We first heard from Proud To Play organizer Craig Watson about a month ago. He was then, and remains, energetic and excited about his groundbreaking new LGBT sports event, set to hit Auckland this February. If you're in the area, or have an interest in going, definitely think about participating. We have the feeling this is just the beginning.

Anyhow, here's all the info from the Proud To Play organizers…

The very first Proud to Play sports festival will take place in Auckland, New Zealand, over 13-20 February 2016. This new event includes 15 sports and sits alongside Auckland’s Pride Festival.

The week-long event is aimed at the LGBTIF community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, takataapui, intersex, fa’afafine, and queer people), and their friends and whanau (family).

It is expected about 500 people from across the Asia-Pacific region will register and the organizers expect the Auckland community will be a great host.

"We've been working closely with local, regional, and international LGBTIF teams and sports organizations," Craig Watson, Proud to Play director, said. "Their advice is that we should expect around 500 people participating, which is fantastic and we know the community will show those from out of town a great time here."

The 15 sports offered are: badminton, bridge, dancesport, dragon boating, golf, lawn bowls, netball, an ocean swim, road running, roller derby, swimming, tenpin bowling, tennis, touch, and volleyball.

All levels of participation are offered, from social and entry-level grades to competitive, and you don’t need to be a member of a team right now to participate as the organizers will find you a team once you register.

The sports competitions will be hosted in quality venues across Auckland: the Trust Arena, the West Wave Pool and Leisure Centre, Pins Lincoln, and Te Pai Tennis Club. The ocean swim is part of the well-known Bean Rock Swim.

A philosophy of inclusivity, to break down barriers

The philosophy of the new Proud to Play tournament is based on the idea of playing sport in an inclusive environment – being proud to play, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Proud to Play has welcomed three well-known athletes as Ambassadors for the festival: Louisa Wall – now part of New Zealand’s government and the MP responsible for the legislation ensuring marriage equality – she represented the country in both netball and rugby; Robbie Mason, an Olympic rower for Team New Zealand; and Blake Skjellerup, a short track speed skater who represented New Zealand at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

“It’s great to have an LGBTIF sporting event like Proud to Play in Auckland,” said Mason. “I hope everyone of all athletic abilities will sign up for at least one sport and take part”.

“Proud to Play is a community sporting event for everyone,” Skjellerup added. “Sexuality, ability, gender, everyone is invited to take part and that is what makes Proud to Play an extremely important and exciting event”

Registration is open now, and everyone is encouraged to BE PROUD TO PLAY.

You can register for the very first Proud to Play tournament here.

Keep up to date with all the Proud to Play news here on Facebook.

Aotearoa New Zealand a proudly diverse country

Aotearoa New Zealand is a country with a diverse and multi-cultural population. The Auckland region in particular is known to have a superdiverse population, with more than 25% of people living there having been born overseas.

New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote, and one of the first countries to legalise same-sex marriage. New Zealand’s rainbow community – lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, takataapui, intersex and fa’afafine people – is protected from legal, social and economic discrimination.

For such a small country, New Zealand has some world-renowned sporting successes. While the All Blacks are the current Rugby World Cup Champions, the Silver Ferns national netball team have held second place in the World Championships since 2007. Individual athletes of note include Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt Everest; Danyon Loader, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer; Valerie Adams, world shotput record-holder; Lydia Ko, number one women's amateur golfer; and surfer Ella Williams recently won bronze at the World Games in Nicaragua.