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AUSTRALIA - Feb 27, 2003

Australia's most popular tourism event, the Sydney Gay + Lesbian Mardi Gras, is celebrating 25 years of proud tradition even as its organizers attempted to remove the words "Gay" and "Lesbian" from its name.

Starting this year, the festival committee tried to promote the event simply as the "Sydney Mardi Gras" in the hope of broadening its appeal to non-homosexual participants and attracting financial support from sponsors who previously shunned the event.

Despite its original name, the event which began in 1978 never-the-less succeeded in becoming the largest revenue generating event in the entire country, attracting millions of dollars into the local economy annually and surpassing in one week the number of visitors that the Sydney Opera House receives in a whole year.

Overwhelmed by objections from Sydney's _ _ _ and _ _ _ _ _ _ _ community, organizers were forced to postpone their re-christening, however the ultimate fate of the name remains in limbo as the festival is slated to take on a more democratic structure in the future. Next year's committee may also wish to consider removing the phrase "Mardi Gras" from its name so as to broaden the appeal of the event beyond French-speakers.


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