we’re hoping to place higher than that.’

However IGLA is not just for elite competitors - as New York’s Ewen explains: ‘IGLA has always been about participation - there is a full range of ability represented. In the past we have seen swimmers breaking Masters Swimming records. Just because we have a lot of fun, doesn't mean we don't take our sport seriously.’

Of course IGLA competitions are not just about what happens in the pool, James Mullen from the Toronto Triggerfish is hoping for some memorable social occasions: ‘This will be my first trip to Iceland. Given that the nation is geographically isolated, I’m very interested in experiencing a culture that is not quite Nordic and not quite European.

'I am also very excited to experience 21 hours of daylight and attend the opening ceremonies at the Blue Lagoon - a geothermal spa. Though I am worried about the cool temperatures, I think that the small setting will create the perfect environment for our team to bond and party together!’

Those are just some of the unique experiences which make Iceland, the island of fire and ice, an unforgettable travel destination at any time.

Later in the year watch out for Reykjavík Gay Pride from 7 to 12 August with all the usual parties, cultural and family events and a parade. Bears on Ice is a four-day festival of all things rugged and hairy starting on 6 September.

And if you need a place to stay, 101 Hotel in Reykjavík is a boutique hotel in the heart of the city center, keen to welcome LGBT visitors.

Read more about Iceland's other travel highlights here.

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