Mr Gay World 2019 has officially kicked off in the Mother City, with delegates from 23 countries competing for the coveted title this week, leading up to the Grand Finale, which will be held at the Cape Town City Hall on Saturday, 4 May.

The delegates arrived in Cape Town – which replaced Hong Kong as the hosting City after a clampdown on LGBT events by Chinese authorities led to concerns about the safety of the delegates – on Sunday, 28 April. Village Drinks took care of the official welcome event, and the day also featured the traditional gift exchange. Monday, 29 April saw the delegates take part in their first challenge – a cook-off hosted by celebrity chef, Jenny Morris.

Tuesday turned out to be a memorable day for more than one reason. The delegates participated in their second challenge of the week in the form of a triathlon in Khayelitsha (Mr Gay Germany, Marcel Danner, swam, biked, ran and reigned victorious) and took some time to give back during the Khayelitsha Art Tour by getting their hands dirty in the Community Garden Project.

South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, also caused a stir on social media by extending a welcome to the delegates in two heartwarming tweets.

President Ramaphosa has been hailed as an ally to the LGBTQI+ community since taking office, and has a long-running history in support of this community, previously serving as Chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council, an organisation that has pro-LGBT policies.

Speaking at the 9th annual Feather Awards in 2017, Ramaphosa said, “It is a sad truth that in our nation the LGBTI community are amongst the most vulnerable and marginalised. They suffer discrimination, violence and abuse. We must as a nation do better than what we are now.

“We are all born the way we are. We need to support, embrace and respect each other. When we treat each other with dignity, we are all more dignified. When we treat each other with respect, we are all more respected. It is upon us all to contribute to the creation of a more just, equal and safe society.

“Every South African must hold themselves, our communities, our institutions and our government accountable for upholding our laws and for protecting the rights of all in South Africa.”

Ramaphosa’s tweets were welcomed by many in the local Twittersphere, with some cheekily drawing comparisons between the 23 hunky delegates and the finalists in the Mr South Africa competition, the announcement of which ignited Twitter last week.

The Western Cape ANC branch also added their own welcome.

There are still tickets available for the Mr Gay World Finale on Saturday, and voting for your favourite delegate is now officially open. To vote (you can vote up to 10 times by signing up with your Facebook account) simply click here.