40th Anniversary History Series

 

Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

Links to Individual Posts:

Post 1 of 40 - 28 July - Introduction

Post 2 of 40 - 29 July - The Back Story: Gays and Sports post-Stonewall; Tom’s Big Idea

Post 3 of 40 - 30 July - Creating San Francisco Arts & Athletics: Laying the Foundations

Post 4 of 40 - 31 July - Efforts Outside of San Francisco

Post 5 of 40 - 1 August - The Pioneers

Post 6 of 40 - 2 August - Gay Games II

Post 7 of 40 - 3 AugustBuilding Blocks, Origin Stories, and Growing Pains

Post 8 of 40 - 4 August - Gay Games III

Post 9 of 40 - 5 August - Mending Fences, Global Expansion, and the HIV Waiver

Post 10 of 40 - 6 August - Gay Games IV

Post 11 of 40 - 7 AugustThe Big Event, Games Change The World, Scholarships

Post 12 of 40 - 8 AugustGay Games V

Post 13 of 40 - 9 August - Johannesburg Annual Meeting and USOC Injunction

Post 14 of 40 - 10 August - Gay Games VI

Post 15 of 40 - 11 August - Chicago 2003 Annual Meeting: The Schism

Post 16 of 40 - 12 August - Gay Games VII

Post 17 of 40 - 13 August - Rebuilding the Brand

Post 18 of 40 - 14 August - Gay Games VIII

Post 19 of 40 - 15 August - CLE Reorganization, 1QE / 1WE

Post 20 of 40 - 16 August - FGG and IOC: Finding Common Ground

Post 21 of 40 - 17 August - Gay Games 9: CLE + AKR 2014

Post 22 of 40 - 18 August - Headliners, Politicians, and the GG9 Obama Welcome Video

Post 23 of 40 - 19 August - The End of 1WE - Focus Forward

Post 24 of 40 - 20 August - Gay Games 10

Post 25 of 40 - 21 August - Gay Games 11: Co-Hosts

Post 26 of 40 - 22 August - A Tribute to Rick Peterson

Post 27 of 40 - 23 August - Visions of the Future & Gay Games XII: Valencia 2026

Post 28 of 40 - 24 August - Post Scripts

Post 29 of 40 - 25 August - 1982: Building Momentum and the National Torch Relay

Post 30 of 40 - 26 August - 1982: August - Response to the Olympic Injunction

Post 31 of 40 - 27 August - 1982: August - Final Preparations - California, Here We Come

Post 32 of 40 - 28 August -1982: August Gay Games I Opening Ceremony

Post 33 of 40 - 29 August - Gay Games I: Bowling, Medals, and Swimming

Post 34 of 40 - 30 August - Gay Games I: Spreading the Word and Tom Wins Gold

Post 35 of 40 - 31 August - Gay Games I: Swimming, Wrestling, and a Special Telegram

Post 36 of 40 - 1 September - Gay Games I: Swimming and Shades of Pink Flamingo 

Post 37 of 40 - 2 September - Gay Games I Memories: Soccer and City Tales

Post 38 of 40 - 3 September - Gay Games I: Swimming, Physique, and the Choral Event

Post 39 of 40 - 4 September - Gay Games I: Volleyball and Cycling

Post 40 of 40 - 5 September - Gay Games I: Closing Ceremony & Series Epilogue


 

    

Post 1 of 40 - 28 July - Introduction

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception.

12 of the 36 individuals contributing editorial content participated in the inaugural Gay Games in 1982, with several participating in all ten Gay Games; eight have served as FGG Board Co-Presidents; a world record holder, plus sports administrators from around the world sharing their stories and the impact the Gay Games have made on their lives and communities.

The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *

Introduction

The inspiration for this project began over two years ago when planning for Gay Games 11: Hong Kong 2023 Cultural Festival got under way. Federation of Gay Games Officer of Culture Anthony Alston, in his work with Hong Kong 2023’s Director of Culture Shawn Griffin, put out a call to those who wished to help with the presentation of a photo exhibit using 40 iconic images from the first forty years of the Gay Games.

Doug Litwin, the FGG Officer of Marketing at the time had long been the keeper of the FGG’s digital archives, and was immediately tapped to be involved. Honorary Life Member Shamey Cramer, co-founder of Team Los Angeles and former Officer of Ceremonies (2011-2016) and Officer of Development (2015-2017), whose professional career involved curating and publicizing photo exhibits quickly volunteered.

Litwin and Cramer invested nearly 200 hours reviewing and curating the tens of thousands of images in the FGG digital archives. They met with the four volunteers from the Hong Kong Culture team to visualize and plan how the forty images and Gay Games history could be displayed in a gallery-type setting.

Once that was established, Litwin and Cramer realized the potential for creating a more definitive collective history of the Gay Games. In October 2020, they began their outreach efforts to engage more than three dozen former and current executives whose lives were impacted by their participation as athletes, artists, and advocates, as well as handling the business affairs of the quadrennial event.

Thanks to graphic designer Fred Martens of martensart.com for the design of the "Passing The Torch" logo.

We are grateful to the following individuals, whose memories and images will be shared over the next forty days:

  • Anthony Alston, Seattle USA, Officer of Culture
  • Noemi Arzate, Ciudad Mexico, MEX, Azkatl Mexico Diversidad AC 
  • James Ballard, Los Angeles USA, Gay Games IV World Record holder
  • Mauro Bordovsky, West Hollywood USA, Gay Games pioneer, Co-founder, West Hollywood Aquatics, Gay Games I - X participant
  • Stuart Borrie, Kuala Lumpur MAL, Exec. Director, Gay Games VI, Sydney 2002, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
  • Mark Brown, San Francisco USA, Gay Games pioneer, Co-founder, San Francisco Arts & Athletics
  • Hlengiwe Buthelezi, Durban RSA, Founder, The AfroGames, FGG Board member
  • Charlie Carson, New York USA, Gay Games I pioneer, former FGG Board member, Gay Games I - X participant
  • Shamey Cramer, Los Angeles USA Gay Games pioneer, Co-founder, Team Los Angeles, former FGG Board member
  • Kurt Dahl, Chicago USA, former Co-President
  • Gene Dermody, San Francisco USA, former Co-President, Tom Waddell Award recipient, Gay Games I - X participant
  • Joanie Evans, London UK, FGG Co-President
  • Jochen Färber, Gay Games VIII marketing volunteer
  • Sean Fitzgerald, Vancouver Canada, current FGG Co-President
  • Jack Gonzalez, West Hollywood USA, Co-founder of Los Angeles Volleyball Association
  • Kimberly Hadley, Edmonton Canada, current FGG Co-Officer of Sports
  • Jim Hahn, San Francisco USA, Gay Games pioneer, Gay Games I - X participant
  • Richard Hogan, Sydney AU, former FGG Board member, Order of Australia Award Recipient
  • Susan Kennedy, Antioch USA, former FGG Co-President, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
  • Derek Liecty, Walnut Creek USA, Gay Games I Official, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
  • Doug Litwin, Sausalito USA, FGG Archivist, former FGG Board member
  • Fred Martens, Cincinnati USA, graphic designer (martensart.com) who developed the logo for this "Passing The Torch" series
  • Susan McGrievy, Los Angeles USA, co-founder, Team Los Angeles, GGI Torchbearer
  • Laura Moore, NYC USA, Co-founder, International Gay Figure Skating Union
  • Oliver Murphy, Cork IRL, Gay Games I and II Decathlon champion
  • Brent Nicholson Earle, NYC USA, founder, Rainbow Run, the Memorial Moment, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
  • Doug Orloff, Bend USA, Gay Games pioneer, West Hollywood Aquatics Co-founder, 1983 Festival Games Swim Meet Director
  • Shiv Paul, London UK, former FGG Board member
  • Rick Peterson, Seattle USA, Gay Games pioneer, former FGG Co-President
  • Jeffry Pike, Boston USA, former FGG Board member, executor, Roy Coe Scholarship Fund
  • Emy Ritt, Paris FR, former FGG Co-President
  • Kate Rowe, Sydney AU, former FGG Board member
  • Tony Smith, Denver USA, former FGG Board member
  • Reggie Snowden, San Francisco USA, FGG Officer of Sport
  • Jean-Nickolaus Tretter, Minneapolis USA, Gay Games pioneer, Co-founder, Team Minnesota
  • Thomas F. Waddell, MD, San Francisco USA, Gay Games founder
  • Jessica Waddell Lewinstein Kopp, North Carolina USA
  • Sara Waddell Lewinstein, Oakland USA, San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
  • Ken Ward, Gay Games I musician with the SF Gay Freedom Day Marching Ban
  • Chris Van Scoyk, Los Angeles USA, Gay Games pioneer, West Hollywood Aquatics Co-founder
  • Kathleen Webster, Philadelphia USA, former Co-President
  • Ivan Yap, Kuala Lumpur MAL, FGG Officer of Membership, Director The Straits Games
  • Mary Zaller, Cleveland USA, Gay Games 9 Director of Development

* * *

Thomas F. Waddell, MD was born Thomas Flubacher in Paterson New Jersey on November 1, 1937. When his parents separated during his teen years, he went to live with his neighbors, Gene and Hazel Waddell, who would later adopt him.

  
(L) Tom Waddell (second from left) and (R) throwing the javelin at Springfield College, Massachusetts

Tom attended Springfield College in Massachusetts on a track scholarship, graduating with a degree in pre-medicine. His philosophical views were greatly influenced by his first lover-mentor, the avowed socialist, F. Engels Menaker, a man 30 years his senior. Tom and Enge, as he was known, met working at a children’s camp in western Massachusetts.

Waddell attended New Jersey College of Medicine and did his internship at Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn in 1965. He also travelled to Selma Alabama to participate in the Civil Rights Movement following the events of “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 as a preventive-medicine officer and paratrooper. When he protested his orders to be sent to Viet Nam, rather than be court-martialed, he was sent to train in the Decathlon for the 1968 Olympics to be held in Mexico City.

 
Tom Waddell at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics

1968 was a tumultuous year. There were student and other protests against the Viet Nam War and the draft; the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, which led to massive riots and destruction in most major American cities; and additional riots and arrests during the National Democratic Convention in Chicago that August.

In Mexico City, on October 2, just ten days before the start of the Olympic Games, Mexican troops opened fire on a student demonstration against the crime and poverty in their country at a time when massive funding was being channeled to produce the Olympic Games. 30 students died, with another 100 injured, and several hundred arrested.

Adding to the tension, many of the Black American Olympians threatened to boycott the Games to protest racism in the United States. Tom was supportive, and did what he could to assist them in their efforts to bring attention to their cause.

Tom would later state that when he walked into the Estadio Olímpico Universitario on October 12 for the Olympic Opening Ceremony , he was so overcome with emotion, that he wished everyone - not just elite athletes - could experience the rush of being cheered by thousands of people.


Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medals stand following the 200-meter race

On Wednesday, October 16, 1968, Waddell’s U.S. Olympic teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos captured first and third in the 200-meter sprint. When it came time for the medals ceremony, both Smith and Carlos were shoeless, with long black socks, representing the poverty and oppression of the black community. As the national anthem played, each man raised a black-gloved fist as a sign of Black Power. In addition, Smith, Carlos and Australian silver medallist Peter Norman (who would also be ostracized upon his return to Australia) all wore badges representing the Olympic Project for Human Rights, to bring awareness to racism in sports.

The United States Olympic Committee immediately issued an apology to the International Olympic Committee, and Smith and Carlos were promptly sent home.

It was at this point that Tom Waddell spoke out in the press in support of Smith and Carlos, with his comments being printed in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other key international media. As the media storm continued, Tom competed in the first day of the two-day Decathlon event on Friday, October 18, setting three personal best records (long jump, high jump, shot put).

As he was preparing for the 110-meter hurdles, the first event the following morning, he was informed that Colonel F. Don Miller, the military liaison to the US Olympic Team, wanted Waddell to be court-martialed for his comments.


Colonel F. Donald Miller

Colonel Francis Donald Miller was born in Racine Wisconsin in 1920, a national collegiate boxing champion, and served 26 years in the U.S. Army, receiving the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, among other honors, for his service.

Although nothing ever came of that threat, it did establish animosity between Waddell and Miller, who would become the Executive Director of the US Olympic Committee from 1973-1985.

Given that Tom was an active member of the U.S. military, he was unable to compete openly as a gay man at the 1968 Olympics. He was on course to participate in the 1972 U.S. Olympic trials when he blew out his knee doing the high jump at an event in Honolulu. Although his career as an elite athlete had come to an end, his work in the community was about to begin.


Tom Waddell & Charles Deaton, as featured in PEOPLE Magazine, 1976

Tom met and began a relationship with Charles Deaton in 1974. Two years later, they became the first gay couple featured in People magazine. The relationship lasted through 1981, when Tom took a job overseas in Dubai. But by 1980, despite his being out of the country on business much of the time, Waddell had already begun the process to launch the inaugural Gay Olympic Games.

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* * *


Post 2 of 40 - 29 July

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 05 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *

The Back Story: Gays and Sports post-Stonewall; Tom’s Big Idea

The initial concept to have a sports and cultural festival open to all was born when Dr. Thomas F. Waddell walked into the Stadium on 12 October for the Opening Ceremony of the Mexico City 1968 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. Decathlon team. As he would often state, he felt as if his heart was going to burst; and that it was something everyone should experience. In the end, it wasn’t about where he finished, but the fact he had participated and did his best.

The following year, five women, including “The Frontrunner” author-athlete-activist Patricia Nell Warren, registered and 'crashed’ the Boston Marathon. It wasn't until 1972 that women were finally allowed to compete openly.

     
Authors Patricia Nell Warren (L) and David Kopay (R)


David Kopay and Patricia Nell Warren, panelists during Gay Games 30th Anniversary event, 2012 in West Hollywood, CA

Patricia published “The Frontrunner” in 1974, which was followed in 1977 by the autobiography of retired NFL player Dave Kopay, who became the first professional athlete in the United States to come out.

In 1978, California had a statewide ballot known as the Briggs Initiative. It would have banned LGBTQ+ individuals from becoming teachers and educators. In mid-October, as the race was heating up, it was discovered that even if a fellow teacher was heterosexual, and knew of a fellow educator being lesbian or gay and didn’t report it, could also be terminated. Once that became known, Governor Jerry Brown and President Carter both came out against the initiative. Even former Governor Ronald Reagan was against it. Fortunately, it failed, but the campaign had left many people angry on the right. Three weeks later, Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated.

In 1979, the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution failed to pass, just four states shy of the necessary thirty-eight to ratify. The deadline was extended to 1982, but no new states signed on.

Tom Waddell was named the Outstanding Male Athlete at the annual San Francisco Cable Car Awards in 1981. In his acceptance speech, he stood up and stated: “Wouldn't it be great if San Francisco hosted a Gay Olympics and invited the rest of the world?” He naturally received a rousing cheer, which also meant he needed to put his money where his mouth was – and that he did!

In 1981, the Family Protection Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress to strengthen “traditional family values.” It required the withdrawal of federal funds from any state program that provides contraceptive or abortion services or information to unwed minors without prior parental notification, or from any entity engaged in "advocating, promoting, or suggesting homosexuality, male or female, as a life style."' The bill also mandated the withdrawal of federal funds from any agency that excludes parents or unspecified "representatives of the community"' from participation in curriculum decisions relating to the study of religion; requires union membership of teachers; or prohibits "parental review of textbooks prior to their use in public school classrooms.”

These were some of the key touch points that set the stage for the emerging LGBTQ+ community as a political movement. Thus, when Tom announced there would be a Gay Olympics Games, one can only imagine how much of an affront that must have been to the United States Olympic Committee.

* * *


Gay Games Co-Founder Mark Brown

MARK BROWN: I got involved with sports in San Francisco after meeting my room-mate Paul Lynch in 1974. First, he introduced me to softball and I ended up becoming the league commissioner in 1978-79. I also served as co-chair for the first Gay Softball World Series.

Paul also got me involved with the gay bowling league, and I ended up serving as President of the Tavern Guild Bowling League at the Park Bowl on Haight Street. I had also won several Cable Car Awards for my column On The Mark which was published in the Bay Area Reporter.

Tom Waddell showed up one night at the Wednesday night bowling league during the 1979-80 season, wanting to join a team. Given all the administrative work I was handling for the league, I had Tom join our team, and I became the substitute bowler. We won a lot that year.

* * *


Gene Dermody on the wrestling mat at Gay Games I

GENE DERMODY: I have invested forty years of my life into the Gay Games as a wrestler, volunteer, a Federation of Gay Games (FGG) delegate, Officer of Sport, Officer of Technology, and twice-appointed Co-President. I have competed in all 10 Gay Games, have created and organized teams to go to Gay Games, and in 2014, was awarded the Tom Waddell Award, the FGG’s highest recognition for service to the Gay Games.

I had “come out” around the time of the Stonewall riots while at NYU. I lived in Manhattan, first in Greenwich Village, and then on the Upper West Side, where I was resigned to living in an LGBT culture I found devoid of good choices.

I had been a wrestler at NYU in the ‘60s, and a high school Chemistry/Physics teacher and wrestling coach in northern New Jersey in the ’70s. There were very few adult post-collegiate amateur wrestling opportunities. There were the handful of YMCAs like my NYC Lincoln Center McBurney, and some university teams like Olympian Dave Schultz’s at Stanford University.

LGBTQ+ athletes were routinely shadow banned for various reasons, depending upon where you lived. I was lucky to compete for an enlightened YMCA in the ‘70s. Unlike today where there are martial arts/grappling dojos on every corner, there were no opportunities for the vast majority of adult LGBTQ+ athletes. For the vast majority, not having a local practice option that in turn precluded competitions, was a vicious cycle, because it also impacted social connection opportunities.

This pent-up athletic/social frustration was quite real, and for LGBTQ+ athletes who built their social circles around carefully trusted connections, it was especially not healthy: isolation breeds depression. It is why sports are still so important a socializing factor, regardless of age.

* * *


Charlie Carson at Gay Games I, 1982

CHARLIE CARSON: Before Gay Games I, what we then called the gay and lesbian community had sports in larger cities like softball and bowling leagues.  Bar pastimes were activities where you could smoke and drink at the same time: darts; billiards.  There were a few volleyball groups in Europe and the U.S., and road running was taking off through the Front Runners.  But we had no Gay or Lesbian swim teams; no track meets; no wrestling; no cycling.  The Gay Games changed that, creating a network of an initial 1,300 participants who spurred the creation of hundreds of what are now the LGBTQ+ community’s long-established sports groups.  And lucky me – I was there!

* * *


Jack Gonzalez (center) and his Studio One volleyball team

JACK GONZALEZ:  I started playing "Gay" volleyball sometime in 1978. I had been playing Club Volleyball in Long Beach when I heard there was a gym in West Hollywood where mostly Gay people played (West Hollywood Park). After work on Thursday nights, I would drive up to play with "my people." The level of play was very mixed. Without sounding vain, I would say I was probably one of the better players (I was playing 4-5 hours a night 4 nights a week with the Club). It was such a wondrous and joyful feeling to be playing my favorite sport with others like me. I was one happy camper, and I was also making new friends as well.

After play in West Hollywood Rec Park, I would stay and "go dancing" at Studio One. Eventually the "good players" started to gravitate towards each other to play together. It was more fun (but not always fair) to have skilled players on your team. The following year a league was started. It was really a "Gay league," but we were trying to be inclusive, so all were invited. Teams were sponsored by local bars and businesses. A fan, Bob Jory, volunteered to be our manager. He went to see Scott Forbes from Studio One, which is how Studio One became our sponsor! Bob was not a player, but he enjoyed doing the legwork for the team. Studio One was our sponsor (great volleyball uniforms) until 1981. By then the Gay Games were scheduled to be in San Francisco the following year.

By 1982, I ran the team that represented Los Angeles in tournaments (Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, etc.). Back then, these tournaments required that a player had to play for the city they lived in [historic note: West Hollywood wasn’t incorporated until 1984]. Our team was the team to beat. We took first or sometimes second place in these tournaments. At the beginning this Gay volleyball organization was known as NAVA (North American Volleyball Assoc.). The G (for Gay was added) after a couple of years.

* * *

    
Jim Hahn (L, on left) (R, second from left) receiving his doubles medal at GGVIII (with partner Doug Litwin) and team bowling medal at GGIX (with teammates Glenn Normandin, Andrew Meagher, and Doug Litwin)

JAMES HAHN: My name is Jim Hahn and I live in San Mateo, California (about 35 km south of San Francisco). Doug Litwin and I have been bowling together for more than 20 years. I am one of the few people left who have participated in every Gay Games, beginning in 1982.

My participation started because of a gay students’ conference at the California State University at San Francisco that was held in the Spring of 1981. One of the group events at the conference was a meeting with Dr. Tom Waddell. There were about 6 to 8 of us in the room and it was an opportunity for Tom to share his vision of the Gay Olympics and encourage participation.

I was impressed with Tom's clarity of vision and doubtless enthusiasm that the Olympics were going to happen just as he had imagined them. I was listening closely and intently, because beyond the words that Tom shared with us, I could sense history in the making. By the time the meeting was over, I was certain that the Olympics were not going to be a “flash in the pan” where after one or perhaps two events, they would fade away.

No, this was the beginning of something bigger. Bigger than Tom, certainly bigger than me; bigger even than San Francisco itself. I knew that this was something I needed to be a part of. Indeed, the Gay Olympics became part of me.

As I left the meeting, my mind went into overdrive trying to figure out how a poor college student with no car was going to be able to make the leap into history. I had my bowling ball and access to mail and that was about it.

Several months later, I received my Gay Olympics application which went from envelope to typewriter in the blink of an eye. I also studied the requirements for participation. A shirt, preferably with my city of representation on the back and a Gay Olympics patch on the sleeve was required. Thankfully, hosted housing (Thank you JJ!) was offered and I was accepted. The next step was to buy a shirt, have it embroidered and arrange a ride from Davis to San Francisco (about 100 miles or 180 Km). The cost of the shirt with the embroidery was $28 or a little less than a month’s spending money for me.

Tom’s primary focus of the Gay Olympics was for participants to compete against other like-minded and like-talented individuals and teams and perform their personal best. The medals are certainly nice and worth striving for, but the fact that everyone receives a participation medal, made this very different from other sporting events. In fact, I have won several the years (five, I think), but I have a complete set of participation medals from Gay Games II (more on this name change later) through to Gay Games X. These mean more to me than the silvers and bronzes I have won.

* * *


The backyard party with members of the SF and LA Bands, June 1979

KEN WARD: The San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps marched in the Great American Yankee Freedom Band of Los Angeles for their Pride Parade on June 30, 1979, one year after our founding. And the concert afterwards was at Hollywood High School auditorium at 8:00 that evening.

The party afterwards was at a very small house with an also very small backyard. Everyone was very rowdy and having a great time until a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter arrived and hovered over the party site for quite some time. We were all getting nervous about what they would do, but the yard was very tiny and surrounded by a wooden fence, and packed full of queens and friends. We got quiet and worried when wondering what they were going to do. They certainly could not land in that postage stamp walled backyard without committing mass slaughter and very bad headlines the next day.

After a while we were very pleasantly surprised when someone on a microphone on the helicopter welcomed the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps to Los Angeles. Then we erupted into cheers and toasts for the LAPD. That was a big change in police relations with the gay community from what most of us had heard about and/or experienced previously.

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Post 3 of 40 - 30 July

Creating San Francisco Arts & Athletics: Laying the Foundations

The initial concept to have a sports and cultural festival open to all was born when Dr. Thomas F. Waddell walked into the Stadium on 12 October for the Opening Ceremony of the Mexico City 1968 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. Decathlon team. As he would often state, he felt as if his heart was going to burst; and that it was something everyone should experience. In the end, it wasn’t about where he finished, but the fact he had participated and did his best.

* * *


Mark Brown, back row at right. Chris Puccinelli, front row second from right

MARK BROWN: When Tom first approached me about a “Gay Olympics,” I said no. He approached me a year later, and given his ability to persuade and manipulate, I said yes – even though I wasn’t sure we could pull it off.

The original San Francisco Arts & Athletics Board included Tom as President, myself as Secretary-Treasurer, Hydie Downard and Chris Puccinelli as Vice Presidents, and Mike Evans as our lawyer. Paul Mart didn’t want to be on the Board, but he did a lot of international travel and got the word out for us that way.

Tom was often out of town on business, so the day-to-day operations fell to the others. We were the ones who had the connections in the community - Chris, through her Awards by Chris sports store; Hydie, through softball, the Imperial Court and her bartending job at Twin Peaks in the Castro; and I. By this time, I had also secured the offices, giving us a presence in the heart of the Castro.


Zohn Artman on Castro Street

Things changed once Zohn Arman got on the board. He was a promoter, so everything he did was from that point of view. He certainly knew how to promote Tom as the head of the Gay Games. I do think Tom had greater intentions beyond the Games, and Zohn was the type of person Tom needed to achieve those goals.

When they scheduled the press conference about the Gay Games with Mayor Dianne Feinstein, they requested for it to take place outside, on the City Hall steps. Feinstein, probably seeing Tom as a potential rival in the next Mayor’s race, chose to have it take place inside, in the rotunda.

* * *


GENE DERMODY: The Gay Games entered into a social vacuum with a very attractive and inclusive registration menu of sports. There were no qualifying events, no seeding, no health restrictions, no drug testing, and more categories across age, gender, weight, and skill level. The events were open to EVERYONE, and organizers made sure you were accommodated. Typical medal competition took a back seat to connection and inclusion. Add to that San Francisco was an LGBTQ+ dream destination, and it was perfect. Given that there was no internet, no email, and no mainstream media advertisements, people still came from all over the world, thanks to the word-of-mouth travel promotion by Gay Games pioneers such as Paul Mart.

* * *

The Red Book


Jean Nickolaus Tretter in 1983

JEAN-NICKOLAUS TRETTER: Team Minnesota started organizing in the Fall of 1981. In the January 1982 newsletter published by San Francisco Arts & Athletics, there was a notice for those wishing to help organize an international governing body to perpetuate the Gay Olympic Games Movement, including selecting where the event would be held each quadrennial. I answered that notice and began a long-distance working relationship with Tom Waddell.

Early in 1982, Tom asked me to contact all the various national sports governing bodies in order to develop rules and regulations for the Gay Olympics. With only a telephone and the U.S. postal service as my tools of access, I was able to secure the various rules from each sport’s governing body, as well as additional guidelines from the United States Olympic Committee.

I took each set of rules and did as minor an adaptation as possible on each of them, in order to be more accommodating, particularly regarding gender identity. This initial collection of rules and regulations became known as the Gay Games Red Book, which has grown, expanded, and adapted over the years, when necessary.

The same January 1982 news bulletin also mentioned a national torch relay. The only problem was, they only had relays scheduled on either coast, with nothing established across the Midwest or Rocky Mountain states. But that’s another story.

* * *


Left to right: Founders Mark Brown, Tom Waddell, Harriman Thatcher, Paul Mart

GENE DERMODY: In 1988, about eighteen months prior to the Vancouver Gay Games III Opening Ceremony, in frustration with the total lack of confirmed information necessary for me to promote wrestling, I had written a scathing letter to the editor to the “Village Voice” in New York City. Specifically, Vancouver organizers had not applied for a Canadian Wrestling Event Sanction. Wrestling had to be sanctioned in order to get insurance and officials. Given the San Francisco history, it should have been an easy fix. But there was resistance with the Vancouver organizers. However, to not continue this sanctioning was financially, politically, and operationally unacceptable; the wrestlers would simply not register. Vancouver also had not reserved a gymnasium and had not acquired wrestling mats. This was resolved when we arrived after intense negotiations and resources to rent (and move) the mats from Simon Fraser University.

Vancouver was operationally overwhelmed. Team NY’s FGG delegate, Physique champion Tom Cracovia, and I met during the week in Vancouver to discuss the complaints that were being directed at us as Gay Games sport organizers. What emerged was a plan to convince the FGG to codify and require the Sports Requirements for a Gay Games Host (the eventual “Red Book”). We would then lobby the LGBTQ+ sport governing bodies before the 1991 FGG Meeting, and at least make people aware of the need.

There actually was FGG resistance to having the LGBTQ+ Sports Governing Bodies making demands of the Host without it being in the License Agreement. Gay Games pioneer and LGBTQ+ activist, Rikki Streicher, specifically objected to emulating the non-Inclusive Olympics Sport Policies of the USOC. In fact, there was even resistance to the FGG taking on more LGBTQ+ sports organizations as members for the same reason; the anti USOC furor was still that strong.

At the 1992 FGG Meeting our efforts with getting the FGG to approve a Required Code of Gay Games Sport Rules (the “Red Book”) was beginning to gather steam. LGBTQ+ sport governing bodies for Aquatics, Tennis, Bowling, Martial Arts, Wrestling, et al just went ahead and published their own Championship Rules, and received good operational cooperation from the Gay Games IV organizing committee.

However, it would take the strong leadership of two new FGG Delegates to manage the projects for a better ProForma License Agreement with an integrated Required Code of Athletic Rules (“Red Book”) to guide the Hosts.

Teresa Galetti of Philadelphia brought an expertise to Sports Committee from Martial Arts for resolving so many issues where Gay Games values were in conflict with standard sports sanctioning requirements at that time. It was exactly what Rikki Streicher had recommended.

Sydney Australia’s Richard Cobden brought an extraordinary international legal perspective to the License Agreement project from his intellectual property & copyright expertise before the Australian Supreme Court. He created the framework for legally integrating the “Red Books” into the ProForma License Agreement.

Their joint efforts made this new “Red Book” contractually enforceable with the Host within the License Agreement. It was a monumental task that took over a year. It was overwhelmingly approved and ready for the 2002 Sydney cycle and the 2006 Gay Games cycle that saw the Montreal / GLISA / Chicago drama. The “Red Book” was designed to be a work in progress, and constantly enhanced as issues like gender identity, age, disability inclusion, drug testing, and overall mission adherence kept resurfacing.

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Post 4 of 40 - 31 July - Efforts Outside of San Francisco

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 05 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Chris Van Scoyk at Gay Games II, 1986

CHRIS VAN SCOYK: I first heard about the Gay Games, then called the Gay Olympic Games, by reading an article by Rick Bohner in Frontiers Magazine. It said a swim team was being formed to compete in San Francisco. Those interested should meet at Venice Beach for more information. I met Rick at the beach and soon began workouts led by Michael Roth. We only had a few weeks to prepare, and it was certainly not easy to get back in shape; but we did it.

* * *


Charlie Carson on medals stand at GGI, 1982

CHARLIE CARSON: I’m age 27 and in my second season with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC). I’ve been tapped to lead NYCGMC’s committee organizing the first national festival for the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA), scheduled for September 1983, so I am up to my eyeballs in that. Recently I’ve been reading Tales of the City, and chorus friends have told me I must go to San Francisco someday.

News about a “Gay Olympic Games” is making its way around the world. This seems like a good excuse for a first San Francisco trip. Plus, I’d thought my swimming days were over when I moved to New York, so this spurs me to get back in the water. I send off for the registration package and decide to do it. The swimming plans are odd. Age groups are not the usual five-year divisions used in Masters swimming, and the schedule lists a 400 yd. Backstroke and 400 yd. Butterfly. Write to Sports Chair Mark Brown in mid-April to say the 400 yd. Butterfly isn’t really something swimmers do.

Late July / Early August 1982 – New swimming schedule mailed to participants has corrected the events to standard distances – I wasn’t the only one to question it – but it’s still an oddball schedule with two days of prelims followed by two nights of finals.  There’s a rule: Only one swimmer per age group from a city. Don’t know any other swimmers from New York so, what the heck, I sign up for multiple events.

Wednesday, August 18 – Games organizers help us network by sharing contact information among participants within cities. I meet diver Jeff Gordon at 5:30pm to train together at NYU. Jeff is very good! We head from there to join NY Front Runners George Waffle and Marty King for hour-long “Gay Rap” on WBAI radio about the Games with a call-in from co-founder Tom Waddell. The radio show fires us up that much more, and Jeff and I train at NYU several more times over the next week.

* * *


Shamey Cramer (lower left) with members of the 1984 Christopher Street West LA Pride Entertainment Committee

SHAMEY CRAMER: Saturday, 15 May 1982 started out like any other day. I took the bus into West Hollywood to go shopping at International Male on Santa Monica Blvd. - the furthest point west in the area of West Hollywood known as “Boystown.”

After making a purchase to complete my latest ensemble, I headed into the Mother Lode, a gay bar two blocks east. I ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, my preferred drink at the time, and headed toward the back. I needed to use the bathroom and a pay phone.


The Gay Games I poster referenced in the following paragraph

About halfway down the very short hallway, I noticed a poster to the right. It has three figures on it, and was announcing the first-ever Gay Olympic Games, to take place in San Francisco from August 28 through September 5, Labour Day weekend. I felt a strange calm come over me, and knew in that instant: my calling had found me.

As I stood there, I could envision so many things: establishing precedent and protocol, creating an international governing body and local teams, and using this event as a focal point for community organizing and unification.

I had been a foreign exchange student in high school and helped my Mom write, produce, and direct the local Miss America Pageant in my teens. This combined my love for pageantry, international relations and the Olympics, but with an added bonus I had never envisioned before: hosted by the lesbian and gay community.

I immediately wrote down the contact information for San Francisco Arts & Athletics, the organization producing the event. In those days, a mailing address and telephone number was all one could expect. And more often than not, the mailing address was a postal box or mailing service, as a way to protect the recipient from potential homophobic attacks.

The fact someone even called an event the Gay Olympics was truly audacious. This was just fifteen years after Kathryn Switzer became the first woman to run illegally in the Boston Marathon of 1967, and the Olympics were still two years away from having their first Women's Marathon.

That following Monday, I called the number and spoke with Mark Brown, the host organization’s board member who was running operations for Dr. Waddell. The project had been up and running for six months, but hit a snag when the U.S. Olympic Committee sent a cease and desist letter for use of the word “Olympic,” which was their protected trademark. He was concerned about how the USOC was going to proceed, but as it stood, it was a wait-and-see kind of situation, given all the other events and organizations that had used the word without recrimination. But to be safe, he and the others also referred to it as the Gay Athletic Games.

During our conversation, I informed him of my family’s background working in sports administration, and my desire to help create a strong and unified Team Los Angeles. He gave me the contact information for U.S. Olympic swimmer Susan McGreivy, the famed, openly lesbian civil rights attorney based in Los Angeles. Tom had asked her to run the team, so I gave her a call and we scheduled a time to meet.

  
(L) Susan McGrievy in the pool, 1956; (R) Susan's Olympic swimming team at Melbourne Olympics, 1956, Susan is in bottom row at far left)

In 1955, Susan competed as a 15-year-old high school student at the Amateur Athletic Union’s indoor meet, winning the 250 and 500 yard freestyles; and a bronze medal in the 400 free at the 1955 Pan American Games. The following year, she competed at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne Australia.

Susan later attended Northwestern University, became a teacher in California, briefly coached the Thailand swim team, volunteered with the Peace Corps, and then married, raising two children before coming out. She graduated from law school in 1977 and became attorney for the Gay Community Services Center of Hollywood (later known as the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center), which led to her becoming a civil rights attorney for the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union, with a focus on gay and lesbian rights. She later represented the ACLU in cases against the Boy Scouts of America, and in defense of the Norton Sound Eight.

I met Susan the night of June 1 at the Melting Pot Cafe located at the west end of Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, by Doheny Drive. It was a typical 1970s cafe, with lots of dark wood interior, potted plants, and hanging ferns. We both had a Chef’s Salad.

Susan filled me in on where things were most likely going to go with the potential lawsuit, and the legal arguments they (SFAA) had that were favorable to their position. However, the USOC was a very powerful organization, and we were already seeing the rise of fundamental religious leaders becoming more engaged in American politics.

Add to that the initial reports of the AIDS epidemic, and a majority of queer folk still needed to remain silent and hidden in order to survive.

After sharing a few of my ideas of how I envisioned putting Team Los Angeles together, I asked what I could do to help. She pulled out the papers with names and addresses of all those who had either registered or reached out to her or the San Francisco office.


Susan McGrievy & Shamey Cramer, 2013

As she handed over the documents, she said: “Here ya go. They’re all yours.” When I asked about meeting again, she responded: “Between my regular practice, and the possibility of a lawsuit over this, I don’t have time to organize a team. You’d be doing me a great favor if you just ran the whole thing.”

And that’s how Team Los Angeles was officially launched on June 1, 1982. Eighty-eight days later, one hundred and forty seven athletes proudly marched into Kezar Stadium behind the Los Angeles banner, with Shelley Farber, who later that week captured medals in the women’s marathon and swimming, carrying the city flag. We were the largest traveling contingent, representing one out of every nine athletes, and were accompanied by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and the Great American Yankee Freedom Band of Los Angeles.


George Frenn (L) and Susan McGrievy (R) lighting the cauldron at Gay Games I Opening Ceremony  (Photo: Lisa Kanemoto)

And best of all, it was Susan and her fellow Olympian George Frenn, a community ally and friend of Dr. Waddell’s who had grown up in greater Los Angeles, chosen to be the final torchbearers of the cross-country relay and light the cauldron that chilly afternoon to officially open the inaugural Gay Games.

* * *



1982 Gay Games I swimmers:

Back Row (L-R): Richard Hunter, Neil Fenn, Jeff Shotwell, Mauro Bordovsky (lavender sweater), Doug Orloff, Steve Smetzer, Ric Bohner, Mike Wallace;
Middle Row: Frank Maciejewski; 

Front Row: Charlie Carson, Jeff Gordon, Ron Kirchhoff, Mark Wussler

MAURO BORDOVSKY: I had arrived in the U.S. from Brazil four years prior to the first Gay Games. I swam some on my own and at some colleges I attended in Los Angeles, but had not competed for a while before competing in Gay Games I. I have participated, and medaled, in all 10 Gay Games, thus far.

I was at Venice Beach where Richard Hunter and Rick Bohner were recruiting swimmers to form a team to participate in Gay Games I. We met, talked, and I agreed to join the plans, even after an approximate two-year hiatus from swimming. I started training as frequently as practice times were available in preparation for the Games.

* * *


Doug Orloff (at right in striped Speedo) at Gay Games I

DOUG ORLOFF: The month leading up to and including Gay Games I was one of the highlights of my life and I will always be grateful for being allowed to participate in the first international gay sporting event.

I heard about the “Gay Olympics” in the local gay newspapers. The business owners in West Hollywood had sponsored a swimming race at the park pool in 1981. It was a timed long distance swim and a very local event. I believe it was a 30-minute swim and whoever did the most yards won. I was sponsored by a clothing store that was next to The Revolver on Santa Monica Boulevard. I won the race and they gave me a trophy. I still have it in a box somewhere. The clothing store was proud of sponsoring the winner and did a big photo of me in my Speedo in their front window. When Gay Games I was announced, the guys that owned the store told me I should participate.

We practiced every day under Michael Roth’s coaching for a month to prepare. A lot of us were out of shape after having left swimming in college and high school. I remember the first day of practice where Richard Hunter and Ric Bohner introduced us all and told us about the San Francisco event. We became a team literally overnight and it was like nothing else in the world – to all of a sudden be on a swim team with GAY men. And to be open and unafraid - well it was thrilling.

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Post 5 of 40 - 1 August - The Pioneers

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 05 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


Doug Litwin (left) with Racquetball doubles partner Scott Miller at Gay Games IV in 1994

DOUG LITWIN: Despite my long history with the Gay Games, it still feels like I was a bit of a late arriver. I was living in San Francisco at the time of Gay Games I, having moved there in 1978, just a few months before the City Hall assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. At that point, I was not fully engaged in the local gay community, and as such, I honestly was not even aware that this event was happening. I know… this might be hard to believe, but Gay Games I was a relatively small event. I regret not participating in 1982, as I could have met Tom Waddell and some of the other founders of this life-changing event.

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L to R: Rand Wiseman-Curtright, Shamey Cramer, Phil Manciero, Chair John Logan, Christopher Street West L.A. Pride Sports Committee, 1984

SHAMEY CRAMER: The week of Gay Games I was the first time the various out-of-town team organizers had the chance to meet and interact. Beginning in October 1982, and continuing through 1985, ten co-chairs from across North America joined with Tom Waddell to engage in monthly conference calls. These individuals from Boston, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Vancouver created the International Gay Olympic Association (IGOA), an ad-hoc committee that Tom called for the creation of in the January 1982 Gay Olympic Games newsletter.

   
Two newspaper articles regarding the formation of the IGOA

The IGOA helped establish goals, philosophies, and benchmarks for the Gay Games; discussed how to go about creating a process to select future host cities; and developed and produced activities outside of the quadrennial event, which would once again be hosted by San Francisco for Gay Games II. With no precedent to guide them, Team Minnesota created a bid document to host a Lesbian and Gay Winter Olympic Games in January 1986, and published the quarterly Gay BLEEP Games newsletter; Team Los Angeles produced The Festival Games (1983-85), the first annual multi-sport festival hosted by the LGBTQ+ community; and representatives from Team Vancouver began separate discussions with Tom, which led to them hosting Gay Games III.

At the same time, many of the participants began to incorporate their own sports teams; and athletes and musicians created communication networks for those within their discipline. The 32 swimmers from Team Los Angeles created the West Hollywood Swim Club in October 1982, becoming the first U.S. Masters swim club whose mission focused on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ athletes and their allies; and seven bands met in Chicago to create their consortium, originally called Lesbian & Gay Bands of America and now known as Pride Bands Alliance.

San Francisco Arts & Athletics hosted the first Co-Chairs gathering in April 1983, which was attended by the IGOA representatives and other interested parties, including Peter Todd from Team Sydney. An update was given on the status of the lawsuit over the use of the word “Olympic,” with a robust discussion following as to what the name of the event should be called, and whether the word “Lesbian” should be added to the title. There was also a discussion on whether or not Gay Games II should even take place, given the growing AIDS crisis; and if so, whether or not a conference aspect should be added to discuss AIDS and other critical issues facing the community.

It was also at this meeting where Team Minnesota presented their Winter Games bid proposal, which secured the support of SFAA; and was selected to host a second Co-Chairs conference in January 1984. That way, team organizers could experience Minnesota during their annual Winterfest, which would coincide with the presentation of the Lesbian & Gay Winter Olympic Games two years hence.

Although more than a dozen representatives attended the 1984 co-chairs conference the following January in the Twin Cities, The Winter Games were not produced, given the struggle to secure resources while the community grappled with the darkest days of the AIDS crisis.

In 1985, I was informed I tested positive to the AIDS virus (a year before it became known as HIV), and told I had six months to two years to live – the standard prognosis at that time. I subsequently dropped out of everything and moved back to Chicago to be closer to my family, while still keeping my diagnosis a secret from any and everyone, including my closest friends and family.

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Stacy van Scoyk (daughter of WH2O co-founder Chris van Scoyk) in front of the swimmers competing at the June 1983 Festival Games swim tournament at Beverly Hills High School. Stacy loved going to swim meets, and was considered the team's #1 Fan. When Stacy died in a 1992 auto accident, WH2O planted 18 Chinese Flame trees, in remembrance of her 18 years of life.

DOUG ORLOFF: After Gay Games I, a bunch of us wanted to keep that spirit going and we created the West Hollywood Masters Swim Team. The first few years, we had between 25-30 people on the team. Mark Chatfield was our coach. Some of the team had been on the LA team at GGI, and some were new. The first team had people who remained friends for years: Ron, Bill, Mike, Frank, Mark, Chris, Jim, Neal, Barry, Alan and many more. Raphael was the first president of the team and its prime mover. The first two years, I was the Vice President. We worked out together, had meals and social events, and looked after one another. There were tough times, too. When AIDS entered our lives, the pool we worked out in kicked us out because the neighborhood was sure we were going to give their kids AIDS. We eventually ended up at Beverly Hills High School.

Another remarkable event was the first Festival Games sports festival in June 1983, an official LA Pride event that happened annually between Gay Games I and Gay Games II. Ron and I chaired the swim meet at Beverly Hills High School, working with Rand Wiseman-Curtright, Phil Manciero, and Shamey Cramer from the Christopher Street West Sports Committee. We had swimmers from all over the country show up, including Hal Herkenhoff, who served as the Tournament Director for all of Gay Games II Aquatics.

* * *

Following is a transcript of comments Dr. Waddell made at the April 1983 town hall meeting that gathered individuals from San Francisco Arts & Athletics, the International Gay Olympic Association, and other team co-chairs and community members to discuss the future of the Gay Games Movement.


Tom Waddell in the Gay Games I office, 1982

TOM WADDELL: The first Games were a surprise to everyone. In spite of a relatively poor turnout, they were still successful in many ways. They demonstrated that a large number of Gay men and women participated admirably in a variety of individual and organized athletics. The Games demonstrated also that competition need not be an aggressive or threatening activity, but that it can be friendly, cooperative, and self-fulfilling.

The Games are successful in that they provided a great sense of unity and self-esteem. They were typified by serious but fun-loving men and women devoid all traditional stereotypes. For the week of the Games, we were who we said we were: athletes who happened to be Gay. The Games were successful in providing us with a sense of identity and a degree of visibility in a way which we've never experienced before.

And finally, to the astonishment of some cynics, we finished in the black. I view the success mostly in a way I call internal. And for that I mean, the impact was predominately in our own communities. Because of the enormous prejudice against Gay people as being legitimated, productive members of society and fully capable of athletic endeavor the Games were virtually invisible to the external world.

The only reaction to the Games outside of our communities came as a result of institutionalized homophobia brought to the event by the powerful and prestigious United States Olympic Committee. But, even in that instance their mockery of fair play and their Neanderthal attitude served us in no small way. While the general public may not have rallied to witness the Games they at least acknowledged the plight of the underdog.

We feel strongly, our committee, that there should be a Gay Games II, but we feel just as strong]y that we maintain a sound philosophy, that we continue the Games as an event that gives something new and something valuable and something worth teaching.

The first Games brought Gay athletes out of their closets, clearly an act of courage for the 1,300 men and women who participated in them. There have been Gay sports organizations for years and suddenly they are erupting into regional and national and even international competitions.

Plans for a Pan American Games and a Winter Gay Games are in progress. It’s wonderful to see. But sooner, rather than later, many of these competitions will have as a goal the reward of winning for the sake of supremacy of one group over another. That seems to be an inherent aspect of western culture. But I would hope that the Gay Games would continue to be not an event of becoming the best but to provide equal opportunity for everyone to do their best, for the sheer joy and hell of it. That's what makes these Games different from any other.

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Oliver Murphy, decathlete at Gay Games I in 1982

OLIVER MURPHY:  Oliver Murphy from Cork, Ireland captured the Gold Medal at Gay Games I in the Decathlon. He also lost his job as a schoolteacher as a result of his decision to be an out, gay athlete.

The following Letter to the Editor from Mr. Murphy in 1986 to OUT Magazine was in reference to the ban many South Africans faced in international competition at that time as a result of their government’s continued perpetuation and support of apartheid.

Mr. Murphy successfully defended his Decathlon title at Gay Games II, but subsequently lost his battle to AIDS.

“Irish Participation at Gay Games II”

Dear OUT: Here Irish Wit is seen. We boycott Gay Olympics II when we have no team. (With apologies to the Dean…) Well, despite the best efforts of many, both outside and unfortunately within the gay community, to ensure the games would not take place, I am happy to be able to report that as of closing date 1st June, almost 3,700 athletes had signified their intention to compete, at an almost three-fold increase on the numbers participating in Gay Games I.

Also, I personally am boycotting the boycott so there will be an Irish team. Considering the status of civil rights for gay men in Ireland I find it absurd to even consider a boycott on such spurious grounds. I had to resign from my job to compete in the first games so I am all too familiar with Apartheid “Irish-style” as it relates to gays and the jobs they may perform.

Early season competitions indicate I am in good shape to defend my Decathlon title on 15 and 16 August. I shall also be competing in the high-jump and javelin competitions.

The Games will run from Saturday 9 August to Sunday 17 August at various venues in the greater San Francisco area and have again generated tremendous enthusiasm and excitement. Though most competitors will come from within the U.S., large contingents are expected from Canada and Australia. Attendance from Europe is again disappointing. Ironically the last Newsletter of the organizing committee bore the headline “Come out and Play.”

I suppose the lesson here is that one must come out first and this is always a problem. A Dutch soccer team in the last Gay Games dwindled to one player (who guested with the San Francisco team) as the team members realized that participation would mean publicity and how many of us are really that much OUT of the closet.

Yours sincerely, Oliver Murphy

* * *

MAURO BORDOVSKY: Gay Games I imposed a limit on the number of swimmers per team. We had so many swimmers recruited and interested in participating at Gay Games I that we created three teams: Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. It was after our successful and fun performances at GGI that we realized what we had, decided to continue as a team, and formed West Hollywood Swim Club. Later, we renamed the Club West Hollywood Aquatics to incorporate Water Polo, Diving, and other aquatic sports.

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Post 6 of 40 - 2 August - Gay Games II

9 - 17 August, 1986; 3,500 participants; San Francisco, CA USA


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Opening Ceremony, Gay Games II, 1986

To see video of Executive Director Shawn Kelly speaking at the Closing Ceremony, click HERE

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Australian bowlers at Gay Games II, 1986

DOUG LITWIN: In the lead up to GGII, there was huge excitement in the bowling leagues. At the time, only one team could represent each city. We had a very spirited local tournament to determine which team would officially represent San Francisco. My team lost, so our team entered Gay Games II as representing McKees Rocks, PA, the hometown of my teammate, the late Bill Gaul. We didn’t win a medal but the experience was amazing.

  

Left: Bands ready to perform at Opening Ceremony. Right: Trapeze performing above the Band at the "Greatest of Ease" concert

I also performed with more than 150 band mates at the Opening Ceremony, a mid-week parade, a sold-out circus-themed concert at elegant Davies Symphony Hall, one or two sporting events, and the Closing Ceremony. An indelible memory was being on stage dressed as a circus clown while a hunky man performed on a trapeze overhead… with no net!

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Left: Jeffry Pike swimming at Gay Games II. Photo: Roy Coe, taken just before Jeffry's bronze medal swim
Center: Jeffry Pike and Patrick Kelly performing "Marsupials" (choreographed by Alvin Mayes) at the Gay Games II - Festival of the Arts, August 1986.). Photo; Roy Coe
Right: Gay Games II Closing ceremony with Team Boston pal, Amanda

JEFFRY PIKE: When I opened my front door in Somerville, Massachusetts, US, in June 1986, I immediately felt that I had met a kindred spirit. Roy Muir Coe had travelled from San Francisco to interview me for his book, A Sense of Pride: The Story of Gay Games II.


Roy Coe in 1988

In the six years that I knew Roy, before his death in 1992, and the thirty years since, I have confirmed that what drew Roy and me together was our shared search to understand ourselves and our belief in the life changing power of the Gay Games. By inviting each person to tell their story, we all find camaraderie within LGBTQ+ athletics and arts communities, and beyond. In the spirit of A Sense of Pride, for which Roy invited me to tell a bit of my story, in this essay, I will tell a small bit of Roy’s story and introduce some of the people touched by his generosity.


Roy Coe's book (available on Amazon.com)

“In the fall of 1984, I walked into San Francisco Arts and Athletics’ dusty office located in the Pride Center, a former convent which had been converted by the city into offices for Gay Community groups,” wrote Roy in A Sense of Pride. He volunteered to be Communications Director for GGII.

At the same time that Roy worked as Communications Director, he began interviewing athletes and an artist intending to participate in Gay Games II - San Francisco for a book to illuminate their goals and aspirations. In the book, Roy also chronicled, from start to finish, Gay Games II and included a history of Gay Games I - San Francisco (1982). In order to do all this, Roy took a two-year sabbatical from his day job as a computer systems manager. He devoted everything to the Games.


Roy Coe at Gay Games II, 1986

In the introduction to A Sense of Pride, Roy’s motivation for both volunteering for the Gay Games II organization and seeking out other participants’ stories becomes clear. Roy “drew personal inspiration and clarity of purpose” from one particular interviewee’s observations of his own community in Atlanta, Georgia, US.

Roy elaborated, “Simply stated, athletics in the gay community offer hope, spirit, and camaraderie to all who participate. And all are welcome. ... This spirited week (of Gay Games II) represents the culmination of my own desire for community involvement and more positive self-image. I have met hundreds of athletes with similar dreams.”

In Roy’s documenting various details that the organizers faced leading up to the GGII, he reveals that he also became part of a vital close-knit, dedicated team that found solutions as each challenge appeared.

Seemingly tireless, Roy also found time to compete in Track and Field events at the Games and be part of a silver medal winning 4x100 relay team.

After Gay Games II and the publishing of A Sense of Pride, Roy’s involvement in the Gay Games changed to being a supporter of participants and patron of the Cultural Festival of the Games.

When I was invited to be a charter member of the Federation of Gay Games in 1989, Roy, with his experience from GG II, happily became my sounding board and source for perspective on the politics around and historical details related to various Gay Games topics.

When Roy died in 1992, it was revealed that he intended to continue supporting the Games through the endowment of the Roy M. Coe Scholarship Fund. His goal was to ensure that others would be able to attend the Games. He specifically wanted funds to cover travel expenses to bring first-time participants from continents other than the host city’s continent.

* * *



JACK GONZALEZ: Four years later, San Francisco is again the host for Gay Games II. So much seems to have happened in those four years. The mood, while still one of excitement and high energy, is somewhat muted, because no matter how joyous an event we are there for – one cannot forget the epidemic, which in those four years took so many of our friends and loved ones. The Castro District, which is the heart of the Gay community, was still buzzing with multitudes of people (tons of restaurants & bars there). Still buzzing with activity - but not like it was four years prior. It felt like some of the puzzle pieces were missing. 

But as they say: the show must go on. This time around, the Los Angeles contingent was better prepared. We were (almost) all wearing an actual team uniform for Opening Ceremony. I requested housing and was set up to stay in the Twin Peaks area. My host, who lived alone, was a very nice and handsome man. He was sick with AIDS. A few years earlier, I may have felt unsafe, but by then, most of us were aware of how the disease spreads, and conducted ourselves accordingly. One evening after tournament play, while sitting around chatting with my host, he asked me if I would object to ‘holding him’. I was a bit taken aback. It did not take me long to understand that he had no human contact with anyone and was very lonely. I did not mind at all - hugging him tight and letting him feel my warmth and humanity.


Volleyball at Gay Games II, 1986

For these Games, I did not put together my own team (volleyball). I played on a friend’s team. I was familiar and friendly with all of my new teammates. By this time, most of the other cities (states) had formed more competitive teams, so we were not favored to win as we were previously. Again, San Francisco did not disappoint with their excellent organizing skills. The facilities, although not located in the Gay Ghetto, were excellent. The tournament itself was well run. I have very little memories of the competition itself. This is most likely due to not winning. My brain has its own agenda as to what it sees as worth remembering. Or so it seems.

I wish I had better memories of these Games. I do recall that although a joyous event for many, there was also the underlying fact that many of us had lost friends... and it wasn’t over. The disease continued to take more of us.

* * *


Jim Hahn (at right in blue shirt) at Gay Games II bowling venue 1986

JAMES HAHN: In Gay Games II, I came as close to winning a team medal as I’d ever come. Our team from San Jose, California made it to the second round of competition and did well coming in 5th. We won the first game of the stepladder finals leaving us just one game to win in order to qualify for a medal. Unfortunately, our best bowler, bowled nearly 80 pins under his average and we missed out. He was so broken-hearted, he went back to his hotel room and cried. He passed away from AIDS about a year later. This proved to be the best competition in bowling, before or since.

* * *

RICK PETERSON:

Swimming for Our Lives -
Gay Games Changed My Life and the Life of our Global Gay Community Forever


Rick Peterson at open water swimming event, 2022

I first heard about Gay Games after Dana Cox, a good friend in my hometown of Seattle, enthused at a dinner party that he’d just returned from the first Gay Games in San Francisco with two gold medals for swimming the 50-yard and 100-yard breaststroke. I was impressed and surprised! I didn’t know that side of Dana! I didn’t realize he swam. I didn’t know about Gay Games, had never heard of it.

Actually, at that time in 1982, I had no perception of any opportunity to participate in Seattle’s emerging gay community as a swimmer or athlete (other than bowling and softball at the time, plus a little volleyball), let alone anything as fantastic-sounding as what Dana described— entering Kezar Stadium along with about 1,500 other LGBTQ+ athletes and artists at the Opening Ceremonies of Gay Games and being serenaded by Tina Turner! I think Dana was the only swimmer from Seattle. I was fascinated.


Rick Peterson, Washington State University swimmer

In my “past life” from the time I was ten years old until May 1973 when I graduated from university, I’d been a swimmer. Big time. I was a champion high school swimmer, followed by four varsity years as a NCAA division one athlete on scholarship at Washington State University. But after I graduated, I thought I would never seriously swim again and I was okay with that.

And that’s pretty much what happened. Instead of continuing to “be a swimmer,” I drove to San Francisco cold-turkey from Bellingham, a small town near the Canadian border where I’d grown up as kid, with everything I owned crammed in the car. As I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, I had no idea I’d landed in an epicenter of emerging Gay Liberation. That was September 1973, just after I’d turned 22.

I kissed swimming goodbye, diving full speed into a blistering decade of coming out, being in a relationship, dancing and having fun at discos, working for the Sierra Club national headquarters, enjoying the unique bliss of being young, healthy and gay in and around the San Francisco mecca. I continued to think of myself as “an athlete” in some sense, at least inwardly. My world view continued to be heavily influenced by years of training as a swimmer, being a part of a team, putting in the effort, honing, self-discipline, being brave enough to put yourself out there to participate and compete at your best, being coachable, being persistent, discovering you can be really good at something if you apply yourself.

Nearly a decade later, after Dana surprised me with his story about participating in the first Gay Games, I started to think about dipping my toe in a pool for the first time since hanging up my suit in 1973, this time at a weekly lap swim at Queen Anne pool in Seattle known unofficially as “gay swim night.” Nothing organized. No-one really competing, mostly just guys and a few gals enjoying staying in shape and getting the “swimmer’s high” of a good self-imposed hour-long workout in a lane you shared with other gay people you did not know until then. New acquaintances! New friends! Swimming feels great! It was so fun to be back in the water—especially in a way that felt safe and welcoming, sharing the magic of gliding through water with kindred spirits.


Orca Swim Club logo

I and a few others, including Dana and John Horman, another friend I’d made through “gay swim night,” decided to form a “gay swim team” for Seattle. This was in 1984. We called ourselves the Emerald Orca Swim Club (Seattle is nicknamed the “Emerald City” for being surrounded by evergreen forests and mountains). I became co-captain and shortly thereafter Allison Beezer joined me as co-captain—a wonderful woman involved with guiding clients on socially-responsible investing and financial planning. One of our biggest first goals was to organize swimmers and divers from Seattle to participate in Gay Games II in San Francisco in 1986. Dana would no longer be the only Gay Games swimmer from Seattle!

To get ready, we needed to not only practice swimming, we needed coaching, we needed pool access, we needed to practice actually swimming in competitions, diving off the starter blocks, having legal turns at the end of each pool length, not getting disqualified for touching the pool end with one hand versus two hands simultaneously as required by USMS rules for breaststroke, etc.

As our Orca Swim Club began to grow, it became clear that we were definitely going to send a dozen or more swimmers to Gay Games II. It also became clear that other sporting interests in Seattle’s growing LGBTQ+ community were emerging and coming into existence—spurred on by the excitement of being able to participate at Gay Games II. A real movement was beginning—a whole new form of “gay liberation” centered on the health, fitness and camaraderie unique to participatory sport. What a thrill and wonder! Given the level playing field unique to sport, we gay men, women and the full spectrum of gender identities could not only hold our own, we could compete with the best.

   
Rick Peterson at Gay Games II in 1986

Picking up on this burgeoning sport scene, as co-captain of the Orca Swim Club, I began talking with other emerging sport leaders of other gay teams in Seattle including Frontrunners, the volleyball team, soccer team, softball and bowling leagues and more. I and a few others recognized the value of forming some kind of umbrella LGBTQ+ sport organization in Seattle that could help support new and emerging sport teams, and band together to promote the opportunity and excitement of fielding a big multisport team to Gay Games II. So, I helped co-found Team Seattle in 1985 and became co-chair along with women’s soccer player Danette Leonardi.

After Gay Games II, to keep the ball rolling, the Orca Swim Club organized what we continue to believe was the first USMS-sanctioned LGBTQ+ swim meet possibly in the world, or at least up to that point in the United States. We hosted a USMS-sanctioned dual swim meet with our wonderful neighbor LGBTQ+ swim team 2-hours north in Vancouver, British Columbia, the English Bay Swim Club.

It was at this first dual meet in 1987 that the Orca Swim Club introduced the “Pink Flamingo Relay,” a fun way to cap off the swim meet and “make it gay.” Since then, the Pink Flamingo Relay has continued to grow and become a true highlight of every Gay Games aquatics competition—and at annual International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) championships.

Up until this point, swimming at Gay Games I and II was not USMS-sanctioned. No USMS swimming records could be set, nor World Masters records. For that to be possible, swim competitions in the United States had to be sanctioned by USMS, the governing body of masters swimming in the U.S. (with similar country-specific masters organizations globally, comprising World Masters Swimming).

To obtain USMS sanctioning for our first swim meet, we had to overcome unexpected objections from the regional USMS sanctioning body in our area. Usually, getting a swim meet sanctioned was a rubber-stamp kind of thing. But here we were, in a fight with misinformed people prejudiced against gay people, even people who feared we’d spread AIDS in the pool. This was all happening as the enormous and terribly frightening AIDS pandemic was accelerating. Misinformation was rampant. Fear was gripping.

Long story short—with the help of Cal Anderson, the first and only openly gay elected member of the Washington State Legislature at that time—we cried foul, and got our sanctioning. And the rest is history because after that, the Orca Swim Team became one of the most popular USMS swim meet hosts in Western Washington. Stroke by stroke, we began changing the swimming world in our little neck of the woods.

Meanwhile, Team Seattle focused on gathering a huge team to participate in Gay Games III in 1990 not far away in Vancouver, Canada—the first Gay Games outside San Francisco. To build momentum and interest, we organized our first multisport festival in the summer of 1987—dubbed the Northwest Gay/Lesbian Sports Festival. Coordinating with local LGBTQ+ sport teams and leagues, we offered about 15 sports including the first-ever LGBTQ water polo tournament as part of our aquatics line-up, spearheaded by Mark Schoofs from San Francisco. Which then spurred the birth of our first LGBTQ+ water polo team in Seattle so we could participate in our own tournament!

Everything just kept building—now I was a swimmer, a water polo player, co-caption of the Orca Swim Club, and co-chair of Team Seattle spearheading a 15-sport festival on the way to attracting more participants than the first Gay Games in San Francisco (all while holding down a full-time job in the creative department of an ad agency)!

Lots of fitful nights waking up in a panic. The combined experience had a huge impact on my personal and professional life, helped me find inner courage, work with diverse groups of people, find common cause, and discover I had more leadership skills than I’d given myself credit for. The confidence I was able to develop in the LGBTQ+ sports community ended up having a huge impact on my advertising career, as well. Thank you Gay Games.

As our first Northwest Gay/Lesbian Sports Festival was approaching, I learned Dr. Tom Waddell, U.S. Olympic decathlete and Gay Games founder, was set to visit to Seattle for a television interview about the Gay Games and about him having HIV and AIDS. Somehow I was able to make contact with Dr. Waddell and he graciously invited me to meet and have lunch at his hotel prior to his interview.

Tom Waddell was, and remains today, someone I strongly revered and almost idolized. I was greatly humbled to meet him. Really, I was thunderstruck and hardly knew what to say. Tom was such a supremely well-spoken and soft-spoken man, beyond inspirational. He was so enthused and encouraging about our upcoming LGBTQ+ sports festival in Seattle slated for July 1987, totally inspired by Gay Games.

Dr. Waddell and I had our lunch on Feb. 26, 1987. He was already clearly suffering and frail at the time. I wondered how long Tom would live. People were beginning to die left and right as the AIDS pandemic asserted itself strongly, a very frightening time. Without knowing if it could ever happen, I invited Dr. Waddell to come to our first sports festival as a special guest of honor and speaker. But less than five months later on July 11, 1987, Dr. Waddell passed away at age 49, with his last words being, “Well, this ought to be interesting,” according to his wife and fellow Gay Games leader Sara Waddell Lewinstein.

It was terrible to lose the visionary and inspiring founder of Gay Games. But Tom and his fellow members of San Francisco Arts and Athletics had permanently set in motion a movement destined to sweep the global LGBTQ+ world, and really transform what it could mean to live as an empowered member of one of the world’s most historically marginalized groups.


Gay Games founder Paul Mart receiving the Tom Waddell Award at Gay Games III in 1990

Instead of Dr. Tom Waddell showing up at our first Northwest Gay/Lesbian Sports Festival in 1987, another legendary board member of San Francisco Arts and Athletics arrived as our guest of honor instead, the irascible, cowboy-hat wearing Paul Mart. At the conclusion of our 3-day sports festival, we hosted a big closing ceremonies dinner with about 700 athletes attending, and I’ll never forget when Paul Mart presented us with a beautiful, original “Gay Olympic Games” poster, banned by the U.S. Olympic Committee (in fact all such posters were ordered destroyed, but just a few somehow managed to survive, and now, Paul Mart had just presented us with one, with the blessings of by-then-deceased Tom Waddell).

Swimming had again become the deep keel that was keeping my ship upright in a heavy seas. And I wasn’t the only one—by now I knew that many in our LGBTQ+ community were joining swim teams, and all kinds of other new teams all over the world partly in response to the inspiration of Gay Games. As the crushing weight of the AIDS pandemic continued to build, we were all trying to survive and thrive in a scary time. In a sense, we were all “swimming for our lives,” connecting to community, support and strength through sport (and culture, too).

The following summer, Team Seattle hosted the 2nd edition of the Northwest Gay/Lesbian Sports festival, and introduced such sports as fencing and croquet (the latter making it into the roster of Gay Games III sports in Vancouver 1990). Participation grew to more than 1,700 athletes from all over the U.S., Canada, and further afield.

Wisely, in about 1987, Vancouver Arts and Athletics, the organizers of Gay Games III, started inviting known LGBTQ+ sport and cultural leaders from all over North America including some from Europe, to visit Vancouver for intensive 3-day planning conferences to help Vancouver plan the best possible Gay Games III. I was among the delegation from Seattle, joined by fellow Team Seattle board members Margaret Hedgecock and Betty Whitaker.

At these Gay Games III planning conferences I met other like-minded LGBTQ+ sport leaders including some very talented and strong women: Peg Grey from Team Chicago, and Susan Kennedy from Team San Francisco. I was really enjoying getting to know women—women I grew to admire and like very much. This was all fostered by my involvement with Gay Games and our nascent international LGBTQ+ sport and cultural movement. For the sake of continuity and “lessons learned,” key members of the San Francisco Arts and Athletics board also attended these Vancouver planning sessions including Sara Waddell Lewinstein, Paul Mart, attorney Larry Sheehan, and Gay Games II executive director Shawn Kelly.

To see video of Executive Director Shawn Kelly speaking at the Closing Ceremony, click HERE

One day in early 1989 I got an unexpected phone call from Larry Sheehan, co-president of San Francisco Arts and Athletics, the organization Dr. Waddell had founded to produce Gay Games I and II. SFAA was about to rename itself the Federation of Gay Games to make it clear Gay Games didn’t belong to San Francisco, but rather to the world. SFAA planned to expand its board of directors beyond just San Francisco and Bay Area members. These actions would occur at a special SFAA board meeting which Larry proposed to hold in Seattle in early July, 1989.


Rick Peterson, FGG Co-President

He told me that he and other members of the continuing SFAA board of directors would attend  including SFAA co-president Rikki Streicher, along with key leaders from Vancouver 1990 including Richard Dopson, and a small group of LGBTQ+ sport leaders involved in Vancouver’s Gay Games III planning sessions. Larry told me I was invited, along with fellow Team Seattle leaders Betty Whitaker and Margaret Hedgecock. He asked if I’d help find a good venue for the meeting (I said “yes”), and then he dropped the bombshell:

“We want to nominate you to be co-president of the Federation of Gay Games."


FGG leadership at Gay Games IV. L to R: Brent Nicholson Earle, Rikki Streicher, Sara Waddell Lewinstein, Susan Kennedy, Rick Peterson

That began a dramatic new chapter in my Gay Games adventures. Including, during the five years I served as FGG co-president, the thrill of seeing Gay Games grow from 3,500 participants at Gay Games II in San Francisco in 1986, to 7,500 participants at Gay Games III in Vancouver in 1990, to 11,500 participants in 1994 at Gay Games IV in New York City. And along the way, breaking barriers and celebrating the development of sport and culture groups— creating exciting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ athletes and artists worldwide to participate, be included, and reach for personal bests.

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Post 7 of 40 - 3 August - Building Blocks, Origin Stories, and Growing Pains

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 05 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Following Gay Games II, more of the teams in the various sport disciplines began to create their own networks as more and more sports teams took the courage to be out and proud. It was also a time to transition from having the original host organization produce the event, to figuring out a way to select the next host city through an open bid process. But in order to do so, an international governing body would need to be created to steward the quadrennial event.

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BRENT NICHOLSON EARLE: I was not in on the ground floor of the Gay Games movement. In 1985, I decided to run around the entire US to bring attention to the AIDS crisis, a project that became the American Run for the End of AIDS. I had no track record as a marathon runner and needed some prominent people in the LGBT movement and AIDS organizations behind me. I reached out to GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) but they were too busy trying to keep people alive. Everywhere I tried, I came up dry.

I asked other runners how I could possibly train for a 9,000 mile plus run. The advice I got was to train to run marathons and just keep doing them. That year I did five marathons, one of which was the San Francisco marathon. I had a 30-day Greyhound bus pass, which got me to the west coast. I knew I needed Tom Waddell’s endorsement but hadn’t met him yet.

Tom agreed to meet at his office at San Francisco General Hospital. I had prepared a packet of information but he didn’t look at anything. He didn’t even question me. He just said, “This is fantastic!” and invited me to a kickoff party for Gay Games II in his home that weekend. That afternoon I met a lot of the people who would become beloved friends and colleagues on the Federation of Gay Games.

    
Brent Nicholson Earle and the American Run for the end of AIDS

The American Run for the End of AIDS went from March 1,1986 to October 31,1987 with Gay Games II in the middle of August 1986. I took a detour out of Billings, Montana to run the marathon in the Gay Games in San Francisco.

Tom had been very sick. He came down with pneumocystis right before the Opening Ceremony and got out of the hospital just in time to throw the javelin and win the gold medal. He was still really shaky as he spoke at Closing Ceremony and urged everyone to come out.

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(L) Article about Joanie Evans; (C) Joanie's winning Hackney FC team (Joanie in back row at left): Joanie's medal winning team at GGVI, Sydney 2002

JOANIE EVANS: I was lucky enough to join Hackney Women’s FC, at the same time I came out in 1987. They were already an established team that was predominantly lesbian, they weren’t playing as an ‘out’ team. Due to loads of discrimination around our sexuality from our opposition, their fans and the league, the team held a meeting which subsequently led to us being the 1st ‘Out’ team in Europe… we were pipped to title of the first team in the world, by a few months, by the Flying Bats in Australia.

Playing with this bunch of diverse women, made me feel part of a wider community. In the beginning the team had no real skill, but as a unit we felt we could conquer anything. We played in the third tier of the Greater London League and before we came out we found it difficult to find players, but after me and the team were featured on national TV, our membership grew beyond proportion, with the amount of lesbians that wanted to play for us. Today the team has been going strong for more than 30 yrs and they have 3 teams playing regularly.

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The first Pink Flamingo show - Gay Games III, Vancouver 1990

CHARLIE CARSON: Pink Flamingo

The Pink Flamingo aquatics show – it’s a Gay Games event never envisioned by the 1982 founders, that’s for sure! But now, after three decades, it is a solid tradition – not to mention hilariously fun and hotly contested. In the latest edition, a packed house at Gay Games 10: Paris 2018 saw London’s Out to Swim team take first place.

During the Gay Games’ early years, cross-dressing was enough to be a star on a pool deck in keeping with the LGBTQ+ community’s long history of gender bending transgression. And at the first two Gay Games that’s all it was – a man in a woman’s swimsuit at the swimmer’s party in 1982; a male relay team similarly attired upstaging the other medalists on the awards stand in 1986.

Also in 1986, Vancouver’s English Bay Swim Team added a pink flamingo element at a meet with their Seattle Orca friends. Organizers were inspired to create an exhibition relay race by a Vancouver TV commercial for a home insulation company showing a yard full of pink lawn flamingos. In a 1994 interview before Gay Games IV, English Bay’s John Whistler said, “We wanted to have a fun event to take a little of the competitive edge off.” The only rule was that the swimmers hd to carry the flamingo and hand it off to the next member of the relay team. How each team carried the bird was up to them.

At the first International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) Championships in early 1987, New York swimmers came out before a relay dressed as Lady Liberty – and this time swimming in their lycra gowns in the race itself (never mind that they weren’t even competitive; the fun was the point).

The pink flamingo batons next became a tradition at Seattle’s Northwest Gay & Lesbian Sports Festival beginning that July 1987. Picking up a cue from New York a few months earlier, the teams came out from the locker rooms in various costumes, not all cross-dressed. By this point, the event was called the Pink Flamingo Relay.

When Vancouver hosted IGLA’s 1989 Championships, the hosts made the lawn flamingos into hats with pink ribbons to tie them onto the swimmers’ heads. Costumes were now entrenched as part of the program.

For Vancouver’s Gay Games III, the parade of costumed relay teams was the longest yet, with superheroes, fish and lobsters, mermen, Madonna look-alikes, Carmen Mirandas, and more. But New York upped the ante dramatically, with 40 – not four – 40 identical outfits based on Marlo Thomas’ character in the 1960s sitcom, “That Girl.” Marlos came out not only on the pool deck but down through the spectator stands, and before long some were going off the 10-meter diving tower.

Before the relay race itself, 20 Marlos lined up on each pool end to support their swimming relay teammates and, without advance planning, suddenly hopped into the water, bopping up and down to meet in the middle (and… never mind that they weren’t competitive; the fun was the point). At other sports venues all over town the next day, people asked, “Did you hear what happened at the pool last night?!”

        
Various Pink Flamingo events at the Gay Games

By 1994 at New York’s Gay Games IV, the costumes weren’t enough – the teams began creating three-to-four-minute skits. And Team New York Aquatics established the rule that the host team would not compete because home advantage meant far more participants would be possible than likely for the traveling teams.

The relay portion – exchanging pink flamingo hats or water bottles or something else – was dropped over the next several years, with the event settling into its current state of skits only. Sydney’s 2002 Gay Games VI had the largest number of teams ever participate – sixteen.


Pink Flamingo, Gay Games VI, Sydney 2002

Local host capacity sometimes limits the number of non-aquatics Gay Games or IGLA participants to the Pink Flamingo, so reserve your place early when tickets are available at future Games.

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Post 8 of 40 - 4 August - Gay Games III

4 - 11 August, 1990; 8,800 participants; Vancouver, BC Canada

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Doug Litwin and the Festival Band on stage at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver

DOUG LITWIN: Gay Games III was the most amazing week of my life. We OWNED that city. Everywhere you went in town there was visible evidence of the Gay Games. I was happily super busy that week, participating in multiple band events, the bowling tournament, and the racquetball tournament where I won my first medals (a gold and a silver). I enjoyed all of this with my loving partner and the week was pure magic. I also attended the annual meetings of the Lesbian and Gay Bands of America, representing my Band and getting elected to their Board for the first time (I served 20 years on that Board, including 4 years as President).

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Gay Games III Opening Ceremony, BC Place, Vancouver. Photo: Erik Graff

JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: My first memory of the Games was in Vancouver, on stage as a child with my mom before I ran off for hugs from people I recognized in the front row.

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JAMES HAHN: Gay Games III in Vancouver was the toughest bowling competition, before or since. This was the first games held outside the United States. It was also the first games to use a five-game set instead of the usual three, and scores were cumulative. The qualifying rounds consisted of 15 games instead of the usual 9. It was very tough and not only did you have to be good, you had to be consistently good The gold medal in men's singles went to good friend Kevin Schwabe from San Francisco who averaged better than 215 over what seemed like a zillion games.

That Gay Games the Canadian Comedienne, Robin Tyler, who told two jokes during the Closing Ceremony that I remember to this day., one being “Do you know what drag is? It's when a gay man wears everything a lesbian won’t.”

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Brent Nicholson Earle at Gay Games III Opening Ceremony

BRENT NICHOLSON EARLE: Gay Games III : Vancouver 1990 was the first time the Gay Games were going to be taking place outside of San Francisco. I thought we should have our own torch run, but a torch wasn’t the right symbol, because we had been sued by the United States Olympic Committee over our original name: The Gay Olympic Games. The idea came to me to create a relay in which we would pass the rainbow flag. It was six months out to the games: not enough time to organize a flag relay, so I decided to just do it myself.

The plan was to do it like we had done the run around America. This was only a 1,000 mile chunk. I remember calling my Mom and asking if she would you like to go out again. Her answer was, “Of course.” We gave ourselves eight weeks to carry it into the Opening Ceremony.

The morning I ran into Vancouver, a couple hundred runners from the Gay Games from all over the world joined me. We finished at the BC Place Stadium. I ran by myself with the flag into the stadium. My Mom and my two Road Managers, Terrah Keene and Skylar Fein were on the stage waiting for me.

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Wrestlers WithOut Borders logo

GENE DERMODY: Another milestone was achieved in Vancouver 1990 Gay Games when the wrestlers met to create what would become Wrestlers WithOut Borders (WWB) to be international, facilitate the creation of LGBTQ+ clubs, and operate within the FGG as the wrestling representative. WWB was then positioned to push strongly for the "Red Book" project within the FGG directly.

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RICK PETERSON: Near the conclusion of Gay Games III, Rick Peterson and Peg Gray had the exciting duty to announce the news about where Gay Games IV would be taking place. HERE is an article about that event. To see an even more exciting video of the announcement of the host for Gay Games IV in 1994, click HERE.

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Post 9 of 40 - 5 August Mending Fences, Global Expansion, and the HIV Waiver

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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The FGG logo, subject of the 1992 meeting with the US Olympic Committee

SUSAN KENNEDY: In 1992, the FGG Executive Committee went to Colorado Springs and met with then Executive Director Harvey Schiller, and staff members, regarding some lingering issues related to the logo. At that time, it was agreed that the “three interlocking circles' were acceptable to use. Another outcome at that time, was the USOC's willingness to list the Federation and host committee in their directory, which happened for a couple of years. Within a couple of years, Dr. Schiller departed the USOC to take a job with Turner Sports. After his departure, it appears that some of the logo problems reared their head again which led to work by Toby Butterfield and the 2000 agreement and IOC letter that FGG Co-Presidents Bill Wassmer and Susan Emerson unveiled in Sydney. 

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Richard Hogan at 2016 AGA in Sydney

RICHARD HOGAN: Over the years, I have served the Federation of Gay Games as Team Sydney’s voting delegate, an FGG Individual Director, FGG Site Selection Co-Chair and FGG Male Vice President. While I am honoured to be a ‘Life Member’ of both Team Sydney and the Federation of Gay Games, I am most proud of having received an ‘Order of Australia Medal’ for service to Sport Administration. 

I first became involved in the Gay Games movement as a way to grieve the loss of my first partner, Phil who had recently died of AIDS. I moved from the USA to join him in Sydney and we had lived there together for nine years. I received my Australian permanent residency and later Australian citizenship on the basis of our relationship. Homosexuality had only just been legalised in Australia but the community was in a very sad, angry and distressed place. Like so many others, I was losing close friends at an alarming rate and needed something to improve my emotional state of mind. 

I had read about the Gay Games in the local gay newspaper and was aware of a strong gay and lesbian sporting community but I had never participated in any of their events. I had recently become a volunteer with the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras which by that time had become the largest night time parade in the world. At a community fair I was made aware that they were partnering with Team Sydney in a bid to host Gay Games V. I immediately joined that effort and eventually became one of the Sydney bid presenters at the Federation of Gay Games’ Annual Meeting in Washington, DC in 1993. It was one of the best decisions in my life. 

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Anthony Alston at Gay Games VIII 2014 in Cologne

ANTHONY ALSTON: As I write this essay on my Federation of Gay Games (FGG) experience, I smile reflecting on the accomplishments that CHEER has made over the years and my contribution to these intertwined movements. “CHEER” refers to the cheerleaders that participate, fundraise and now compete at the Gay Games. CHEER San Francisco is the organization that I fondly call “the mothership” and has been thrilling crowds with their own unique brand of high energy performances around the world since 1980.


Hayward Raw Rahs, predecessor to CHEER SF, at Gay Games I in 1982

CHEER SF is the world’s first LGBTQ+ identified cheerleading team. Founded by Guy Andrade, the team was originally named the Hayward Raw Rahs. In 1990, the name was changed to the Bay Area Raw Rahs then in 1996 they became known as CHEER San Francisco. In 2004, CHEER SF established the CHEER For Life Foundation, an entity designed to enable and promote CHEER SF’s intent on giving back to its communities.


CHEER SF today, on steps of San Francisco City Hall

CHEER SF is an all volunteer based 501(c)3 organization with a philanthropic mission: “[To] inspire, entertain, and amaze audiences through powerful performance[s] while challenging others to be their best and supporting organizations that strengthen our communities.” CHEER SF’s beneficiaries support those living with life challenging conditions including HIV/AIDS and breast cancer.

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Laura Moore (left) skating with her same-sex partner,, Gay Games IV, NYC 1994

LAURA MOORE: I first heard of the Gay Games in 1991. I had recently left my husband, bought a pair of figure skates and come out. It was all part of my grand plan to accept myself for who I was and to begin to get healthy, both physically and mentally. At the first NYC Pride March that I attended as an out lesbian and beginning figure skater, I was thrilled to see a few members of NY in ’94 sharing information about the Gay Games coming to NY.

The next week I visited a tiny volunteer office and tried to register for figure skating. I had a crazy fantasy about skating pairs with another women. A volunteer politely cut me off, explaining that the event would be in the summer. She also let me know that softball was popular with lesbians. I had avoided gym class as a child, not realizing until decades later that I might have actually met another lesbian if I had been interested in playing outside.

My interests in vintage dresses, antiques, and hosting dinner parties turned out to be more aligned with those of the gay male friends I was beginning to make in skating classes. I made a coffee date with Arthur Luiz. We decided to try to convince the organizers that people would pay money to see gay men in sparkles and spandex partnering each other on the ice. I only knew one other out lesbian figure skater at the time. That day, Arthur and I founded the International Gay Figure Skating Union and reached out to every skater we knew, looking to find a few out skaters.

Activist Ann Northrop, was on the NY in ’94 board and lived in my Chelsea apartment building. She loved the idea when I pitched it to her, and challenged me to prove it.

So, Arthur and I put on the first ever queer figure skating show (Pride Skate) in 1991. I financed it. We flew in a few skaters, sold tickets and invited Ann in her rental skates to join us on the ice for the big announcement.


Figure Skaters Trevor Kruse and Darren Singbiel of Toronto at Games IV figure skaters protesting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the U.S. military

The next thing we knew, Arthur and I were put in charge of running figure skating for Gay Games IV. It was a simpler time in the figure skating world. We wrote our own rules for the competition and easily received permission from the US and Canadian governing bodies for their skaters and judges to participate.

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Susan Kennedy (second from right), FGG Co-President, Gay Games IV, NYC 1994

SUSAN KENNEDY: Gay Games IV: New York City 1994 raised the profile of the Games significantly, and as home to some of the leading AIDS activists and organizations, there was significant interest in mounting an effort to obtain what was known as a “10-day blanket waiver” that would allow individuals who were HIV positive / living with AIDS to enter the United States to participate in the Games. Under normal circumstances at that time, the United States barred nonresidents with HIV from entering the country.

Entry forms asked pointed questions about one’s HIV status, which would be used to deny entry. While many individuals chose to simply lie on their forms, there was concern that those traveling with medications, etc. would be subjected to discrimination and denied entry. The blanket waiver made it possible for participants to not declare their HIV status if they were entering the U.S. as a participant in Gay Games IV.

The Federation took the lead role with the U.S Government in this process. Co-President Rick Peterson and I began researching and reaching out to individuals within the various departments that would be involved in the decision making. Over time, we had established contact with representatives in the State Department, Health and Human Services, and Immigration and Naturalization Services. Fortunately, we were in the early years of the Clinton administration and while many staff members were federal employees who simply worked within a department through numerous administrations, we were fortunate to have high-ranking officials who were more receptive to our request than others might have been.

At the time, a “blanket waiver” had only been issued once and that was for the 1990 International AIDS Conference in San Francisco. Our job was to make the case that the Gay Games was an event that empowered people and provided the opportunity to participate in a positive event. We also discussed the fact that the Gay Games provided an opportunity to educate people about those living with HIV.

In the fall of 1993, when the Federation held its annual meeting in Washington D.C., Rick and I had the opportunity to meet with members of various departments face to face to make the case for the Gay Games. While those meetings were very positive, we still needed to continue our efforts. Finally, in March of 1994, the announcement was made by Attorney General, Janet Reno that the waiver and been granted.

I happened to be in D.C. at the time, having been invited to speak at a briefing of Regional INS Directors about the Gay Games. Since 1994 was also a World Cup year, INS realized that they were going to have thousands of people entering the country for both events. This briefing not only covered preparations for the World Cup; it also provided an opportunity for the directors to learn about the Gay Games and its. Also included in their two-day conference was INS Waiver Procedures and Sensitivity issues as well as cultural sensitivity overall.

The blanket waiver drew considerable attention, not all of it positive, but a TV appearance on the Larry King Live TV show, by Brent Nicholson Earle and I provided an opportunity to discuss the waiver and the positive aspects of the Gay Games.

Obtaining the waiver for Gay Games IV likely made the process to obtain the waiver for Gay Games VII in Chicago a much easier task and from my personal perspective continues to reinforce the fact that “Gay Games Change the World.” There’s no doubt it has made a difference.

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Post 10 of 40 - 6 August Gay Games IV

18 - 25 June, 1994; 15,000 participants; New York City, NY USA

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Joanie Evans with her teammates, GGIV Opening Ceremony, NYC 1994. Photo: Sara Feinsmith (L); Bill Strubbe (R)

JOANIE EVANS: When Hackney Women’s Football Club participated in Gay Games IV: New York 1994 that’s when I saw how global and diverse sport was and it felt like heaven. We had participated thinking we were the only team representing the UK, only to find other likeminded people who have now become good friends.  Four of us from the team participated in the Gay Games Choir, which is an experience I will never forget.  It was hard getting to rehearsals with our football schedule, but it was worth it to be included in this part of the opening ceremony and getting our picture in the Unity ’94 book, page 4!

This first Gay Games for me ignited something that wanted me to want to share my experiences to inspire others to take up a sport and connect them with the Gay Games and other LGBTQ+ events happening locally and globally.

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(L) Jim Ballard poolside 1980s; (R) today from Light In The Water, courtesy Lis Bartlett

JAMES T. BALLARD: Positive Swimming

In 1994, the one thing I knew was, if I was swimming, I was still in the race.  The virus hadn’t won yet.  That was my mantra.  Swimming was living.

The hardest part of that reality was looking forward.  I was a sprinter, and I was facing the long haul of pills, blood pulls, reactions, and opportunistic infections.  I wondered how long I had.  The question then was when?  How much time did I have before I hit the hard decline?

I was built to go fast for short periods of time, not battle distance.  I learned that every time I stepped on the blocks.  I was inconsistent on anything over a 100.  I would occasionally keep it together for a 200, but that was it.  I couldn’t see into the endless miles with the horizon constantly moving away like the setting sun.  That was another mindset, a different skill set, and that was what I desperately needed.  I didn’t know the way forward and I was always asking myself, what if I am making the wrong choice?  That was the fog as the words of a friend had come to haunt me, “I thought I would have more time.”

I had found over the prior year that the medications were incompatible with the practice of law and my new career was survival.  That meant staying in the water.  I was still equal there.  All I had to do was stay healthy enough to respond to the next set of meds and the next to stay in the race.  No one believed a cure was in site. 

I had to cut to the chase and compress.  I developed a three-year plan to make my world more manageable.  If it couldn’t happen in three years, it didn’t exist.  My life was now fully measured by what the virus could do with my numbers in that time, and I was just coming through a case of hepatitis as I entered 1994. 


Jim Ballard in the starting blocks, Gay Games IV, NYC 1994, from Light In The Water, courtesy Lis Bartlett

I wasn’t thinking about how fast I would go in New York.  I simply wanted to feel the love and joy of Gay Games IV and I started to train.  It started ugly and my body responded slowly, but I still loved to swim.  I was going to swim and celebrate being alive.  The time on the scoreboard didn’t matter.  I would be alive, and I would share all that joy with a community alive.  I would be there.  That I could see.

  
Jim Ballard as featured in Sports Illustrated "Faces In The Crowd" 12 September 1994
To see a very cool video of this magazine feature, click HERE

Months after the New York Gay Games and my Masters world record in the 100-meter backstroke was in the books, Sports Illustrated reported on my achievement in a short paragraph in Faces in the Crowd.  I was the Gay Games mention.  That was a step forward, but it did not include the most distinguishing factor with this swim, the reason I was profiled.  It did not mention I was HIV positive.  That was too much for the editorial board, but it was the start of a conversation, another beginning. 

Now, I still love to swim, and I am still having that conversation.

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DOUG LITWIN: 1994 was another amazing experience in the Big Apple of NYC. I’ll never forget the afternoon I arrived in town. In addition to all the midtown madness of Manhattan, that was also the day when O. J. Simpson led the police on a freeway chase in Los Angeles. Watching that drama unfold on live TV as the Gay Games were getting set to begin was surreal!


The giant marquee at Madison Square Garden advertises the Massed Band performance

Gay Games IV was another busy week for me. I performed in numerous band events, highlighted by a huge concert at Madison Square Garden (elsewhere in the building, Barbra Streisand was performing the same night!) and the Closing Ceremony in historic Yankee Stadium. As a lifelong baseball fan, being on the field where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and other hall of famers played baseball was an experience only exceeded in 2006 when I played with the band at Wrigley Field, an equally historic baseball palace in my hometown of Chicago.

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Australians at Gay Games IV Opening Ceremony, NYC 1994

RICHARD HOGAN: My first Gay Games was in New York City in 1994 and it was a wonderful experience. Remembering the thrill of marching into the Opening Ceremony still gives me goosebumps! I coordinated the Australian uniforms and was extremely satisfied the next day when a large photo of Team Sydney athletes appeared on the front page of the New York Times - Metro Section. Another highlight of the week was a reception for lesbian and gay Aussie athletes held by the Australian Consulate General. Since New York in 1994, government receptions have become a tradition for Aussie athletes and artists travelling overseas for Gay Games.

Gay Games IV was also very special because my new partner, Grant and I participated in the Flag Football competition. We didn’t win a game but we could not have been more excited than when Grant caught the only successful pass during all of our games. 

The Gay Games were held in New York City during the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riot and on the last day thousands of us marched past the United Nations building. The sight of a mile long rainbow flag going through midtown Manhattan, surrounded by NYC skyscrapers was breathtaking! One amazing moment I captured on video was when a solo protester stood on the sidewalk holding a sign which said “God hates fags”. One guy ahead of me pointed to the protester and shouted “SHAME".  Before long thousands of us were pointing and shouting “shame” until the police escorted the protester away, followed by huge cheers! It was magical. The Gay Games IV motto, ‘Unity’ was fulfilled. 

Attending Gay Games events, as well as general site-seeing made our week in NYC go far too quickly. Fortunately, Grant and I continued to travel around the USA and he met my family in Louisiana for the first time. By the way, Grant and I just celebrated our 29th anniversary. 

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(L) Gay Games IV, NYC 1994; (R) Jessica (center) with Brent Nicholson Earle and mom Sara. Photo: Ann Meredith

JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: In New York, I remember rollerblading with the rainbow run; watching a video of my dad at the Opening Ceremony; speaking in front of 10,000 people; and meeting Cindy Lauper in the bathroom at Yankee Stadium before she performed “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

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Brent Nicholson Earle at Gay Games IV, NYC 1994. Photo: Ann Meredith

BRENT NICHOLSON EARLE: With GG IV coming to NY, my friend Roddy Shaul (who I had worked together with at the Federation ever since I met him when he was the president of the Los Angeles Sports Alliance), asked me if I was going to run again with the flag from San Francisco to New York.

By then, I had serious spinal problems and happened to meet the actor Anthony Rapp who I wanted to get involved in the fight against AIDS. We met at the Paramount Hotel; he walked in with a pair of rollerblades over his shoulder and asked about creating a blading event in Central Park. I called Roddy right away and told him we were not going to run across the country. We were going to create a rainbow team of rollerbladers, and I asked Roddy to join us, even though neither he nor I had any experience at rollerblading. Tom and Sarah’s daughter, Jessica was then 11 and a rollerblader. She did the kickoff with us. We had a team of 7. Only three were serious rollerbladers. Two others were pretty good. Then there was Roddy and me. We were black, white and Asian; male and female.

There has been a rainbow flag carried into the Opening Ceremony for every Games since. Each host decides how it will enter the ceremony. Leading up to each Games there is a symbolic run in each of the prior host cities. This series of events is known as the International Rainbow Memorial Run.

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Gay Games IV Figure Skaters (left photo); Laura Moore at left in right photo (photo: Ann Meredith)

JAMES HAHN: In 1994, the Gay Games headed to New York and to a new level of organization. The two things I remember about that were that this was the first games to have professional figure skating judges and also the first games to offer that sport. The figure skating competition was phenomenal. The first performance I saw was a gentleman who came out and skated the first part of his routine dressed in a yellow rain slicker with matching hat and an umbrella. The music was “Singing in the Rain.” It was a nice, low speed routine. Suddenly he stops, loses the umbrella, sheds the slicker, and tosses off the hat to reveal a bright electric blue jumpsuit as the music changes to “It’s Raining Men” as he gave a very energetic second half of his performance.

The “Night of Champions” figure skating exhibition featured a number of surprises. First, the emcee, Olympic figure skater Randy Gardner, enthusiastically announced that she was pregnant.

The next was a couple of skaters who had never met before the games. An ice dancer from Canada, whose partner had fallen ill, had come to New York at the insistence of his partner who asked him to find someone to skate with. Some other skater's coach said that he would skate with him. They borrowed some outfits from a lesbian pair (the only matching ones they could find that fit). The Canadian taught the coach the routine and the pair went on to win the gold medal. When the story was told as the couple were skating, you could feel the emotion in the building reminding everyone what the Gay Games were all about.

The last surprise was one Laura Moore, the organizer of the skating events, feared. She knew that the woman who won her division in singles came out on the ice wearing a skirt and a scarf and nothing else (yes, no top!). She came out and did her routine and near the end of it, she intentionally did a face plant on the ice and slid for about 20 feet or so. You could hear every woman in the building gasp for air and clutch their chest.

New York's Gay Games held the best Closing Ceremony of the Gay Games before or since. As the athletes marched into (now) “old” Yankee Stadium, we were greeted by Harvey Fierstein, who repeatedly asked the participants “Where you from?” in his distinctive gravelly voice. The female comedienne who was with him took the response from there. A moment or two later, we heard “Where you from?” again. Later in the evening, Jay Hill, the NY Games president, the first paid position ever for the Gay Games, announced the feedback he had heard from the paid judges. They were so amazed by the camaraderie and caring by the participants for the other participants, they offered to come back to the next Games and judge them for free. Again, the principle of the Gay Games, to do your personal best, shone through. Any and all encouragement welcome! He also announced that there was a possibility of a special guest later on, but did not elaborate.

Near the end of the evening, which included Cindy Lauper doing a version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” with 20+ drag queens backing her up, I noticed the wall in right field open up and a golf cart come through. A very astute technician ran a microphone over to the cart and our special guest introduced herself. She got to the main stage and Patti LaBelle treated us to the most beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” I've ever heard.

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Laura Moore (left), skating at Gay Games IV, NYC 1994. Photo: Chuck Smith

LAURA MOORE: Nine months before Gay Games IV: New York 1994, I had two very bad weeks. My skating partner let me know that she wanted to focus on her solo skating and wouldn’t skate with me in the games. My girlfriend of the previous 2 ½ years dumped me and I had abdominal surgery. Gingerly back on the ice weeks before my doctor OK’d me to skate. I placed an ad in a skating magazine for a partner.

I auditioned Linda Carney at 5 am at the old SkyRink on the 16th floor of a midtown NYC office building. She was not much more than a beginner but she was enthusiastic and my coach took us on as a pair team.

Everything about figure skating’s debut in the Gay Games was beyond my wildest dreams. I was thrilled to be impacting a sport that I never thought I could even be a part of. Never before had there been a figure skating competition that welcomed men skating with men and women with women. The creativity in costuming was phenomenal. Skaters and spectators alike braved the long subway ride to Coney Island to be a part of history.

There are iconic images from that week, as well as stories that have been largely untold.

One of the most glorious ice dance performances in GG IV was completely unplanned. Stephane Vachon of Edmonton, Alberta arrived in NY without his partner, who was unwell. He was a very accomplished ice dancer. I was in the arena for ice dance practice and grabbed the mic to ask if there was anyone who could fill in. Charles Sinek was there as the coach of two women who were beginning ice dancers. He was qualified but hadn’t brought his skates. My second ask on the mic resulted in Wade Corbett loaning his freestyle skates (different than ice dance skates) to Charlie. The men did an amazing practice and competed in black tights with the women’s black and gold blouses, looking positively Olympic.


Trevor Kruse and Darren Singbiel of Toronto in skating protest against “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell."

Trevor Kruse and Darren Singbiel of Toronto brought down the house with their beautifully skated emotional response to Bill Clinton’s disappointing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy about gays in the military.

Mark Hurd and J P Martin of Montreal stunned with overhead lifts in costumes that looked like they had tattooed their entire bodies. They had been thrown out of their rink for practicing together.

Lisa Clinton performed topless in the Exhibition. I still laugh at people’s reactions. Many men in the audience were stunned. I knew Lisa and was actually not surprised. It was a time when the only advertisers in gay magazines and cable tv shows were men’s underwear and men’s phone sex lines, Lesbians had to be subjected to men’s bodies all the time if we wanted to be up on the news. Gay men didn’t seem to think of women as sexual beings. Many of the same men who delighted in former US National competitor, Wynn Miller, skating to “Spartacus” in a bit of leather with obvious piercings, reacted quite differently to Lisa baring her breasts.

My solo program in a rainbow unitard glittering with crystal was skated to Barbra Streisand singing “I Can Do It”. It reflected everything about my life at that moment. The costume was a labor of love that took over 6 months of hand beading. Years later I presented it to Rose Mary Mitchell for the Gay Games Archives in the San Francisco Library.

The pairs number I skated with Linda to Doris Day’s “Secret Love” had exactly the impact that I intended when I proposed the music, However, the magnitude of that impact exceeded my wildest expectations. A photo of the choreographed kiss at the end of our program was blasted by the AP to newspapers all over the world.

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Post 11 of 40 - 7 August The Big Event, Games Change The World, Scholarships

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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FGG website home page, February 2000

GENE DERMODY: The decade 1992 through 2002 was the most productive for the FGG because of the accomplishments of the Sports Committee under the direction Of Teresa Galetti. It was an honor to serve with her for a time on that committee as her co-chair, with members Rick Van Tassell, Allen Wood, Laura Moore, et al. Armed with the “Red Book,” this Sports Committee team could efficiently modify Sport Rules, add a sport, monitor a host’s progress, do research on sensitive topics, and make recommendations to the FGG Board.

One of the key factors that contributed to this explosion of FGG productivity was Technology. Most FGG people were either computer illiterates or using incompatible software that did not support SHARING of documents very well. Email was not readily available, and the FGG operated with Snail Mail and paper. Even teleconference calls were a financial and technical barrier. As the de-facto Officer of Technology, I pushed through IT standards for documents and communication. Just before NYC 1994, I brought on wrestler Erich Richter, an award-winning web professional, to build out the FGG’s first website and internal communications. It included one of the first interactive on-line Discussion Boards, “The IntraNets” for fostering real time discussions by topic. It was wild and unmoderated, but it allowed for the searchable documentation legally required for what led to FGG Policy changes.

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Gay Games VI banners in Sydney, 2002

RICHARD HOGAN: After our unsuccessful bid to host Gay Games V in Sydney, a few of us on the bid team set out a strategy to win the right to host Gay Games VI. As many people reading this would know, it is a long journey from considering a bid to host a Gay Games to successfully delivering the event. Sydney’s 2002 Gay Games, while not without difficult issues, will remain in my mind as the most special Gay Games.

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Scholarship recipients at Gay Games VII, Chicago in 2006

JEFFRY PIKE: In 1995, when Roy M. Coe’s family and the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) reached an agreement about the transfer of the Coe Scholarship funds, I learned that Roy identified me, to be the Federation of Gay Games Director of the fund, and his brother, Jerome Coe, to represent the Coe family. This honor soothed my feelings of loss for my friend; it also pushed me to truly see the world beyond my local community and to grasp the complexities of comparing needs across different countries, continents, genders, cultures, and underrepresented demographics (Roy always had a knack for pushing me out of my comfort zone).

The first distribution from the Coe Scholarship Fund went to Leonie van Bommel, who had been the administrator of the Outreach Program for Gay Games V - Amsterdam (1998). The scholarship made it possible for van Bommel to travel to an FGG annual meeting to talk about Amsterdam’s process for awarding scholarships.

In the spirit of Roy’s interviewing participants for his book, I began the practice of interviewing as many recipients of the Scholarship as possible, and attending their Gay Games event. Coincidently to Roy, Leonie started her connection with the Gay Games when she “walked into the Gay Games office to volunteer.” She was asked to be the administrator for the Outreach Program. Her response was “Yes, I’d love to.”

In addition to talking about the challenges of establishing criteria for making tough decisions, Leonie noted that some of her greatest memories of the Games occurred when outreach recipients came to the Friendship Village to check in.

“Having done so much work communicating with outreach participants, seeing names go by on a [computer] screen, on applications, on letters, after the intense work to make all the arrangements, to [then] put a face to the name gave me warm feelings – and to feel in return the warmth, happy faces, enthusiasm, they were glad to be at the [Games].”

— Leonie van Bommell, Outreach Program, Gay Games V - Amsterdam (1998)

To see a 2017 promotional video about the FGG Scholarship Program, click HERE.

To see a 2006 video about the Scholarship Program at Gay Games VII, click HERE.


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Memorial Moment, 2016 Annual Meeting, Sydney AU
To see a video of the 2016 Memorial Moment, click HERE

BRENT NICHOLSON EARLE: At GGIV: New York 1994, I remember getting my participant’s packet and being horrified by the lack of AIDS information in it. Not even a condom. I realized it was up to the Federation to take the mantle on AIDS information. At the next FGG annual meeting we created a Wellness Task Force. By 1996 we had lost a lot of people to AIDS and to breast cancer. The task force focused not just on spreading information, but also about paying tribute to those we’ve lost.

We began holding a Memorial Moment at each FGG annual meeting, beginning in 1997 in Denver. Initially it was a simple quilt unfolding with a reading of the names of people we had lost. People could leave written memorials on the quilt.

The Memorial Moments are now treasured parts of the Gay Games as well as FGG meetings. They have beautifully incorporated music and local customs.

See a video of the 2020 virtual Memorial Moment by clicking HERE.

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Post 12 of 40 - 8 August Gay Games V

1 - 8 August, 1998; 14,500 participants; Amsterdam, The Netherlands

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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(L) Jessica (left) and mom (Sara Waddell Lewinstein) in Amsterdam; (R) Sara and her softball teammates receiving their Gold Medals

JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: In Amsterdam, I remember hanging out at the softball fields cheering on my mom’s team as they went for the gold. I remember standing on stage in front of thousands of people with my mom. I was only 13, but I remember basking in the energy of the crowd. It was beautiful. There were so many people, so many faces, so many cultures, so many cities and countries represented. I felt like I was swimming in love.

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Festive flags appeared across Amsterdam in a spirit of "Friendship." Photo: Paul Finneseth; Panteres Grogues banner

JOAN MIRÓ: I’m Joan Miró, founder and first president of the LGTBIQ+ sport club in Barcelona, Panteres Grogues.

Gay Games V: Amsterdam 1998 was my first experience in a large scale tournament and it was definitely a life-changing experience at all levels, personally, and as an activist for LGTBIQ+ rights. At that time, our club had already started some sporting activities, but it was not officially founded. Nevertheless 3 members of our soccer team were able to attend the event.

The whole city of Amsterdam showed a passion for what was going on during those magical days in August. All main squares in downtown had a stage where locals and Gay Games participants got together every night to celebrate diversity, inclusion, culture and sports.

Being at Gay Games V in Amsterdam allowed us to make contacts with people; share experiences, learn and network with more experienced people. It empowered our small group to go further, and we officially founded the club just 2 years later.

But it was not just that, since it has impacted the future of the club in so many ways that no one could have expected then.

Living the amazing atmosphere that we all felt during those days made us think that we wanted to host an LGTBIQ+ sports festival in Barcelona. That was the reason why in 2005 we bid for EuroGames Barcelona 2008, the first time that a large scale LGTBIQ+ sporting event took place in Southern Europe and in a spanish speaking country.

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Richard Hogan (left of center in sunglasses) aboard the FGG boat in the Canal Pride Parade preceding the Opening Ceremony in Amsterdam

RICHARD HOGAN: The Amsterdam Gay Games were my first to attend as Team Sydney’s delegate to the FGG. Having participated in a few FGG Annual Meetings prior to Amsterdam, including one held in Sydney (which was part of our strategy to win the bid to host the 2002 Gay Games), I experienced the week in many new ways. Of course it is always nice to leave behind an Australian winter for a Gay Games during a northern hemisphere summer. The Dutch welcomed us with an enjoyable Canal Parade which I believe was the first of the now annual event. It was a lovely afternoon with many people waving from the shore as the FGG’s boat passed by. I was especially proud when we saw a plane fly overhead with a banner promoting the Sydney Gay Games set for 2002.

At the Gay Games V Opening Ceremony I was impressed by the performance of the transgender Israeli pop singer, Dana International who had earlier that year won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest. She set the tone for what would be an interesting week.

I participated in Volleyball and while we didn’t win any games, our team had a great time. Each morning before going to the Volleyball tournament I had breakfast at my hotel. The local Amsterdam newspaper was delivered under my door but unfortunately I couldn’t read it so I just enjoyed looking at the photos. First the story was about Amsterdam welcoming the world during the Opening Ceremony, all happy, happy. Then as the week went on, the headlines started looking a bit more serious so I asked the breakfast waitress to translate. Her English was not very good; all she could say was “it’s not very good.” It wasn’t long before we all knew there were serious financial issues threatening the event. Thankfully the local business leaders and others (both straight and gay) put their resources together to ensure the Amsterdam Gay Games were an enjoyable, successful, and memorable event.

During the week, I spent much time with a Dutch friend, then living in New York but who lived in Amsterdam when he was younger. After dinner one evening, Johannas and I passed by the gay bar which he frequented when he was coming out some twenty years earlier. He was surprised to see people there because the bar had been closed for many years. As we entered, we found out that the bar had reopened only for this one night to celebrate the Gay Games. It was such a special occasion as he joined a few old friends, all with stories to tell about their younger days. The bar was very small and as it was open for only one night, patrons were only allowed one drink so others could enter. As we left there was a long queue of locals excited about revisiting their old pub. For me, I will always remember that night when I see the Gay Games V motto, “Friendship.”

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Opening Ceremony Gay Games V, 1998 Amsterdam. Photo: Tom Bianchi

DEREK LIECTY: At Gay Games V: Amsterdam 1998, over seventy-five countries were represented. The Scholarship Program of which I was a Co-Chair for several years allowed individuals from under-represented countries to attend the Games and walk into a stadium with thousands gays and lesbians and finally say to themselves, “At last I know I am not alone.”

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Jim Hahn and bowling teammates in Amsterdam (center in left photo; second from right in right photo). Photos: Jim Hahn

JAMES HAHN: Gay Games V brought us out of North America for the first time. It was also my first time in Europe as well. Amsterdam certainly brought out the red carpet for thousands of participants. The opening and dosing ceremonies were masterfully produced, including a live performance by The Weather Girls!

This Games required the most travel of any Games thus far since very few venues were in Amsterdam proper. One of the bowling centers, about 45 minutes out of town, actually had a 1957 Buick Special in it. The bowling organizers got a lesson in flexibility. At the first bowling venue (of three), due to “proper attire” standards at the time, we were told that if you were wearing short pants, you would not be permitted to bowl. About 40% of us were wearing shorts. They, and nearly everyone else, threatened to walk out unless the unannounced dress code was not enforced.

Thankfully, the venue organizers had a thoughtful change of heart, and the event went on as scheduled. At the Closing Ceremony, I met a couple from Portland, Oregon. I ran into them about a week later when I traveled to Salzburg, Austria to take in the Maria Von Trapp Memorial Tour. This is where I learned an important lesson in proper attire for evenings out in Europe.

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Kate Rowe (at right) at cycling venue, Gay Games VI, 2002 Sydney

KATE ROWE: By the time of Gay Games V: Amsterdam 98, I had taken up cycle racing back in Australia and had improved. It was a wonderful Games because Amsterdam was small enough to feel we had taken over the city. Also, being in Europe gave the Games an added flavour and I won three medals. I met up with friends from previous games and made new ones.

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Figure Skating at Gay Games V, 1998 Amsterdam

LAURA MOORE: I had looked forward to skating in Amsterdam without having to do all the work. Local organizers didn’t want my input and assured me that they had a sanction from the Dutch Governing body of Figure Skating. It was the eve of my departure when I learned that the sanction only covered Dutch skaters. Skaters from anywhere else in the world could lose their ability to ever compete again if they participated.

The flight from NY to Amsterdam was full of stress. I had recently married MaryAnn Bellomo in an “illegal ceremony” presided over by Brent Nicholson Earle. I had told her that she would have an amazing time. As I checked email before leaving our apartment there were already misleading posts about what was happening. I was crying and she was extremely upset.

Our flight got us to the skaters’ welcome party just as it started. In disbelief over the rosy picture being painted of the event to come, I realized that I had to do one of the most difficult things I had ever done. I literally shouted over the organizers and broke the news to the skaters, many of them friends who had come at my urging. I told them there was no sanctioning in place that would allow them to skate without sacrificing their future competitive careers.

In 1994, I brought my sport into the Gay Games. In 1998, I shut it down. The competition was canceled and a decision made to hold “public practices” instead. Refunds were offered to all spectators even as they were encouraged to “donate” the cost of their tickets.

Rumors blaming the International Skating Union (ISU) for homophobia were rampant. While I knew that the ISU was homophobic, the basic truth was that they had not been asked for a sanction and no fees had been paid to them. No one wanted to listen to my defense of ISU.

Some of the skaters left Amsterdam immediately, travelling in Europe Instead. Those of us who stayed, practiced, and performed multiple times for as many audiences as possible. The week was a blur.

I cried a lot in Amsterdam. I ran into Kathleen Webster and Teresa Galetti in a restroom in the Friendship Village. They were on the FGG board. They listened to me sob and told me that IGFSU (International Gay Figure Skating Union) should apply for membership in the FGG, so nothing like this would ever happen again.

IGFSU became a member organization of The FGG in 1999 at the annual meeting in Berlin.

One of the skaters in Amsterdam was fellow New Yorker, Bradley Erickson. He had seen the competition in 1994 and began taking skating lessons from one of the Gay Games skaters. In our first meeting, Bradley and I discussed how things had changed in figure skating in 4 short years. The ISU had stepped in to require fees and sanctions for skating events, including made for TV ones that were new on the scene. We had no interest in working with them since same gender partnering and freedom from gender proscriptions in costuming were paramount for us.

We knew that Ice Skating Institute of America would be a perfect partner for us. As the governing body of recreational figure skating, ISIA had founding principles in line with the Gay Games, Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best. They had categories for everyone from beginners to world class skaters. They even allowed same gender partners to skate together! This rule was designed to accommodate little girls in a sport where little boys were few and far between, but Linda and I had tried out both our programs at ISIA competitions.

Bradley picked up the phone and reached out to ISIA, cutting right to the chase: We were gay and wanted to hold ISIA events with same gender partners of all ages. I sat petting his dog in his office listening to him thank them for recognizing that who we were didn’t matter!

IGFSU became an ISIA Administrative Member and worked with what is now ISI on a series of amazing Gay Games events. IGFSU/ISI were written into the FGG Sports “Red Book” as the official governing bodies for figure skating at the Gay Games.

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(L) Friendship Village; (R) GGV Mascot Maxine, Gay Games V, 1998 Amsterdam

EMY RITT: As many have written and stated, attending the Amsterdam Gay Games was a magical experience. Like most participants, especially first-timers, we were swept away by the spirit of friendship and liberty as the event took over the entire city with its more than 14,000 participants.

Of course, we, the Participants, were not aware in any way that behind the scenes, the City of Amsterdam had magnificently stepped up to provide financing and resources for GGV after it had become evident that adequate funds had not been secured by members of the organizing team, some of whom had abruptly and prematurely departed. I mention this only to stress how well GGV was executed and how supportive the City of Amsterdam was during the entire week, despite the unexpected challenges. Also, the outstanding work of the remaining members of the Amsterdam Organizing Team are to be recognized and applauded. In 2007, I had the great privilege of meeting the Gay Games V Director of Sports.

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Post 13 of 40 - 9 August - Johannesburg Annual Meeting and USOC Injunction

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *

RICHARD HOGAN: As part of my responsibilities as FGG Vice President, I acted as liaison between the FGG and the local communities hosting our Annual Meetings. I had the pleasure of working with many dedicated people from around the world as they did their best to promote the Gay Games movement. Much of our time and energy was spent on logistics for a successful meeting but also everyone wanted to present their city to the visiting delegates as a worthwhile destination. I have always been (and continue to be) an advocate for the FGG General Assembly to meet face-to-face. There is much to gain from spending time together, building relationships as we strive to produce the best Gay Games possible.

One special moment which comes to mind was in Johannesburg, South Africa during the FGG 2001 Annual Meeting. It was only a few months after the 9/11 attack on New York City. Many of us, myself included, were anxious about flying such a distance for the meeting. It was a site selection meeting for Gay Games VII so the final bid teams from Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Montreal added to the numbers. At the end of the week everyone attended a reception at one of the most famed cricket grounds in the world, The Wanderers Stadium. Not only were there rainbow colours on the solo artist singing the South African national anthem on the centre of the cricket ground, we were viewing her from the Member’s Club Room. It was amusing to see framed photographs of so many white men on the walls. We were entertained by two Johannesburg LGBT choirs, one all white and the other all black. After each group sang they joined together for what I believe was the first time. It was such a joyous occasion!

* * *


GGVI: Sydney 2002 Registration Party hosted by LA 2006, Inc. (Gay Games VII bid finalist),David Bohnett CyberCenterEd Gould Plaza, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Centermid-2001L-R: Board members Barbara, Karl Lott, Honourary Co-Chairs Morris Kight (the Father of the Los Angeles queer community) and Author-Athlete-Activist Patricia Nell Warren; and Board members Shamey Cramer, Christine Nelson and Denise Seifried.

SHAMEY CRAMER: When I contacted the FGG in April 2000 to see about submitting a bid to have Gay Games VII in Los Angeles, I had no idea what a wild ride it would be. The two individuals I had contacted to do public relations and fundraising for us decided to do their own bid. Given how poorly structured the bid documents and rules were at that time, they threatened the FGG with a lawsuit if they weren’t allowed to submit a second bid from the same city. Our bid prevailed and made it to the final round. Then, citing philosophical differences, four of our five Executive Board members resigned en masse in September 2001. One week later, the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded, shutting down all air travel, just weeks before the meeting in Johannesburg.

I remember flying into Cape Town, and looking out the window, seeing the southern coast of the African continent. In that moment, I was able to truly pinpoint my place on the planet. Regardless of the outcome of the bid, life would go on.

During the final question and answer session with all four bid finalists represented, much was made about the $100,000 check Montreal flashed as a way to say they were financially solvent. As crass as some people saw that move, it succeeded in them being selected to enter negotiations with the FGG.

I returned to Los Angeles and after a sixteen year hiatus, I once again stepped into the role of Team Los Angeles Co-chair, this time preparing nearly 700 registrants to participate in Gay Games VI: Sydney 2002.

* * *


Anthony Alston at Gay Games VIII 2010 Cologne

ANTHONY ALSTON: My thread in the CHEER SF legacy fabric begins in 2001. I was a recent transplant from my hometown Seattle, WA to Los Gatos, CA, a suburb of San Jose. In the name of love, I quit my city job as an event manager at the KeyArena and relocated with my “not long after” ex-partner to the South Bay Area. I had no friends, no job and my ex worked away from home frequently. I saw CHEER SF at San Jose Pride and was instantly wowed! I’ll never forget hearing Sanford Smith announcing that they were recruiting “bases” for their 2001-2002 season. I always wanted to be a cheerleader but I was a “band geek” and never thought of myself as “athletic”. My commute to weekly practices was brutal; up to two and half hours on the way up and an easy hour on the way back. After my first performance on the San Francisco Pride stage I was hooked! I had accomplished something greater than myself. Raising money for our community and giving it my all in the hardest two and a half minutes of my life.

Unfortunately, due to my rocky relationship with my former partner, I missed CHEER SF’s trip to GGVI: Sydney 2002. Although my relationship did not endure, I am very grateful for the Divine’s alignment to ensure my path to charitable cheerleading and ultimately to the Gay Games. The team came back energized like I had never seen before. My teammates were already planning to save for the next Gay Games which was still four years away. We stepped up our game in both performance and fundraising. It was during this time that twin teams CHEER Los Angeles and CHEER New York began to flourish. CHEER LA would join us each year for SF Pride but CHEER NY’s Pride weekend was the same as San Francisco's so we always sent them well wishes from afar. Meanwhile, new teams in Chicago, Sacramento, Edmonton (Canada) and Atlanta began forming. These were the early conversation years of forming PCA - the Pride Cheerleading Association.   

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Attorney Mary Dunlap and Tom Waddell holding a press briefing regarding the USOC injunction

1982 - USOC injunction upheld

When Tom Waddell competed in the 1968 Olympics, he spoke out in support of his Team USA teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos for their silent Black Power demonstration on the medals stand, Colonel Don Miller, the military liaison for the US Olympic team, threatened Tom Waddell, an active member of the U.S. Army, with court-martial. Five years later, Miller became Executive Director for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

In 1978, after more than a decade of lobbying by IOC President Avery Brundage, Congress passed the Amateur Sports Act. In doing so, the US Congress gave exclusive rights, including copyright, trademark and branding rights.

When Waddell, Mark Brown, attorney Mike Evans, and the others created San Francisco Arts & Athletics in 1981, they originally attempted to file their incorporation papers with the State of California under the name “The Golden Gate Olympic Association.” However, California corporate regulators disallowed it, citing the 1978 Amateur Sports Act. Thus, on 4 November, their documents were certified with the name “San Francisco Arts & Athletics.”

Unbeknownst to the SFAA Board, Tom wrote to Colonel Miller informing him of their intent to call their event the Gay Olympics. In the letter, Waddell stated:

“When we originally filed our articles of incorporation in Sacramento, California, we were told we could not use the name “Olympic” in our corporate name or logo. We thus became “San Francisco Arts & Athletics…”

We recently heard indirectly that we could not even call our athletic contests the “Gay Olympic Games,” at least not without permission from the United States Olympic Committee… were only aware of the word “Olympic” as a generic term, referring to an event that predated Christ… were also aware that there were “Armchair Olympics,” “Special Olympics,” “Handicapped Olympics,” “Police Olympics,” even “Dog Olympics.”  There are also 33 listings in the San Francisco phone book using the term “Olympic.”

Colonel Miller, these games are very specialized indeed. Our outreach and emphasis differ widely from the traditional Olympic Games in that we, openly gay people around the world, are struggling to produce an image that more closely resembles the facts rather than some libidinous stereotype generated over decades of misunderstanding and intolerance…

Some things are changing. Homosexuality is not something that needs to be “understood,” any more than one’s taste in food can be understood; it is simply something that needs to be accepted.

We feel strongly that the term “Olympic” is integral to what we intend to achieve. Our eight days of cultural events and sport will be a testament to our character and wholesomeness; arts and athletics within the ancient Olympic format.

If permission, according to law, is a necessity, then we hereby apply for such, and assume that you will be fair in view of the precedents already set. We, in turn, will demonstrate our gratitude in ample ways as the 1984 Olympic Games of Los Angeles draw closer.”

Although Tom didn’t inform the SFAA Board of Directors that he had sent the letter, he did send copies to California Senator Alan Cranston, Governor Jerry Brown, San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.


Colonel Don Miller

Colonel Miller issued two written requests and spoke with Waddell on the phone, insisting SFAA remove the word "Olympic" from all Gay Games promotional material, citing the 1978 Amateur Sports Act.

Tom then began reaching out to various legal entities that would be sympathetic to his cause. In February 1982, he reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union where his fellow Olympian Susan McGreivy (Swimming, Melbourne 1956) served as their sole litigant. She referred Tom to Mary Dunlap, a San Francisco based attorney who would go on to represent the case when it went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Waddell and SFAA also decided to continue using the word "Olympic" against Miller’s objections, citing that SFAA had the same rights as all others invoking Olympic terminology without permission.


Tom Waddell protesting the USOC's actions against the Gay Olympic Games

On 9 August 1982, the USOC was granted a writ for a temporary restraining order under the Amateur Sports Act, with USOC attorney Vaughan Walker, replying, "They are not a suitable group." Interestingly, Walker, himself a gay man, would later serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California where he presided over the original trial in Hollingsworth v. Perry, where he found California’s 2008 Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.

* * *


Mark Brown in Gay Games I office

MARK BROWN: The Board didn’t know about Tom sending the letter to the USOC informing them of our use of the word "Olympic" until we received the response from the USOC forbidding us to do so. That wasn’t the first time Tom had done something without informing the committee first.

But he and Miller had a history, so I really do think sending that letter was another way for Tom to rub their noses in it. Tom couldn’t compete as an openly gay Olympian in 1968 because he was a member of the U.S. Army, but he sure was out not long afterwards. He was in the media enough times using his Olympic status as an out gay man in the 1970s, it definitely would have been noticed by Miller and the other Olympic executives. And they would not have been very happy about it, to say the least.

* * *

   
Mary Dunlap, speaking at Gay Games I and in front of the US Supreme Court

Heroic attorney Mary Dunlap, who fought the US Olympic Committee alongside Tom Waddell all the way to the US Supreme Committee passed away in 2003.

To read an excellent obituary of Mary Dunlap from the 5 February 2003 issue of Windy City Times, click HERE.

Below are a few excerpts from this obituary which recounts Mary's efforts versus the USOC:

The confident woman in a navy blue Pendleton skirted suit and heels would not back down. The date was March 24, 1987, the place was the nation's highest court, and the woman was Mary Dunlap, a 39-year-old attorney who lived by Eleanor Roosevelt's motto, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

The first open lesbian to argue a gay case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Dunlap told the justices that the U.S. Olympic Committee was violating the Constitution by stopping a gay group from calling itself "the Gay Olympic Games."

In small and big ways, Mary demonstrated the difference that one person can make. But she saw herself not as star, but as a relay runner, one of countless caring people fighting to make the world better. When few gay people had the courage to be out, Mary was already battling for gay equality—in courtrooms, in the streets, in her neighborhood. Her message to each of us is to stop being a spectator, to live each day eager to run with the symbolic baton that will let us advance toward equality.

While few of us will ever argue before the Supreme Court, we are offered precious opportunities each day to demonstrate that gay people should be treated with respect and fairness. Even the seemingly smallest act— putting a picture up of our partner at work, for example—can have wonderful ripple effects.

- Permission to share these excerpts provided by Publisher Tracy Baim

     
(L)  Susan McGreivy, US Olympian, Gay Games I participant, and ACLU attorney, helped defend the Games against USOC. Photo: Aquarius Media.
(R) Susan McGreivy with Shamey Cramer, 2013 FGG annual meeting in Cleveland 

To see an excellent interview with 1956 Olympic Swimmer and attorney Susan McGreivy regarding the USOC lawsuit, click HERE


An award-winning 2009 documentary called "Claiming the Title: Gay Olympics on Trial" was made about this case. See the trailer for this film HERE.

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Post 14 of 40 - 10 August Gay Games VI

2 - 9 November, 2002; 12,500 participants; Sydney, NSW Australia

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


  
Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony and local banners

JEFFRY PIKE: The first distribution of Coe Scholarship Funds to participants occurred for Gay Games VI - Sydney (2002), which had a scholarships coordinator, Jorge Alvarez, and a set of criteria similar to Amsterdam’s. Nineteen recipients received Coe Scholarship funds and traveled to Sydney; in total, Sydney awarded 515 scholarships.

“... I am walking around like wow all these people are here to play sport, and all these people are gay and wow they are all proud of themselves, and I think that is really great for me, and I think that for somebody who wasn’t sure of themselves, it would be so much more helpful.”

— Melbourne,Australia

Event: field hockey (goalie) Silver Medal

“... This was my first time overseas, I didn’t know anything about the world, but still I came. I came here. ... The sense of community, the sense of unity is just great, it’s amazing. ... I consider this to be my once in a lifetime dream which was realized after coming to Sydney. I am happy; I am content.”

— Mumbai, India

Event: Performed Classical Indian dances in the Open Stage series

“This has been a wonderful experience on the primary level of not feeling alone in the Philippines. To meet other lesbian artists and other gay artists, and to know that there are a lot of lesbian and gay artists all around the world, and that we experience the same problems, I think is has been a great boost for me as a person.

— Manila, Philippines

Events: Art exhibition and Badminton

* * *


Justice Kirby at 2002 Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony with FGG Co-Presidents Roberto Mantaci and Kathleen Webster behind him

KATHLEEN WEBSTER: The excitement built as the athletes and artists began to fill the Sydney Football Stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 Gay Games VI in Sydney, Australia. There was also just a hint of nervousness. The horrific events of September 11 had happened a short year before and the bombings in Bali less than a month prior to Opening Ceremony – and here we were beginning a joyous celebration of LGBT community, inclusion and empowerment through sport and culture. Despite these tragedies and a global economic downturn, thousands of participants from more than 70 countries filled the stadium.

The night marked a new chapter in Gay Games history as this was the first held in the Southern Hemisphere.  Indeed, the Gay Games VI slogan was “Under New Skies.” The joy on the faces of the participants and their families and friends was beautiful to behold.

While I had the honor of serving then as the female Co-President for the Federation board, it was the first time I had the challenge of speaking in front of a stadium with more than 10,000 people. As I stood behind the stage nervously looking out over the crowds, Dame Marie Bashir, the governor of New South Wales, the Queen’s Representative who was to open the 2002 Gay Games, so graciously linked her arm in mine and assured me I would be just fine. As I began to speak, the first sounds of applause showed me she was right.

One of my most powerful memories was when Justice Michael Kirby, Justice of the High Court of Australia, addressed the crowd. Here are excerpts from his speech:

"At a time when there is so much fear and danger, anger and destruction, this event represents an alternative vision for humanity. Acceptance. Diversity. Inclusiveness. Participation. Tolerance and joy. Ours is the world of love, questing to find the common links that bind all people. We are here because, whatever our sexuality, we believe that the days of exclusion are numbered. In our world, everyone can find their place, where their human rights and human dignity will be upheld.

We have not corrected all these wrongs. But we are surely on the road to enlightenment. Tonight, we are part of it. There will be no U-turns.

Little did my partner Johan and I think, thirty years ago, as we danced the night away at the Purple Onion, less than a mile from this place, that we would be at the opening of the Gay Games with the Queen's Representative and all of you to bear witness to such a social revolution. Never did we think we would be dancing together in a football stadium. And with the Governor. And that the Governor would be a woman!"

The mood of celebration and triumph only continued to grow as local, first-nation and guest artists entertained the crowd through music, dance and spoken word – all emphasizing openness, inclusion and love despite our struggles. The evening featured a moving tribute to indigenous cultures, recognition of the jailed immigrants in Australia’s history, various entertainers including Jimmy Sommerville, and a joyous, festive athletes parade to fill the stadium. k.d. lang was a highlight of the evening to close out the ceremony as, with candles lit across the stadium, she came onstage barefoot and filled all our hearts with hope as she sang Rogers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with the Gay & Lesbian Choirs of the World. She followed up with Garson & Hilliard’s “Our Day Will Come” as the crowd danced and rejoiced. And then she lay onstage while the entire stadium serenaded her in return with “Happy Birthday.” It was truly a night to remember under new skies.

With each Gay Games we demonstrate to the world that we are committed to joy, action and the limitless possibilities that transformation can bring. The Gay Games change lives. They are one step in the progression to full and complete recognition in all of our endeavors that are an integral part of human and civil rights.

To see the video of Justice Kirby’s full speech at the opening of Gay Games VI, click HERE

* * *


Gay Games VI Aquatics Center

KATE ROWE: I became part of the Sydney bid for cycling and we won, and became an observer to what did and didn’t work.

For the next four years, my life WAS the Gay Games. Incredibly stressful at times. Inclusion of women and transgender was policy of Sydney, with specific strategies to include more women in sports and on the administrative side.

Sydney increased women's participation to 42% - still a record. Sadly, that was the last time that efforts to target women was made. Something that the current and future boards still need to address.

Call me biased, but i still think that the actual standard of organisation of the sports was the best in Sydney, and continues to have that status. This was thanks to the incredible sports director Stuart Borrie. It was his passion, communication and professional skills that inspired so many of us take the Gay Games to a new level.

The Opening Ceremony was awesome and creative, with the speech by the Hon. Justice Michael Kirby not only a highlight, but still remembered.

Sydney had the second highest number of participants at 12,500. Never surpassed even 20 years later.

* * *


South African soccer player at Gay Games VI

HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: This was my very first experience to be within an openly gay community in one venue who were free to be themselves.  It was such an overwhelming experience; and I remember the South African team talking about it to say “if only we could live such a life back home.” In South Africa, we were still in the infancy of our democracy after apartheid segregations, so it was even intriguing to be amongst so many white communities but didn’t feel any rejection. Instead, we were warmly welcomed.

The Opening Ceremony was overwhelming! Then we got down to running business and it turned out just fine: 7 medals (2 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze). Unfortunately, nothing for our Soccer team but they were super excited to be part of the whole experience.

The main thing that came out of these games was the fact that we went back home and the Forum Empowerment for Women (FEW) which is LBT organisation was born which later on formally introduced the ladies’ soccer team, Chosen Few FC when I had relocated back to Durban. Well I got back in the country feeling good and confident about my sexuality even though I would still have had to mind many things while the homophobia was rife.

* * *


Stuart Borrie at Gay Games VI 2002

STUART BORRIE: In Denver Colorado, on 13 November 1997, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) announced Sydney as the host city for Gay Games VI at the conclusion of a long bid process with five cities in the running - Dallas, Long Beach/Los Angeles, Montreal, Sydney, and Toronto.

The welcome message in Sydney’s bid book focused on the unique aspects of Sydney’s bid - the first Gay Games in a new millennium and in a new region of the world:

We invite the Federation to bring the Gay Games to a new hemisphere, with a fresh perspective, a different view and under new skies.

In a land once linked with Africa and South America, and now a junction of Asian cultures, European influences, and our own unique lifestyles, we say G’day.

Australia’s cultures come from near and far, migrants who left other shores in recent generations to establish communities here joining the Aboriginal tribes whose ancestors made their own journeys to this land tens of thousands of years before.

The symbol of Gay Games VI reflects our theme, combining Australia's seven-pointed Federation Star and the rainbow colours of our evening lights. We warmly invite the world to the first Games of the new millennium… under new skies.

The two-year journey to Denver and the successful bid was not an easy one and what followed would challenge the Sydney 2002 Organising Committee and the LGBT community in which the event would take place.

The task was monumental – to bring together talented people (who were for the most part volunteers), governments, business and sports partners as well as the funding (both cash and value in-kind) – in order to further develop the bid plan into a realistic and achievable master plan that would deliver a successful Sydney 2002 Gay Games VI and Cultural Festival.

Sports Programme

As the Director of Sports for the bid company (a fully volunteer organisation), I was responsible for bringing together the partners to help plan the sports programme for the bid for Sydney 2002 Gay Games VI and eventually the Games itself.

From the very start, we knew we had enormous experience and knowledge in our community and we had to tap into this and bring along with us, those who would help us plan and deliver their sport.

Partnerships were essential and this included four main groups:

          •         Team Sydney - as the umbrella organisation for gay and lesbian sport in Sydney.

          •         Gay and Lesbian Sports Clubs – experienced in delivering annual sports events.

          •         State and National Sports Governing Bodies – for technical support / sanctioning.

          •         Venue owners and operators.

We were fortunate to garner support from sports community leaders, both in our LGBT communities but also in the wider sports community in Sydney and beyond. But this did not come easily for the bid and for the planning team once Sydney was awarded the Gay Games.

Brand and Credibility - What, Why, Who, and How?

Brand development, communication and consistent messaging were essential throughout the bid and the lead up to the Games.

The Gay Games brand was not well known in Sydney and Australia so much effort was put into explaining the concept of an inclusive sports event for all where participation and personal best were key.

As an organisation, and as individuals, we were constantly answering questions about what? (are the Gay Games), why? (do you need a separate sports event when integration is your goal), who? (are the Games for – doesn’t it discriminate against straight people) and how? (are you going to organise it and pay for it!).

This communication was as much about educating our own diverse LGBT community in Sydney and Australia as it was about educating the wider community including State and local governments, sponsors, business partners and supporters, State and national sports associations, and venue owners and operators.

It was about building a shared understanding of the Gay Games values and the credibility of the host organisation and its capacity to plan and successfully deliver a mass participation multi-sport event.

Sports People and Sports Partnerships

Sydney’s well established gay and lesbian sports clubs were the starting point as they had significant experienced in running events every year, and established relationships with State governing bodies for sport.

Initially we sought sport plans from as many of the clubs and associations as a starting point and then developed these into a programme of sports. There were core sports that were required to be delivered, and then some new sports that put a unique stamp to the Sydney Games.

As an Organising Committee we needed to reach out to sports governing bodies – state, national and some international sports federations) to secure volunteers, technical expertise in logistics and operations and to help develop competition schedules, procure equipment and finalise a day by day programme of events for expected numbers of participants.

Organisational Structure / Sports Department

Developing a Sports Department within the Organisng Committee was an essential task. 12 months out from the Games this consisted of the Sports Director, six paid Sports Managers, who each managed a number of sports, and a total of 80 volunteer Competition Committee Managers.

Each sport had a Competition Director and a Competition Committee as well as a team of volunteer managers and technical volunteers who would deliver the sports competition – often with volunteer support from State clubs and associations for each sport discipline.

Venue Plan

Sydney’s sports plan utilised sports venues in three main zones. These clusters of sports made logistics and planning easier, and provided opportunities at Games time for participants to easily become spectators of other events within a cluster of sports.

Sydney Olympic Park for example hosted nine sports all within five to ten minutes walk of each other.

          •         Sydney Olympic Park (48.3% of Games participants)

          •         Near Sydney Olympic Park (19.9% of participants)

          •         Sydney Harbour Zone (19.1% of participants)

          •         Other locations (12.7% of participants)

The legacy from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games meant that the Gay Games in Sydney were able to use state of the art venues that were part of Sydney 2000. Sports Venues at Sydney Olympic Park were:

          •         Sydney Aquatic Centre (Swimming, Water Polo, Diving & Aqua Mania / Pink Flamingo)

          •         Sydney Athletic Centre (Track & Field)

          •         State Sport Centre (Volleyball - A, AA, B, BB Grades and finals)

          •         Sydney Indoor Sports Centre (Volleyball, Judo)

          •         Sydney International Hockey Stadium (Field Hockey)

          •         Sydney International Tennis Centre (Tennis)

          •         Sydney Olympic / Millennium Park (Marathon)

Delivery

Hosted from 2 – 9 November, Sydney 2002 Gay Games VI had 10,651 registered athletes from 64 countries participating in the 31 sports across 36 venues in Sydney.

It was truly an amazing spectacle to see at each venue LGBTQ+ athletes competing in a supportive sporting environment.

Ballroom dancing was offered for the second time at the Gay Games after the successes of Amsterdam 1998 Gay Games V. Sydney Town Hall with its ornate ceilings was the perfect venue for glamorous couples: women / women and men / men.

Sydney Aquatic Centre was alive on seven days of the Games with swimming, diving, and water polo finals. The competition pool witnessed numerous swimming masters records and hosted the fabulous Aqua mania / Pink Flamingo events.

On the Field of Play

          •         31 sports across 36 venues

          •         10,651 athletes from 64 countries

          •         9 team sports - basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, netball, soccer, softball, touch rugby, volleyball, water polo

          •         24 sports are the same as Amsterdam ‘98 (Bridge and Chess were official sports in Amsterdam, but in Sydney were part of the Cultural Festival)

          •         New sports for Sydney 2002 Gay Games - field hockey, netball, sailing, touch rugby

          •         200 + participants have a specific need or disability

          •         30 + participants who identified as transgender

          •         1,170 athletes participated in 2 sports, 99 in three sports, and 20 participating in 4 sports

          •         143 volleyball teams, 52 soccer teams, 41 softball teams

          •         1,400 swimmers, 1,207 volleyballers, 1,281 runners in the marathon, half marathon, and 10km road race

          •         1,087 track and field athletes, 1,049 tennis players, 727 triathletes, 622 bowlers

          •         2,357 gold, 2,240 silver and 2,240 bronze medals awarded

          •         Participation medals were given to all

* * *


Sailing at Gay Games VI, Sydney 2002. Photo: Emy Ritt

EMY RITT: Travelling to Sydney with over 200 members of Team France was a powerful experience, in part thanks to the excellent organization of our travel, accommodation, and the entire week of GGVI. This turned out to be a hint of things to come in 2018 when Gay Games 10 took place in Paris.

Once again, we, the participants, were totally unaware that several members of the FGG Board and member clubs had felt it necessary to travel to Sydney weeks ahead of GGVI to provide emergency financial and logistical support following some unexpected issues.

Special mention goes to so many whom we will never know, but a few of the names that come to mind include then FGG Co-President Susan Kennedy and FGG Board members Kathleen Webster and Teresa Galetti. Like many supporters of the Gay Games, they and others, including several members of the Sydney Organizing Team (such as Richard Hogan and Kate Rowe, amongst others) provided extraordinary support at great personal sacrifice. Gay Games VI would not have taken place without their remarkable efforts above and beyond the call of duty. Personally, I remember every wonderful second of my GGVI week in Sydney – listing all those wonderful moments would double the length of this document!

At the GGVI Closing Ceremony, Montreal was announced as the Host of the 2006 Gay Games. Little did we know that unexpected difficulties were looming in the future.

* * *

JAMES HAHN: Gay Games VI took us Down Under to the only Games ever held in the Southern Hemisphere. It was there that I started bowling teams and doubles with Doug Litwin (and haven’t stopped since). Doug and I won a bronze medal in Teams and a silver medal in doubles. During the team competition, we met a couple from Arizona who were bowling with one set of parents while the other set of parents were rooting them all on. At that point in time, they had been together nearly 20 years (they had met in college). Both had brothers and sisters who had been divorced, but their relationship has been rock solid and they are still together to this day (and still friends with me on social media).

Unfortunately, just before I left Australia, my backpack was stolen. I got it back, but the three medals (bronze, silver, and participation) were gone. Thankfully, Doug, through nearly 2 plus years of perseverance was able to get replacements for them. I can’t thank him enough for his efforts.

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Amhurst Aztecs soccer team at Gay Games VI

JOANIE EVANS: My greatest Gay Games memory is getting a Gold medal in Sydney 2002. This was not with Hackney, but with a team called Amhurst Aztecs. This team was made up of women from the UK, NZ and Italy and I had played with them in Amsterdam, where we missed out on a bronze. In the run up the games in Sydney, the team met up a week before so we could train together and for some of us to meet for the first time. We played the best football I’ve known for the amateur game and never lost a match.

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Barefoot k. d. lang singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" at Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony.
To see a video of this performance and a photo retrospective of the event, click HERE

RICHARD HOGAN: Much has been said about the Sydney 2002 Gay Games Opening Ceremony! Starting with an Australian indigenous welcome we were treated to Dykes on Bikes, sexy convicts in chain gangs dancing with Jimmy Somerville and finally a World LGBT Choir singing with k.d. lang. In the keynote speech, Justice of the High Court of Australia, Michael Kirby said “The movement for equality is unstoppable. Its message will eventually reach the four corners of the world.” Some academics say it was Justice Kirby’s finest speech. That warm summer evening set the stage for a superb Gay Games, “Under New Skies.”

During the week I attended a number of receptions as the FGG Vice President. One was held in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Gay Games. It was originally planned that Montreal would sign a contract with the FGG during the event but negotiations had stalled. Mid-week a reception was held at the Canadian Consulate General’s office to promote the Montreal Gay Games. I surprised one of the Canadian staff members when I informed her that the contract had not yet been signed. She had no idea and seemed quite shocked.

My favourite reception during the week was a very small affair at the Sydney Town Hall. It was hosted by Sydney City Council and the Lord Mayor with only Sydney-siders who helped produce the Gay Games invited, about 30 of us. We all knew each other and had worked together over a number of years to bring the Gay Games to Sydney. For many there was a sense of relief that the event was nearing its conclusion but for all of us, there was an air of triumph in the room. As the mayor invited us to have more to eat and drink, he turned around and opened a secret balcony door which looked out onto the Town Hall Ballroom where the Dance Sport finals were being held. It was a fantastic night!

During Gay Games VI, I played with the Parramatta OUTfielders softball team. We were the last placing team in the competition but certainly had fun and were overjoyed when we beat the Sydney OUTfielders in one of our games. 

Unfortunately, after 2002, the FGG was entirely consumed with the financial fallout from Sydney’s event and the Montreal contract situation. Under the outstanding leadership of Co-Presidents, Kathleen Webster and Roberto Mantaci, the Federation of Gay Games eventually re-negotiated its Sydney licence fee, ensured all employees were paid in full and reached agreement with its commercial creditors. Meanwhile, the contract negotiations with Montreal ended and a new site, Chicago was selected for Gay Games VII.

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Team LA Co-founder Shamey Cramer, West Hollywood Aquatics President Errol Graham and WH2O Co-founder Richard Hunter at GGVI Opening Ceremony

SHAMEY CRAMER: Sydney was my first Gay Games back since founding Team Los Angeles and participating in Gay Games I. This time, I was able to participate as an athlete as a member of West Hollywood Aquatics water polo team.


Holding Stadium for Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony. Flagbearers Mike Crosby and Paulo Figueiredo with Team Los Angeles Co-founder and Co-chair Shamey Cramer

I got to lead our contingent of nearly 670 participants for the Opening Ceremony, which was truly spectacular. Justice Kirby’s speech was awe-inspiring and the entire stadium sang “Happy Birthday” to headliner k.d. lang after her emotionally charged rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

The next day was a bit surreal. I had been invited to perform the Puccini aria “Nessun Dorma” at the FGG’s 20th anniversary gala event at the Sydney Opera House, immediately followed by a mad dash to the train to get to my first water polo match against the team from Amsterdam at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre in Homebush. Performing in two of the most iconic Sydney venues in one day was definitely an incredible thrill.

Although our B Team came in fifth, our A Team went undefeated, outscoring their opponents 10-1. When the time came for WH2O-A to play WH2O-B to see who would advance to the finals, our B team forfeited the match, and instead, our two teams played one helluva good scrimmage. After the match, Sion O’Connor and Ivan Bussens from Out To Swim London came up to me and asked “How the hell do you keep up with those guys?” I laughed, and replied: “well, when these are the guys you train with, you don’t have any choice!”

Jean-Nickolaus Tretter, who was always very proud of his Norwegian ancestry and had founded Team Minnesota back in 1982, travelled to Sydney as well. He was nominated for the Waddell Award and attended the human rights conference in Newcastle prior to the Opening Ceremony. For some reason, Sara Waddell Lewinstein butchered his name during the Closing Ceremony presentation of the Tom Waddell Award, pronouncing it as if he was French. Jean and I still laugh about that all these years later!

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Gay Games VI figure skater. Photo: Rick Monk

LAURA MOORE: The rink in Sydney was neither great nor easy to get to but the skating was wonderful.

More than a decade had passed since we founded IGFSU, but our membership was still mostly gay men. We welcomed a number of straight women into our events. They couldn’t believe how much fun they were. An unintended side effect was that lesbians came to the ice rink and were disappointed to find lesbians few and far between on the ice, except in ice hockey.

That was part of the reason I always wanted to make my own skating as gay as possible. I did a complete genderfuck number in Sydney. “Macho Girl” had five changes of music in under two minutes. As the music changed “genders” so did my skating style. I skated that number in many mainstream events as well. It was always well received. I may not be able to skate with a woman in competitions outside the Gay Games, but I push the boundaries with queer themed solo programs everywhere I skate.

Finding a skating partner has always been a challenge. I skated with Mary Squires in Sydney. She lived in Boston and I live in NY so we only skated together a couple of times before the trip. We did most of the work on our program on a tiny practice rink in Sydney that IGFSU rented before the competition. She and I skated to “Bosom Buddies” sung by Bea Arthur. I didn’t know that Mary was going to put her hands on my breasts until she did in the competition. I was pleasantly surprised.

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Post 15 of 40 - 11 August Chicago 2003 Annual Meeting: The Schism

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *

  

An early flyer promoting the Montreal Gay Games for 2006

KATHLEEN WEBSTER: There were hugs and tears of joy in November 2003 when the negotiating teams for the Federation of Gay Games and Montréal 2006 successfully reached a final contract agreement in Chicago after two years of intense negotiations.

The Federation’s joy of selecting Montréal as the presumptive host for the 2006 Gay Games VII in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2001 and that final success many months later, however, turned to incredulity and disbelief within hours. The Federation board awoke on 9 November 2003 to find that the Montréal team had changed their position and terminated all dialogue. They had left the meeting venue during the night and, at a press conference in Montréal later that day, announced their decision to hold a separate event in 2006.

The Federation board was shocked. On our part, there always had been the desire to find a solution and to establish a partnership to serve our international LGBT sport and cultural community. The Federation had listened to its constituents and taken steps in its 2006 contract to address financial deficits from the four straight hosts of Gay Games III through VI. Yet Montréal 2006 declared that they no longer wanted to work with the Federation – their local business acumen would guarantee their success.

As the board finally accepted the reality of Montréal’s decision not to be our partner, we realized our responsibility remained to work for unity to best serve our global Gay Games community. It was time to acknowledge that our two organizations could co-exist and move forward. It was time to rebuild the Gay Games brand and continue our mission to serve our Gay Games participants and stakeholders by focusing on our statement of purpose: to put on a Gay Games every four years.

As part of rebuilding our brand, we committed to work for understanding and resolution when Montréal’s decision to hold a rival event, after more than 20 years of unity for LGBT athletes and artists, resulted in anger and calls for a solution from our stakeholders. In January 2004, Comité Organisateur-Montréal 2006 issued an invitation for “leaders from various fields related to GLBT sport… to participate” in “Think Tank” meetings in Montréal from 16-18 January to discuss the future of LGBT sports and to “look seriously at some of the issues facing the GLBT sport community in order to ensure everything possible is being done to support its growth.”

The Federation was not invited. Nevertheless, we sent a letter to the organizers requesting that “in the spirit of cooperation, we would like to take this opportunity to participate and work with the meeting attendees toward building a better future for the global LGBT sport community and our supporters from around the world.” The Federation sent two Federation Board officers. The organizers refused to include and permit our representatives to participate.

The Federation continued dialogue with the global sport and arts community and, following the FGG’s open community meeting at its 2004 Annual Meeting in Cologne, Germany agreed to build upon a proposal by Games Berlin and sponsor “an open and inclusive conference aimed toward building bridges within the international LGBT Sport community.” The Federation voted to partner with Out for Sport London as a neutral city with no bid intentions at that time and an accessible location for the majority of our stakeholders. The Federation’s purpose was to be an equal participant at the conference.

After submissions from all attending parties, the Out for Sport organizers hired an independent facilitator to set the agenda and run the meeting. The “Building Bridges for the Future of LGBT Sport” conference took place in London from 12-13 February 2005 and included many LGBT sport organizations and individuals with long histories of service to the international LGBT stakeholders. The new iteration of Montréal 2006, Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (GLISA), was included and participated.

While the conference did not result in the return to one global event as many had hoped, it did bring about community acceptance that there would be two large events in 2006 and that GLISA intended to continue to promote separate events after their 2006 event, by now called OutGames.

The Federation acknowledged the significant impact this would have on our limited economic, sponsorship, personnel, and venue resources. We also recognized the right of every organization to define and evolve its own mission and our decision was to continue with respectful public statements and our commitment to the Federation’s high standards of professional leadership among our board and strategic partners. The Federation additionally agreed to continue conversations with GLISA to work toward future unity for our community.*

During all this time, with the help of our many supporters, the Federation board continued our work to protect and strengthen our legacy and mission. Two of the Gay Games’ strongest supporters during these times were the cities of Chicago and Los Angeles (both participants in the 2001 bidding process). Each organization worked diligently, gathered tremendous community support, and submitted their bids to step up and host the 2006 Gay Games. After a shortened, thorough and thoughtful bidding process, the board elected Chicago to host Gay Games VII.


Gay Games Chicago logo

The Federation and Chicago’s organizing committee worked assiduously over the following months, each organization committed to continuing the Gay Games legacy. Participants recognized the importance of that legacy and history and over 11,700 athletes and artists and thousands of spectators flocked to Chicago for the week of 16-22 July. The Chicago Gay Games were a resounding triumph.

Critically important, even with significantly less time to prepare than prior hosts, Chicago was the first host since 1986 to end financially solvent, setting the stage for future Gay Games success. Surprising the Federation and the LGBT community everywhere, GLISA’s legacy did not have an auspicious start, as Montréal’s 2006 OutGames resulted in an approximate $5.7 CAD ($4.3 million USD) deficit.

Despite the challenges, the Gay Games happened in 2006 as they have every four years since Gay Games I in 1982. The Federation board is the custodian of the vision and ideals of the founders of this celebration of participation, inclusion and attainment of personal best through sport and culture. The legacy of the Gay Games movement continues and, with the dedication of future Federation boards and the continued support of our community and stakeholders, will prevail for future generations.

*Meetings between the Federation and GLISA continued for the following decade in an attempt to join together for a “One World Event.” I retired from the Federation in 2007 so was not part of these negotiations. I had the honor of serving as a consultant to the Federation Working Group toward the end of their discussions and prior to the Federation’s decision to end further negotiations in March 2016 as no agreement had been reached. GLISA dissolved shortly thereafter.

* * *

EMY RITT: [FULL DISCLOSURE: The Author joined the FGG Board in December 2002.]

Although Montreal had been announced in 2001 as the Host of the 2006 Gay Games, ongoing contractual issues had still not been resolved after several years of negotiations and were heading towards a very serious and troubling situation. As the weeks and months of negotiations dragged on, the discussions became increasingly acrimonious and destructive, tearing apart the LGBT+ sports community.

Several lessons were learned from this experience, one being the necessity of establishing a time limit for signing the contract and to have an official “runner-up” organization that would be offered the role of Host in the event of any issues with the initial presumptive Host.

When the schism finally occurred in 2004, FGG re-opened the bidding for the 2006 Gay Games with the three runner-up bidders from the first 2006 Site Selection process: Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Atlanta had finished second in the first Site Selection vote, but at that time, the number of votes cast were not taken into consideration in the event of any issues with the presumptive host. Otherwise, Atlanta might have been automatically invited to become the 2006 Presumptive Host.

When the FGG decided, instead, to have a ‘fast-tracked’ Site Selection schedule that included having FGG members vote again, Atlanta, unfortunately, decided to withdraw from the process, leaving Chicago and Los Angeles to go head-to-head. Chicago and Los Angeles saved the Gay Games by agreeing to participate in the second 2006 Site Selection process. In the end, Chicago was selected to be the Host of GGVII, and the rest, as they say, was history. Thankfully, Team Los Angeles has remained very committed and engaged with the Gay Games.

* * *

LAURA MOORE: I had been very excited when Montreal won the bid. We had a number of Canadian figure skaters and had had gay skating events there already. What the press called a “Schism” was, to many of us, an attempted hostile takeover. When Montreal walked away from the contract negotiations and announced plans to hold a competing event, I was shocked. Even more dismaying was the fact that some of my friends and colleagues were abandoning the Gay Games and jumping on board.

I am still grateful that Chicago came to the rescue and put on a hugely successful Gay Games with only two years lead time, but the confusion among our constituents and the temporary damage to the Gay Games brand were significant. The Gay Games and The OutGames were held only days apart. Some chose the Gay Games out of loyalty, but where Montreal offered sports not available in Chicago, participants had their choice made for them.

IGFSU ran the figure skating competition at the first OutGames, not out of support for GLISA but to insure that figure skaters were protected with appropriate ISI endorsements.


The GLISA logo

That GLISA and the OutGames came to an end after a few tumultuous years is testament to the long-term viability of the FGG and the Gay Games.

* * *

SHAMEY CRAMER: Following Gay Games VI: Sydney 2002, Los Angeles decided to put together an exploratory committee to see about bidding for Gay Games VIII in 2010. However, things did not seem to be going well with the FGG and their negotiations with Montreal.

In March 2003, the Gay and Lesbian Athletic Foundation hosted a conference at MIT in Boston. Six FGG Board members hosted a panel discussion, and I was on the panel for HIV & Athletics. Representatives from the Montreal bid team were there as well.

Following the FGG presentation, the two Montreal representatives took me aside and complained about the negotiations with the FGG. At one point, they said: “the FGG needs to go; would you be willing to work with us to replace them with a better organization?” I informed them that although I had my own differences with the FGG, I was someone who always felt it best to try and create change by working within the organization.

Fast forward eight months to the FGG’s Annual Meeting, which was held in Chicago. The meetings began on 10 November. During the third day, we were informed that Montreal had pulled out of negotiations and had already left town. Given their comments in March, and their actions in Chicago, it seemed that they were also trying to do to the Gay Games what the USOC attempted to do – cripple them financially to the point of extinction.

The next morning, the FGG Site Selection Committee met with representatives from Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Chicago – the three finalists in Johannesburg two years earlier. Since Atlanta had the most votes of the other three finalists, they felt they should be given the right to enter negotiations with the FGG. But the FGG didn’t see it that way, and decided to have a second, abbreviated bid process. Atlanta chose not to rebid, and Chicago wasn’t so sure. As one of the Chicago bid members said to me during Site Selection meeting break: “Los Angeles may get these by default.” The FGG gave us until 15 December to submit a Letter of Intent.

As soon as I got back to Los Angeles, we got Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn to submit the letter, and the City Council once again voted to create a Gay Games Task Force, appointing me as its Chair, with representatives from more than a dozen city departments and agencies, as well as representatives from each of the fifteen council districts.

The morning of December 15, I got a call from the FGG. They asked if we would mind if they extended the submission date for another week, since Chicago was still undecided. Although our Task Force was a bit put off by the FGG asking a bidder how they should run their process, we agreed to the extension, not wanting to seem difficult.

A week later, the FGG called again, asking if it was OK to once again extend the submission deadline another week, in order to appease Chicago. At this point, many on our committee were irate that the FGG would put our committee into the position of doing their work for them, but we again agreed to give them an extension.

When Chicago was selected two months later, our Task Force representative from the City Attorney’s office explored the option of suing the FGG for their poor handling of the process, but decided against it. To add insult to injury, FGG Co-President Roberto Mantaci called me after the vote, saying they had to give the two extensions because it wouldn’t have looked right to have a bid process with only one bidder.

Although I still loved the concept of the Gay Games, and what they stood for, I was not at all happy with how the event was being managed, and vowed to join the FGG at some point to make sure no other bidders had to go through the hell we were put through as a result of their lack of professionalism.

In April 2004, one of the Montreal representatives with whom I had interacted in Boston was in Los Angeles seeking media sponsorships. When we met, he asked if I would be willing to work with them to “destroy the FGG” (his actual words) and replace them with their new organization and event. They even offered to let Los Angeles host OutGames II, three years after the inaugural Montreal OutGames in 2006.

I told them that as unhappy as I was with the FGG for how they conducted their business, I would have to think about their offer. But there was no way I would ever be interested in dismantling the Gay Games.

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Post 16 of 40 - 12 August Gay Games VII

15 - 22 July, 2006; 11,000 participants; Chicago, IL USA

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.


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Aimee Pine, GGVII Director of Scholarships. To see a terrific video recapping the Scholarship Program in Chicago, click HERE

JEFFRY PIKE: For Gay Games VII - Chicago, an FGG Scholarship Committee was formed to work with the host’s scholarship coordinator, Aimee Pine, to distribute the scholarship funds for which the Federation of Gay Games had fiscal responsibility – including the Coe Scholarship Fund. The committee – originally including Paul Oostenbrug, Laura Moore, Derek Liecty, and me – wrestled with the nuance and challenges of comparing needs and ensured that applicants were actually in need of support and demonstrated a true interest in participating in the Games. We also embraced the need for translators, if possible, to remove language hurdles for applicants.

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Jeffry Pike and Laura Moore evaluating Scholarship applications prior to Gay Games VII

LAURA MOORE: My involvement with the scholarship program began with a call from Paul Oostenbrug asking if I would be interested in scoring essays from scholarship applicants for the Chicago Gay Games.

Jeffry Pike came to NY from Boston and Paul from Chicago. The three of us sat at my dining room table in tears as we read through a box of letters, many handwritten and not all in languages we could understand. It was a stunning experience.


The late Dick Uyvari and Joe LaPat, GGVII Scholarship Program Patrons

The collaboration between FGG and the host in Chicago on the Scholarship program was excellent. Dick Uyvari and Joe LaPat financed most of the program. Having them as benefactors and getting to know them in Chicago was wonderful. When I met the scholarship recipients in Chicago, I realized that I would need to be involved with the Scholarship Committee long term.

  
Gay Games VII Scholarship reception; GGVII Co-Chairs Sam Coady and Suzi Arnold addressing the recipients. Photos: R. Mitchell

The scholarship recipients were housed together in Chicago, creating a great bonding experience for them and the opportunity for us to get to hear their stories. I will never forget everyone pointing out where they were from on the world map in the hostel. Sometimes communication doesn’t require a common language.

In the Gay Games since then, we have organized both orientation sessions and end of the week workshops. These workshops have enabled us to help the recipients prepare to go home and share what they have learned in their home countries, extending the reach of the Gay Games.

A few scholarship recipients have gone on to create LGBTQ+ organizations in their home countries after their Gay Games experiences. Among the greatest success stories are Konstantin Yablotskiye’s work in helping create the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, Fernando Carvajal’s Club Deportivo Movdeinchile, and Hlengiwe Buthelezi work in South Africa. Hlengiwe has served on the FGG Board of Directors for a number of years.

I had no experience in fundraising and very limited computer knowledge when Paul challenged me to do a crowd-funding campaign when we were without major benefactors. I didn’t even know what that was but I managed to create a successful campaign on Indigogo for the Gay Games Scholarship Program for GG IV.

I have been inspired to recognize the Gay Games scholarship program in my will and encourage others to do the same as well as to donate/fundraise in any way they can.

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Gay Games VII Opening Ceremony, Soldier Field, Chicago; Papua New Guinea scholarship recipients at the event. Photos: Brett Grafton

KURT DAHL: The first time I heard about the Gay Games was in 2001 when the Chicago bid team was looking for volunteers. I thought it was cool that Chicago was looking to host GGVII in 2006 and I wanted in, both as a volunteer and as an athlete. I not only joined the finance committee of the bid team, but I also dusted off my high school swimsuit and goggles and got back into the pool to prepare for GGVII.

Once it was announced that Chicago had actually won the bid for GGVII after the bidding was re-opened, I joined the board of the Chicago host team and eventually was named Treasurer of the host organization. We had to hit the ground running as July 2006 was right around the corner. My husband Jeff and I along with many others from the board traveled around the US to register people for GGVII. I was also able to participate in some swim meets which I had not done in over 15 years. It was so exciting to be back in the pool and competing, and meeting people to talk about the Gay Games. For me the Gay Games had an enormous impact on who I am today.

I still get chills thinking about the week of July 2006 when GGVII opened in Soldier Field, and how it drew together the queer community not only of the Chicago metropolitan area but the entire Midwest. I still get teary eyed remembering the Closing Ceremony at Wrigley Field and realizing all our hard work had paid off and GGVII was now over.

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KATE ROWE: I became a volunteer with the FGG Sports Committee organising the Cycling event. Our expertise was welcome due the fact that with the split with the next host city Montreal, Chicago only had 2 years to organise.

I went to Chicago in 2005 as Team Sydney representative to the FGG. I was getting more and more involved at a different level, wanting to improve and contribute to making the games grow and develop.

The Cycling was in danger of being cancelled so I went to Chicago early to help. With a team effort and great support from Chicago organisers, the Cycling was a success.

  
Cyndi Lauper at the GGVII Closing Ceremony, Wrigley Field. Photos: Becker Media.

The split was bound to affect numbers, having two games in two countries meant fewer went to either. That said, it was still a wonderful experience. By now, I had become a triathlete and took part in that event. Very well organised and HOT! Great memories of Cindy Lauper at the Closing Ceremony.

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GGVII Opening Ceremony presentation of the Tom Waddell Award recipients. Jessica Waddell Lewinstein is at far right. Photo: Becker Media.

JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: In Chicago, I finally had the opportunity to dedicate myself to the Games; and to start what would become a long and successful career in marketing and communications with the games. I remember the exuberance that filled the air as a long line of athletes from all over the world awaited their chance to walk onto Soldier Field.

I remember helping my mentor Tracy Baim (Windy City Times Editor In Chief and Gay Games VII’s Co-Vice Chair) assign photographers to different sports and meet with key stakeholders. I remember spending long days working the press room (and drinking far too much Red Bull to help get me through it). I remember the pride I felt for both myself and my colleagues as we walked out onto Wrigley Field at the end of the event. The experience filled my heart full of love, and gave me a family bonded not by blood, but a common interest in bringing people together. I remember this being one of the best jobs I ever had.

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Gay Games VII Closing Ceremony, Wrigley Field. Photo: Alice Cooperman

EMY RITT: Chicago scheduled GGVII to be held from 5 to 15 July 2006. With barely two years to organize the Gay Games, with all of its 30+ sports and many cultural activities, Chicago persevered to put on a wonderful event, despite the stifling heat. Like all Gay Games events, the financial, logistical, and political challenges were (and are) never-ending. Yet, Chicago overcame the odds and, at great personal sacrifice for several members of the Organizing Team put on a wonderful week of sports, culture, and ceremonies. Special thanks go to the entire Chicago Organizing team, including Sam Coady, Suzi Arnold, Kevin Boyer, and Tracy Baim.

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HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: I was a South African flag bearer and at the peak of my fitness and in the prime of my athletic career. At least I had a clue by then of what the Gay Games are and how things work. I was mostly out in the track running or cheering up my friends - many that I had met in Sydney. My personal best Gay Games: 7 Gold medals!!! I ended up on the front page of the Windy City Times newspaper with Cindy Lauper who came to sing at the Closing Ceremony. I mostly hung out with the San Diego ladies that were led by Eurika Otto and Lauri Stock. They introduced me to others like Mandy Sapsford (former South African), a very bubbly and kind mate.

The idea of founding a Queer organisation that will be sports orientated for Durban was born, so I went back home to share it with other like-minded and KwaZulu Natal LGBT Recreation was born which later on founded African Queer Sports (AfroGames). And I became an FGG Assembly member while I was in Chicago.

I also played a lead role for the South African Gay Games Bid finalist which we lost to Cologne.

Back home I suffered a forced coming out which affected me and my running carrier badly.

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Sydney Stingers Water Polo team at Gay Games VII. Shamey Cramer is in the back row at far right

SHAMEY CRAMER: Because of work, I was unable to participate in the entire week of competition. Since my home team of WH2O-polo already had four goal-keepers, the chance of me playing any amount of time was slim to none. Given that these Games were going to be in my hometown, it seemed as if my hopes of having a memorable experience were dimming by the day. And then, a light.

A few weeks before the Games, the Sydney Stingers put out a call for independent players to join them. Like so many other teams from around the world, they already had plans in place to go to Montreal, based on their initial selection as Gay Games VII host.

Like so many others, The Stingers were able to send about 7-8 players, but needed a dozen or so to field a team. I contacted Pascal Van de Walle, the Sydney team representative, and informed him I was interested, but could only play two days. He was still very welcoming and grateful. After he informed me they had no goalie coming to Chicago, he was all the more excited, regardless of my low skills. As he put it: “low skills are better than no skills, and it means that none of the rest of us have to be in the cage!” I knew I was going to like this guy.

I arrived in Chicago the day before Opening Ceremony. I agreed to meet the Stingers at their hotel, where I was issued my Opening Ceremony t-shirt and shorts, and met the team for the first time: Captain Dave, Tim, Jason, Shandor, and Pascal. I wasn’t the only pick-up player; there were several others, which made it all the more fun.

Leading Team Los Angeles into the Gay Games I Closing Ceremony and Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony were awfully special. But I gotta tell ya: walking onto Soldier Field for the Gay Games VII Opening Ceremony as a rank and file member in the middle of the sea of Australian athletes and artists was definitely a huge rush of adrenaline as we were awash in massive amounts of unconditional love from the spectators. Everyone loves the Aussies, no matter where they go!

In the end, my two days of being the sole goalkeeper for the Sydney Stingers – mediocre as I was - turned out to be my favourite Gay Games competition of the three I played. Given that we won two of our three matches, I ended with a .667 record at Gay Games VII. I had over a dozen family members and friends come to see the three matches we played in those two days. My niece Jenna showed up wearing Australian green and gold colours – face paint and all – and my Uncle Frank, with his booming Merchant Marine voice bellowing throughout the natatorium, led the stands in a rousing rendition of “Waltzing Mathilda.”

Of course, my Aussie teammates thought we were absolutely crazy, but it was nice to continue with our family tradition of doing everything we can to make sure visitors feel welcomed and loved in our home, the “City of Big Shoulders.”

My West Hollywood teammates went home with the Gold Medal, but the friendships I gained playing for Sydney are everlasting, and remain strong to this day. A part of me will always remain true to my Sydney Stingers.

* * *

RICHARD HOGAN: The team in Chicago did an amazing job in such a short amount of time while setting a new benchmark for the Gay Games! Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Gay Games in Chicago but I did get to know many of those who helped produce the event. During the 2005 FGG Annual Meeting in Chicago I met with the Australian Consul General to prepare plans for an Aussie reception during GGVII. It was then that a consulate staff member told me there was a friendly rivalry between Australian Consulates as to who put on the best reception for Gay Games participants.

There was a big push to promote Chicago’s Gay Games in Sydney, the previous host city, and many Australians attended their second Gay Games in Chicago. The 2006 “International Rainbow Memorial Run” went down Oxford Street just prior to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade to thunderous applause.

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Gay Games VII Cheerleading Demonstration Event in Millennium Park, Chicago. Photos: Betty Lark Ross

ANTHONY ALSTON: My first Gay Games was GGVII: Chicago 2006. CHEER SF managed to fundraise enough money to subsidize expenses for those traveling to the Midwest. We brought roughly 30 cheerleaders along with our sister teams: CHEER LA, CHEER NY, Chicago Spirit Brigade, Edmonton, and CHEER Atlanta. Thanks to CHEER SF’s leadership (Sanford Smith, Morgan Craig, and Steve “Mama Burke”) these were the Games that CHEER had a more visible role by participating in Opening Ceremony and hosting our own exhibition in Millennium Park.

Talking about that experience still gives me chills. I recall tears of joy coming down my face in the middle of Soldier Field during the Opening Ceremony. I was so happy to be there with my team, my people. Gay people! We dropped two teammates due to heat exhaustion moments before taking the stage. I’ll never forget the 100 degree temperature with 100% humidity during our flawless exhibition performance. I felt like I found something truly special in my life. Thousands of participants from around the world engaged in a movement that was transformative to one’s own being. It was the Olympic experience. Thrilling and fulfilling. I can say that because I worked in Centennial Park during the XXVI Olympiad in Atlanta 1996.

The Gay Games delivered an experience that extends far beyond any Pride ever could; even the likes of San Francisco or New York. The Games offer more than just “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.” People had been training, rehearsing, and saving money for this particular moment. A moment of accomplishment. A moment advocating for our rights, as members of the LGBTQ+ community, as global citizens. Towards the end of the week, I recall being sad during the GGVII Closing Ceremony because my exciting week was coming to a close. Cindy Lauper sang “True Colors” at Wrigley Field and that was a wrap. However, when the next host city for GGVIII: Cologne, Germany 2010 was announced, I was galvanized in the movement and wanted others to experience something similar at future Gay Games. It was the perfect blend of large-scale events, charitable cheerleading, and community engagement.

* * *

  
Left: Bradley Erickson skating with Laura Moore. Right: Laura and her rainbow corset. Photos: Israel Wright & Alice Cooperman.

LAURA MOORE: Bradley Erickson and I skated together in Chicago. He had taken the mantle of managing IGFSU through ISI and would later be chosen for the 2014 FGG Volunteer of the Year award. Pairs with a man 16” taller than I was very different than skating with a woman. We had a great time working on our “All That Jazz” number from the musical Chicago. The audience roared when he stripped his warm-up pants off and revealed little shorts and fishnets with garters to match mine.

I, too, did a bit of a striptease in my solo number. “Ride on a Rainbow”, sung by Johnny Mathis was my love song to the lesbians in the audience, especially my spouse. The crystal studded rainbow corset under my plain white shirt has had a long life in other skating numbers and at many Pride events.

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Gay Games VII Bowling action. Photos: Becker Media & Y Marino

JAMES HAHN: Gay Games VII was originally awarded to Montreal. As a result of a fundamental disagreement on the nature and presentation of the Games, Montreal chose to walk away from negotiations and the Games were awarded to Chicago after an accelerated re-bidding process. Chicago rose admirably to the challenge and pulled off a successful Gay Games in two-plus years instead of the usual five.

The Opening Ceremony took place at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears NFL team. The Closing Ceremony took place at historic Wrigley Field, which sits on the edge of what is called “Boys Town.” I like to think we turned it into the world's largest gay bar that day. It was also the second time Cindy Lauper performed for us.

Most of the Gay Games take place in the summer in the host city, and that was true in Chicago as well. At one point, the bowling center suffered brownout with reduced electrical voltage. The bowling machinery was still operating but the air conditioning was not. This was as dose as I've ever come to bowling in my underwear and I’m sure I was not the only one. The only air conditioner working was in the ceiling of the snack bar, but it exhausted itself and caught fire. The fire department soon arrived and bowling stopped as the bowlers went to check things out. Many of us couldn't wait to go somewhere cooler and less humid.

At the Closing Ceremony, it was announced that the Games would return to Europe in 2010.

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Post 17 of 40 - 13 August - Rebuilding the Brand

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


FGG Board at the 2008 AGA in Cape Town. Kate Rowe is in the front row second from left. Photo: Israel Wright

KATE ROWE: In 2007, I joined the FGG board and took on the role to look at women's participation. I developed the policy that was adopted at the FGG’s 2008 Annual General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa.

It was there that I met a remarkable woman and runner named Hlengiwe Buthelezi. She was a volunteer at the AGA. We have been friends ever since and she has gone on to be a member of the board and developed the regional AfroGames.

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L to R: Hlengiwe Buthelezi, Martyn Pickup, Marc Naimark at Cape Town AGA 2008. Photo: Israel Wright

HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: In 2008, I was part of the organizing team and the panelist for the FGG Annual General Assembly in Cape Town along with Ian McMahon. Ian and I first competed at Gay Games Sydney 2002, all the way through Gay Games 9: Cleveland + Akron 2014. In 2009, I was awarded the Federation of Gay Games Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award for the work done the previous year producing the Cape Town AGA.

* * *

Emy Ritt at 2008 AGA in Cape Town. Photo: Israel Wright

EMY RITT: Meanwhile, thanks, in part, to the courage and perseverance of GLISA’s Co-President, Wessel van Kampen, FGG and GLISA had finally entered into discussions to explore the possibility of merging their events into a new entity called “One Quadrennial Event,” also known as 1QE. In June, 2011, both FGG and GLISA were awarded the Berlin Pride Civil Courage Award in 2011 for their efforts to reunite the community. For a short video of the ceremony, click HERE

* * *


The FGG Assembly at the 2008 Cape Town AGA

KURT DAHL: It turns out I was not done with the Gay Games after Gay Games VII in Chicago, as a year or so later I was asked to join the FGG board. Little did I know that would quickly lead to me being the Co-President and leading the FGG through GGVIII in Cologne, and the selection of Cleveland + Akron as host of GG9. Cleveland was a great success where we introduced the Steering Committee concept for managing the relationship between the FGG and Host. However, it also led us to removing the original host organization and assigning the license agreement to a new host organization. It was a very difficult but very necessary decision.

All during this time, not only were we managing our way thru GGVIII and GG9, but we were also attempting to bring together GLISA and the FGG into some sort of working relationship and get back to having one global sports and cultural event rather than two large events. In the end, we could not come together and eventually GLISA folded. The Gay Games has remained and has had great success with Gay Games 10 in Paris 2018.

When I stepped off the board in 2018, we had restructured the board, creating several pillars including Gay Games Production, Member Services, etc.

* * *

Laura Moore (L) working with Emy Ritt at the 2008 Cape Town AGA

LAURA MOORE: I turned age 50 right after the Chicago Gay Games and put away my skates for what turned out to be more than seven years.

It was hard to imagine I could ever miss a Gay Games. I had been teaching fashion design students at both Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and The Art Institute of NYC. I was also working on a Master’s degree and doing back-to-back apartment renovations. MaryAnn and I moved uptown a week after GGVIII. I knew for a long time that I would be unable to go, but there was a hole in my heart that week.

Sasha Huëllen and Philip Carouge skated in the Gay Games for the first time in Sydney. They formed an IGFSU group in Germany called the Fabulous Skaters. I had the pleasure of skating in the inaugural Fabulous Cup in Cologne, even though I was unable to go to the Gay Games.

One of the highlights was a group skating number with an international array of skaters all wearing white tee shirts emblazoned with gay slurs. The Gay Games provides opportunities for joyous activism.

* * *


IVAN YAP: The Straits Games (TSG) is an annual sports event, started in 2002 between the two countries along the straits of Malacca; Malaysia and Singapore. My first exposure with TSG was in 2005 at the event in Kuala Lumpur.

The main objective is to Foster Friendship and Promote Healthy Lifestyle in the LGBT Community. These were the main driving forces which pushed TSG forward over the last 20 years. The soft approach has since gained strong interest from cities like Phuket, Taipei, Hong Kong, Manila, Guangzhou, Samui, Bali, Saigon and Chiangmai, other than Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as hosts the Games.

Participation grew over the years with friends coming from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Macao, China, Cambodia, United States, Australia, and the Netherlands.

The sports and social events also varied from Badminton, Bowling, Indoor Volleyball, Welcome Reception, Gala Dinner being the core activities to Table Tennis, Squash, Beach Volleyball, Swimming, Tennis, Basketball, Darts, Snooker, Fun Run, Treasure Hunt, Local Tour, and more.

2005 was the first time I heard about such a great event which gave a good impression of our community. They were recruiting volunteers, but I missed the opportunity. From that moment, I made a vow to ensure this event would be continued for years to come.

2008 was the maiden year where I got the chance to host the event and served as the organising chair. The experience has driven me forward to keep the Straits Games alive, so I became the organising chair for 2011 and 2016. Also in 2016, the FGG honored TSG with its Outstanding Sports Organization Legacy Award at their annual meeting in Sydney.

Being an organiser of this event wasn’t enough for me if I didn’t experience it as a participant. In 2009, I participated in Bowling, and since then, I have not stopped competing.

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Post 18 of 40 - 14 August - Gay Games VIII

31 July - 6 August 2010; 8,000 participants, Cologne, NRW Germany

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a video welcome to participants in Gay Games VIII in Cologne, highlighting the importance of the Gay Games, and welcoming the world to the US for Gay Games 9 in Cleveland + Akron in 2014. To see the video, click the photo above or click HERE


Gay Games VIII Closing Ceremony. Photo: Peter Von Schemm

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Emy Ritt at Gay Games VIII Opening Ceremony. Photo: Arndt Low

EMY RITT: The Cologne Gay Games was a great success, and thanks to Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Herr Guido Westerwelle, who served as the Official GGVIII Patron and spoke at the Opening Ceremony, many Ambassadors and Consulate Officers from around the world were present in Cologne during the week to show their support for the Gay Games and to their country’s participants.

Despite the competing OutGames event having taken place the year before in Copenhagen, thousands of participants travelled to Cologne to enjoy a wonderful week of sport, culture, and ceremonies, with two Gay Games Villages! The Cologne Team outdid themselves and, like many previous Hosts, made great personal sacrifices to ensure a successful GGVIII.

Unfortunately, the FGG-GLISA-1QE discussions proved to be futile and ended in 2012. Thankfully, time has helped to heal most of the wounds, and many GLISA supporters are active participants in the FGG and Gay Games. Catherine Meade, a Founding Member and Co-President of GLISA, after a long and stellar Gay Games participation, returned to the FGG to serve as the Delegate from the OutSport Toronto Club, of which she was also a founder and President. When I and other Paris 2018 representatives travelled to Toronto in November 2017, Catherine and OutSport Toronto graciously hosted a GG10 promotional event.

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Anthony Alston at GGVIII. Photo: John Rocco

ANTHONY ALSTON: In 2009, I tore my left bicep during CHEER practice. A debilitating experience to say the least. To add insult to injury, my employer laid me off the same day I was going into reconstructive surgery. I had a lot of work to do but one thing was for sure: I was still going to GGVIII the following year. In 2010, I tore my other bicep. This time, unable to perform the intense choreography Morgan had put together. Since I could not participate on “the floor” during practices I focused my efforts on leading fundraising efforts for the team.

Through “Mama Burke’s” encouragement (CHEER SF founder Steve Burke), I developed a plan and motivated my team to raise money not only for our beneficiaries but also for those that wanted to participate at the next Gay Games. Our accomplishment was beyond my expectations! CHEER SF raised $70,000 to provide transportation and lodging for 40 cheerleaders to compete in Cologne. That’s right, compete! For the first time, cheerleading would be an adjudicated event at the Gay Games! Despite the heavy rainfall during competition, friends and fans endured the inclement weather with us, donated generously and CHEER SF brought home a gold medal! Further, the FGG recognized our efforts by awarding us a “Legacy Award for Excellence” in fundraising. Attending our awards ceremony was my first “inside” experience at the Gay Games.

During the awards ceremony, GGIX Cleveland 2014 was announced as the next host city. We met local dignitaries and gold medalist Australian Olympian Matthew Mitcham. Wow! Upon our return home, I applied to be the first CHEER FGG delegate, representing CHEER SF (and our sister teams, of course) as an associate member. Sanford was still heavily involved with the Culture Committee at the time and I had joined CHEER SF’s Board of Directors.

At this point, it was clear that CHEER needed to be more engaged with the Gay Games. Athletes and spectators alike loved “the cheerleaders.” Athletes appreciated our physicality and fearlessness; after all “athletes lift weights and cheerleaders lift athletes.” CHEER proved that we are a fundraising powerhouse for the FGG. In fact, at the conclusion of GGVIII, CHEER donated over a thousand dollars to a local nonprofit that supported those with HIV/AIDS. More importantly, CHEER also donated another thousand dollars to the FGG scholarship program. Cha-CHING!!

* * *


Bowlers at GGVIII Opening Ceremony. Jim Hahn front row, second from left.

JAMES HAHN: Cologne, Germany upped the Gay Games professionalism yet again. Very well organized. Team San Francisco was more organized as well, fielding many more teams than either Chicago or Sydney. Doug Litwin and I won a silver medal in bowling doubles at the Games.

* * *


Hlengiwe Buthelezi receiving a medal at GGVIII. Photo: xiris pix

HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: Great to be back in Germany after I came in 2009 to fetch my Outstanding Volunteer award. By the time I came for Gay Games VIII, I already had local friends like Munja Brucher, who was my host; and met some other families too. My fitness level was not as excellent as it was in Chicago four years earlier, but not too bad either. I got to be a South African flag bearer again, as well as for the FGG.

The mishap happened on the eve of the competitions when I developed a bad stomach bug. I had to stop at the pharmacy before I hit the track. Fortunately, my race was in the late afternoon. I kept on the medication and before 12pm I was a bit better. I ran my heat in that afternoon and made it to the finals for the next day. I went back to take a good rest while on medication, well the day I settled for silver.

The following days I continued with races despite the episodes of the bug, I remember I had to go back straight to the room immediately after the Closing Ceremony because of the bug. On Monday I had to see a doctor who later sent me to the hospital for blood tests. I stayed one more week in Cologne after the games. At least all blood tests came out clear, so it was just some bacteria or suspected minor food poisoning.

When I returned home, I was admitted to the hospital, then recovered at home, which took over a month.

* * *


Kate Rowe (right) receiving a cycling medal at GGVIII. Photo: Rendel Freude

KATE ROWE: The Gay Games returned to Europe and I helped to organise the cycling and triathlon.

Along with two Germans, we managed to secure Matt Mitcham - the first openly Gay Olympian to capture an individual gold medal (in diving), competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics - to come to Cologne to be part of the Games. He received a standing ovation as one of two athletes to read out the Athlete’s Oath at the Opening Ceremony. He also attended the Rainbow Run and did a meet and greet at the aquatics venue. I am still very proud of our contribution to Gay Games VII: Cologne 2010.

Being a volunteer, participant, and a board member, meant sacrificing the ability to see other sports or cultural events. But I took part in the triathlon, cycling, and the 10K run (winning several medals).


Kate Rowe and Hlengiwe Buthelezi crossing the 10K finish line in Cologne

During the run, I caught up with Hlengiwe, who was having a rough time. I ran with her the last 5K, with us coming over the line together. A proud moment for me to symbolise the true meaning of the Gay Games. She was awarded a scholarship to attend, and coming from a South African township, it was a humbling experience.

Totally exhausted, I returned to Sydney, got sick, and after 3 years on the board and organising two sports, decided my health and stress levels needed to take priority over being an FGG board member. Besides, I believe that change at the board and on committees is healthy for the movement and making space for fresh blood and ideas was a positive for the FGG.

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(L) West Hollywood Team at GGVIII. Mauro Bordovsky, Mike Wallace, Jessica Seaton, Shamey Cramer, Jan Levinrad and Luis Bahamon. (R) Shamey Cramer (L) speaking with Philip Murphy, US Ambassador to Germany.

SHAMEY CRAMER: My first Gay Games water polo match in Cologne was against Amsterdam at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre in 2002, and eight years later, my final match as a member of WH2O Polo was against them at the Deutsche Sportschule in Cologne – 13,000 miles apart.

During the Gay Games VIII tournament, I struck up a conversation with a player I recognized from eight years earlier. After we beat them for the bronze medal, he presented me with his bright orange blow-up crown the Dutch are famous for wearing at sporting events - including their entire contingent for the Gay Games Opening Ceremony in Cologne.

My participation as a Gay Games athlete had come to an end, but my service to the Federation of Gay Games was just beginning. During the week, I was elected to be one of the two representatives for IGLA (International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics) to serve in the Federation of Gay Games Assembly.

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Post 19 of 40 - 15 August - CLE Reorganization, 1QE / 1WE

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Gay Games IX Opening Ceremony. Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio 2014. Photo: Tricia Uveges

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Tony Smith (R) and his husband at Gay Games IX Volleyball in Cleveland, 2014

TONY SMITH: Gay sports began playing a part in my life when I moved to Denver in late 2000. During my very first weekend in my new city, I was invited to play flag football by a friend with people that continue to be friends to this day. By participating, I immediately felt included and did my personal best to fit it with a sport I’d never played before. This participation, inclusion, and personal best set the tone for the next 20+ years.

I met my husband of 20 years playing volleyball in 2002. I’m a 5’6” setter and he’s a 6’6” middle blocker – a match made in heaven! This led to playing league year-round with the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association (CGVA), and I was quickly asked to join the board of directors due to my then-profession of being an event producer – very needed skills to help manage league logistics, marketing and more. Events and sports bring people together for greater purposes, and I grew up loving events because of all my Mother’s awesome Filipino Disco Parties for family and friends.

While serving CGVA, I learned of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) and immediately knew that it’d be a logical progression in my spirit of giving back to our community. My goal of serving the FGG was inspired by my family’s long history giving back through military service, not to mention one of my Gay Uncle’s participation in the early fights for Gay equality in the 1960s.

* * *

EMY RITT: Soon after being named as the Host of the 2014 Gay Games, the Cleveland Organizing Team started showing signs of improper behavior, questionable financial dealings, and poor leadership. The many hours, days, and months of ensuing discussions accompanied by the wringing of hands, the gnashing of teeth, etc. resulted in FGG transferring the Host responsibilities to a new Cleveland-based team, which consisted of most of the original team, minus the ill-equipped leadership. This action then led, sadly, to several lawsuits being filed by the displaced parties.

Thankfully, by the end of 2012, the situation had been settled, even if at great expense, and the Cleveland team resumed their work with new leadership in place: Tom Nobbe as Executive Director and Rob Smitherman as VP of Operations. Rob had already worked for both Chicago GGVII and Cologne GGVIII, so his excellent experience was invaluable to GG9.

To address the elephant in the room, could these issues have been avoided? As FGG Co-President at the time, I have asked myself that question so many times. The short answer is “yes.” Since the first Gay Games in 1982, the FGG had been handling important Site Selection decisions in a rather informal way, based mostly on trust. Legend has it that Gay Games Founder, Dr. Tom Waddell, awarded the third Gay Games to Vancouver’s Richard Dopson with a simple handshake.

Although FGG had been gradually formalizing the Site Selection process and its related documents since even before the Montreal schism, there were still gaps in the process concerning due diligence. There was still a need to formally and adequately verify the bona fides of the people involved, perform background checks, and confirm that there was no previous history of illegal or dubious activities, business or otherwise, before signing any contracts.

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VERSUS

SHAMEY CRAMER: Not long after I was elected to the FGG Board as Officer of Ceremonies late in 2011, Co-President Kurt Dahl contacted me, asking if I would be interested in being part of a revitalized 1QE negotiation team. I immediately said yes.

One of the first things I made clear was that if there was going to be any serious discussion of our two organizations coming together, an outside audit of both organizations would be necessary. I reached out to an organization based in Chicago that provided valuations for sports events for the sake of corporate sponsors. It was going to cost, but if both organizations agreed to split the fee, it wouldn't be so bad, and would prove to be a wise investment in the long run. Given that both organizations had struggled to attract major corporate sponsorship, having a report such as this would alleviate many concerns a company might have in tying its brand to a global sports event promoting inclusion and diversity.

Kurt, Emy, and the FGG Negotiating Team (Dennis Sneyers, Klaus Heusslein, and myself) were all in favor of the idea. GLISA Co-President Wessel Van Kampen, head of their negotiating team, immediately rejected this suggestion when we proposed it in the email discussion prior to meeting in Montreal in May 2012. GLISA continued to refuse to have an independent third-party financial audit throughout the entire time I was a member of the 1QE and 1WE negotiating team (2012-2016).

They would also only agree to a deal where both the FGG and GLISA would receive a license fee of US$225,000 - basically double the license fee a host organization paid to the FGG at that time. Given that no previous host had fulfilled that obligation, it was ludicrous to think it would be a sensible move to have a host city pay double that amount in order to have two governing bodies tell them what to do.

When we informed our GLISA counterparts in Montreal that the FGG had rejected their offer, I distinctly recall one of the GLISA representatives first comments being: “But you have all the money.” I thought the comment so unusual - and in hindsight, quite telling - that I wrote it down in my notes.

They could plan and dictate terms all they wanted in our meetings, but I was never going to allow a deal to be signed without an independent financial review, or doubling the burden to a host organization. To do so would be a grave dereliction of duty by an officer of any Board of Directors, non-profit or not.

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Post 20 of 40 - 16 August - FGG and IOC: Finding Common Ground

Meeting of the Federation of Gay Games and the International Olympic Committee Paris, November 30, 2013

By Emy Ritt, President Emeritus and FGG Honourary Life Member

This article is dedicated to the late Marc Naimark, FGG Vice President, External Affairs.

Founded by an Olympic athlete and subsequently taken to court by the United States Olympic Committee even before the first Gay Games had actually taken place, over thirty years and a series of well-timed circumstances would be needed to result in what some might call a ‘Forrest Gump moment’ when the Federation of Gay Games found themselves ‘in the room’ with the President of the International Olympic Committee.

FIRST: The first synchronistic event leading up to the historic FGG-IOC meeting took place in 2005 when Cologne was selected to host the 2010 Gay Games. Thanks to Cologne’s Head of Communications, Jochen Färber, who travelled to Paris on a regular basis for his work with Eurosport, we (Paris-based Emy Ritt and the late Marc Naimark), met on a regular basis with Jochen to discuss plans for the Cologne’s Gay Games and to get to know each other. Jochen also worked for the International Fencing Federation managing events in Germany and around the world. In fact, in November 2010, we were invited by Jochen to attend the World Fencing Championships in Paris.

SECOND: Little did we know that a few years later in 2013, Jochen Färber would be appointed Chief of Staff for a former Olympic fencer from Germany, Thomas Bach, who had just been elected as the new President of the International Olympic Committee. This was the second synchronistic event that led to the historic FGG-IOC meeting.

THIRD: Meanwhile, reactions to the upcoming 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi (Russia) had been heating up, so to speak. Marc Naimark, FGG’s man behind the scenes, posted articles and information on a very frequent basis about discussions around the world concerning the repressive anti-LGBT+ policies of the Sochi host government. The local Russian LGBT+ political activists were also very vocal on social media, especially regarding what they viewed as the IOC’s complicity with Russia and their repression of human rights. Mainstream media was very active in related political discussions concerning the Sochi Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The Russian LGBT+ Sports Federation, a loyal FGG member organization, was planning the first ever Open Games in Moscow to promote diversity and equality and scheduled during the ten-10 day pause between the Olympic and Paralympic events.

With Thomas Bach becoming the new IOC President on 10 September 2013, and Jochen Färber, a former Cologne Gay Games Communications Director, named as his Chief of Staff on 18 October 2013, the IOC was well- placed to address concerns about LGBT+ human rights at the Sochi Winter Olympics. This was the third synchronistic event to contribute to the historic FGG-IOC meeting.


FGG-IOC Meeting on 30 November 2013. From left, Konstantin Yablotskiy, Elvina Yuvakaeva, Anastasia Smirnova, Emy Ritt, Jochen Färber, Thomas Bach. Not seen is Marc Naimark, who is taking the photo, and Mark Adams, who is to the right of Mr. Bach. Photo Credit: Marc Naimark



Presentation of Gay Games Medal to IOC President, Thomas Bach by FGG Co-President Emeritus, Emy Ritt. Photo Credit: Mark Naimark

THE MEETING: Although Jochen was not slated to officially start his new IOC job until 1 December 2013, he contacted FGG in early November to suggest that we participate in a meeting with IOC President Bach with representatives of the Russian LGBT+ Sports Federation and other Russian activist groups. IOC President Thomas Bach, a former Olympic fencer and medal winner, was already scheduled to be in Paris for the 100th Anniversary Gala Dinner of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) on 30 November. Once again, the sport of fencing was helping to bring key people together. This was the third synchronistic event to contribute to the FGG- IOC meeting.

In a matter of days, Jochen had managed to confirm the FGG-IOC meeting for Saturday, 30 November, secure a meeting room at a Paris hotel, contact the relevant participants, and organize their transportation and accommodation for those traveling from Russia.

Despite his busy schedule, which included meeting with the then French President, François Hollande, IOC President Thomas Bach spent more than an hour with Federation of Gay Games representatives, Emy Ritt and Marc Naimark, and the Russian LGBT Sports Federation’s Co-Presidents, Elvina Yuvakaeva and Konstantin Yablotskiy, and the Spokesperson for the Russian LGBT Activist Coalition, Anastasia Smirnova. Accompanying Bach were his soon-to-be new Chief of Staff, Jochen Färber, and IOC Director of Communications, Mark Adams.

The topics discussed during the meeting focused on the repression of the LGBT+ community in Russia. Reactions from the meeting participants to the historic FGG-IOC meeting were varied, interesting, and in some cases, very prescient, as described below in excerpts from articles written by the late Marc Naimark and journalists from around the world. See below:

  • The IOC confirmed that "a constructive meeting" had taken place.
  • FGG Vice-President of External Affairs, Marc Naimark, who was thrilled with the meeting and optimistic about future conversations, stated: "I know that our friends from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation were disappointed that no actions were announced at the end of the meeting, but that's not what this encounter was about," Naimark said. "The IOC expressed their desire as a sports organization to talk about LGBT issues with LGBT sports bodies. This is a real opportunity to promote our shared values of sport for all and sport free from discrimination."
  • Emy Ritt, FGG Co-President Emeritus, applauded the efforts of the IOC to engage with LGBT sport organizations. “We appreciate the courage and leadership of the IOC’s President, Thomas Bach, in making this meeting happen. For the Gay Games, born in conflict with the Olympic Movement, this evolution is particularly meaningful. We will be inviting both the USOC and the IOC to join us in Cleveland and Akron this August for the 2014 Gay Games. To see them there would be an encouraging sign that the Olympic Movement truly does value the Gay Games principles of “Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best”.
  • Elvina Yuvakaeva, Co-President of the Russian Open Games, explained to Mr. Bach the increasing difficulties in obtaining venues for their sporting events due to the ever-present repression of the LGBT+ community. She feared that after the Olympics and Paralympics, when the attention from the international public would decrease, homophobic repression would become even worse, with, for example, the reintroduction of the bill to remove children from gay parents. Elvina felt that the first Open Games would most probably be the last event in which Russian LGBT athletes would be able to compete in their own country. A letter of support was requested from Mr. Bach, the IOC President, both to help obtain venues and to potentially ward off some of the expected violence during the Open Games, as witnessed during previous LGBT+ events in Russia, such as the Side by Side film festival in St Petersburg.
  • Konstantin Yablotskiy recalled the key issues regarding Sochi: “We expressed our desire for a safe space for LGBT people at the Sochi Games. At the Vancouver and London Olympics, Pride Houses were organized by the LGBT sports community, but in Sochi, our government has banned such initiatives. We still hope that the IOC will be able to intervene to demonstrate its commitment to sport for all and to the values of the Olympic Charter.”

WITH GRATITUDE: The humble author of this article still finds it hard to believe that I had been part of such an historic moment of the Gay Games movement, and what a privilege it was!

* * *

Read more about this historic meeting at Outsports.com and on InsideTheGames.com

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Post 21 of 40 - 17 August - Gay Games 9: CLE + AKR 2014

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


The Cleveland skyline during Gay Games IX. Photo: Gary Sponholtz

To see the a video of the entire Opening Ceremony, click HERE
To see a local Cleveland news report about the Closing Ceremony, click HERE

MARY ZALLER: GG9 was a game changer for Northeast Ohio. Not only for the LGBTQ Community, but for the entire region. We are still experiencing many benefits of the collaborations and relationships that were built during that time – it was truly transformative!

In 2012, I was hired to be the Director of Development for Gay Games 9. Because Cleveland and Akron are both smaller cities, we needed not only the LGBTQ community, but the general population to get excited about the Gay Games,. I don't have the stats on this, but I think we are the Gay Games that had the most amount of allies as participants and volunteers.


Mary Zaller (left) with her wife Mary Prevel

I could talk forever about how GG9 continues to positively impact our entire community. But I was asked to talk about the financial success of the 2014 Gay Games, presented by the Cleveland Foundation (which was our official name). The fact that the Cleveland Foundation – the first Community Foundation in the country - stepped in early with a large sponsorship, lent us credibility with civic leaders in a time before nationwide marriage equality, and other rights for our community. Many of the major corporations, media outlets, sports teams, and nonprofits in the region stepped up to sponsor. Supporting GG9 became a matter of civic pride. Countless companies large and small were excited to be part of the effort, by contributing cash, in kind sponsorships, volunteer support and more.

One of the most gratifying outcomes was the large amount of small business sponsorships: over 150. We enabled businesses to participate for as little as $500 and connect their brand to this exciting international event. It was a way to democratize philanthropy for small business owners.


Gay Games 9 By The Numbers report

The economic impact was huge: $52.1 million plus $20.6 million in job creation! For those who like stats, there are many facts and numbers on the two attached overview documents.

We were a Gay Games of many firsts:

  • The first to undertake an organized effort to engage political leaders
  • The first to formally engage a network of local non-profit organizations as community partners
  • The first to implement a sustainability plan
  • The first to have a sitting Head of State address the Opening Ceremony (thanks to the tireless efforts of Shamey Cramer, FGG Officer of Ceremonies)
  • And the first to have a financial profit that enabled us to give back to our regional LGBTQ Community


Executive Tom Nobbe passing the torch to Paris - Gay Games IX Closing Ceremony


(L to R): Tom Nobbe, Gay Games founder Paul Mart; Honorary Life Member Richard Hogan

We had a dedicated board led by Co-Chairs ​Hollie M. Ksiezyk and Stephen G. Sokany, and a never-give-up and ever-growing staff led by Thomas Nobbe, Executive Director. One of the things we are proudest of, is that we ended with a $150,000 surplus that we were able to donate to the LGBTQ funds at the Cleveland Foundation and the Akron Gay Community Foundation.

The Federation of Gay Games chose Cleveland and Akron Ohio to make a difference by changing hearts and minds in the “heartland” of America. By all estimations, that goal was accomplished with the huge success of GG9.

* * *

 
Gay Games IX Scholarship orientation session. Photo: Doug Litwin



Gay Games IX Scholarship recipients in Cleveland

JEFFRY PIKE: Sharing the personal stories of scholarship recipients during and after the Sydney and Chicago Games has increased enthusiasm of donors and led to additional scholarship endowments and donations, thus expanding the opportunity for the FGG to help more participants attend Gay Games IX Cleveland (2014) and Gay Games X Paris (2018).

"I am actually thinking about becoming a president of the LGBT sports organization in St Petersburg. So, yes, yes, it is interesting for me to be here. I can see more about how to organize an event. It is very important for me. I am very grateful for all the people who helped us to be here today and all the ceremony, it’s really... I will cry, sorry... for me it is my dream to be here, and I am here, so thank you, thank you.”

— St. Petersburg, Russia Event: Badminton

“I say very simply what is from my heart, Thank You. It’s not only two words, (starts to tear-up), It’s really important... I, don’t know many words of English. It is really sometimes very hard to know who I am, but today I am happy, I cry, but I feel happy... so thank you.”

— Moscow, Russia Event: Badminton

* * *


Jeferson Sousa (center) with Joanie Evans and FGG Site Selection Officer Dave Killian 

JEFERSON SOUSA: Hi I’m Jeferson Sousa. I live in Brazil. I have been a physical education teacher since 2004 and sport has been a part of my life since I was a child.

After I came out from the closet, I tried to find some organisation here in Brazil where I could learn and participate more about lGBTQIA+ issues. To my surprise, I found CDG BRAZIL in São Paulo searching on the internet in 2009. I became a volunteer and two years later, I was invited to become CDG Brazil Vice President. CDG BRAZIL means to me a great history. I learned as well as had a great experience working inside a LGBTQIA+ NGO.


Flyer for the 2014 "Building Bridges" Town Hall meeting during the Sin City Classic

The Gay Games changed my life forever. Through their scholarship program, I was able to make a presentation at the Federation of Gay Games 2014 “Building Bridges” symposium in Las Vegas and participated in Volleyball at Gay Games 9 in Cleveland that summer. My team captured a silver medal.

That was the most incredible experience of my life. I felt like a blessed, embraced, and lucky person. There were so many great people there sharing their experiences and life stories.

When I returned, I came out to my family, and also came out on national television in Brazil. Through my work with CDG BRAZIL, with the support of the FGG, we produced Rio 2016 Olympic Pride House and a multi-sport festival in conjunction with Sao Paulo Pride 2017.

And in October 2017, I became the first Latin American member of the FGG Board of Directors when I was selected to be an Officer at Large. I was able to promote greater awareness about the Gay Games with a lot of LGBTQIA + organisations here in Brazil and Latin America. And now, Guadalajara Mexico will host the first Gay Games in Latin America!

Being part of the FGG and participating at Gay Games changed my life, making me a better, stronger and more polite person.

* * *


Jim Hahn (left) with his medal-winning team in Cleveland. Photo: Jim Hahn

JAMES HAHN: Gay Games 9 would change things up yet again and become the first Gay Games to partner with a local organization to facilitate the production of the Games. This Gay Games would become known as The Cleveland Foundation presents Gay Games 9: Cleveland + Akron 2014. The Cleveland Foundation was formed in 1914 for the purposes of enhancing and promoting Cleveland, Ohio.

As the saying goes, we arrived in Cleveland. The first thing I noticed was a bright billboard near the highway on the way into town from the airport welcoming people to the Gay Games. It was the first time I'd ever experienced the word “Gay” in bright lights in a very straight, very public setting.


Cleveland businesses rolled out the "rainbow carpet." Photo: Jim Hahn

In almost every storefront, including those in the permanent farmer’s markets and in shopping enclaves in various parts of town, there was a rainbow flag or the Gay Games flag. You knew immediately that you were intentionally welcome there. Nearly everything was organized beautifully, including the convention center and the park across the street which was home the Festival Village, a running venue of vendors and stage shows throughout the week.

Teammate Doug Litwin was lucky to find our team a large, beautiful home in Cleveland Heights to rent. It was a great venue for us to meet with friends and teammates throughout the week. To get to downtown from this house you drove several miles on a long thoroughfare which the first thing I noticed was that nearly every flag pole in front of nearly every building had a rainbow flag on it. The Gay Games has never had such a welcome.

* * *


FGG Co-Presidents Kurt Dahl and Joanie Evans speaking at the GGIX Opening Ceremony. Photo: Tricia Uveges
 

JOANIE EVANS: For years I had always joked about being the first Black Female Co-President of the FGG, mainly because I had thought it was an inaccessible role for me as I’m working class, live in a council flat and earn a minimum wage. But now I am, I see that it was possible due to my years of participation on boards, committees, and my commitment to sports, which I hadn’t noticed had been noticed. Now that I’ve been in the role for a while, I see the seriousness of what I can represent, not just a woman of colour but as an advocate of sports for ALL.

  
FGG Co-Presidents Joanie Evans and Kurt Dahl at the GGIX Opening Ceremony. Photo: Tricia Uveges 

Leading the Board out, ahead of the Parade of Athletes in Cleveland/Akron 2014 was amazing. I had been in Cleveland for a few days before the games started and had wandered around the city with my pals Elizabeth Kerekere and Alofa Aiono from New Zealand. Little did I know how much my life would be changed after the Opening Ceremony. It took me over an hour to leave the stadium as I was mobbed by participants, which I wasn’t expecting at all.

The rest of the Games, I had no time to myself. I had chosen not to play football as it would not have allowed me to visit as many of the events in Cleveland and Akron to show my support to the participants and hear from them what a difference the games has made for them in the same way it had for me and I loved every interaction.

* * *


Tony Smith (center) at Gay Games IX Closing Ceremony. Photo: Tony Smith

TONY SMITH: While with the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association, I served as President and helped our organization host two North American Gay Volleyball Championships in Denver, not to mention countless local leagues and tournaments. In 2010, I pitched a position to the organizers of the 2014 Gay Games 9 Cleveland + Akron called the International Champions Coordinator, a program that continues to this day. The sole purpose of this program is to get more athletes to participate.

I created the International Champions Program based on the observation of how the world of LGBTQ sports had evolved since the Gay Games began. Public and organized LGBTQ sports are a recent phenomenon due to equality trailblazers around the world; one initial way to organize athletes for the Gay Games were “TEAMS” organized by major cities and states i.e. Team San Francisco, Team Colorado, etc. Since then, however, LGBTQ sports have evolved grown exponentially to be focused mostly by sport, by orientation and by location i.e. Colorado Gay Volleyball Association, National Gay and Lesbian Flag Football Association, etc. This evolution required the Gay Games to re-think how it reached out to athletes all around the world – the key being reaching out to our target audiences of athletes already participating in sports and cultural activities featured at the Gay Games. One example I stressed is that casting a wide net of Gay Games promotion at Gay Pride Parades is simply not focused enough; we need to get Gay Games promotional materials directly in the hands of the very people we want to get to the Games.

The International Champions Program works to laser-focus marketing to sports and cultural events participating in the Gay Games, followed by identifying individuals that champion all elements of the Games, target outreach to tournaments, organizations and events that have traveling athletes and cultural participants. This marketing includes banners, t-shirts, business cards, social media, influencers, celebrities, government, Ambassadors, and more.

Following my service 2012-2014 for Gay Games 9, I was elected to the FGG Board of Directors as the Officer of Communications 2014-2018.

* * *


Laura Moore (left) skating with Rosalia Palumbo

LAURA MOORE: I met Rosalia Palumbo at a competition in NJ not long after I returned to the ice. She was planning to go to Cleveland to skate with Bradley Erickson and asked if I would be interested in skating with her, too. Would I ever!!!

We did a sexy “morning after” skate to “She Was my Baby Last Night” in lingerie. The look on my face when she lifted me captured my excitement perfectly.


Blind skater "Stash" with his sighted partner, a Gay Games first. Photo: Kelly Murphy-Stevens

There were some incredible moments on the ice in Cleveland. We welcomed our first openly trans figure skaters and marveled at a completely blind skater ice dancing with a sighted partner.

* * *

  
 (L) The South Africa delegation, minus Shamey but featuring Hlengiwe Buthelezi (white t-shirt). Photo: Michele Rodriguez
(R) The Slovenia delegation and its only member Shamey Cramer. Photo: Matt Cordish

SHAMEY CRAMER: Once the FGG Board of Directors and the scholarship recipients made our entrance into Quicken Loans Arena and were escorted to our seats, Hlengiwe Buthelezi, one of our scholarship recipients from South Africa, was distraught. She wanted to get back to where her fellow South Africans were in order to march in with them, but wasn’t sure how to get there; or if she had sufficient time to do so.

Given the amount of time I had spent in “The Q” the past few days serving as Writer-Executive Producer for the Opening Ceremony, I was able to recall the quickest way to get from one level to the next, which involved two elevators and several staircases. I surprised myself at how well I did, because we got back to the line with plenty of time.

When we joined her contingent, I asked “would you guys minds if I marched in with you? That would actually be the easiest way for me to get back to my seat.” They laughed, and said “Sure!”

The person holding the banner in front of the South Africa banner turned around and said: “Too bad - my athlete isn’t arriving until tomorrow so I have no one to march behind the Slovenia banner.”

With that, I turned to my new South African friends and said: “So long South Africa, hello Slovenia!” We all had a good laugh - but none more so than the Cleveland Games Board members and employees lining the entrance when we actually walked into the stadium. They all looked at me, puzzled, shaking their heads, and laughing. Who else did they expect to fill in for an absent participant, other than the Officer of Ceremonies?

As exhausting as it all was, once I got back to my host’s late that night, I got on the phone with GG9 Director of Development Mary Zaller and chatted for a good two hours. When I told her how I ended up being the lone representative for Slovenia, she became very silent. “You know my Dad was Slovenian.” I joined her in silence for a few seconds before we agreed that it definitely was a sign letting her know how proud he was of her.

* * *

HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: Cleveland + Akron was an awesome Gay Games and I met wonderful people for life. Besides capturing 5 Gold medals, the whole experience was awesome because by then I had a good experience about the Gay Games with many friends that I’d I met during the previous games. I met a wonderful lesbian couple (Cathy & Peg) in Cleveland who hosted me before I moved to the Akron university hostels where Track & Field competitions were held. The closing ceremony was in Cleveland so they welcomed me back till I left Cleveland to California. I started in San Diego for the invitation to give a talk in 3 different organisations and a Rotary club, then I sealed it with Los Angeles to give a talk at the UCLA AIDS project.

* * *

Akron Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic (L) & Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson (R) at GGIX Opening Ceremony. Photo: Matt Cordish

EMY RITT: The Cleveland-Akron Gay Games ultimately took place in the summer of 2014 with the full support of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Akron Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic. This was the first time that two cities teamed up to host the Gay Games. The local corporate and sporting communities also provided their full support and access to venues, such as the then-named Quicken Loans Arena (or “the Q”) for the Opening Ceremony, the Huntington Convention Center for Accreditation, and the University of Akron Athletic Center. The Cleveland GG9 Team, led by Tom Nobbe and Rob Smitherman, organized and executed an excellent Gay Games.

For the first time ever, the Host Country’s Head of State addressed the Opening Ceremony via a pre-recorded video. How cool is that! President Barack Obama’s message promoted inclusion and diversity while welcoming Gay Games participants from all over the world and encouraging them to strive for their personal best. Other dignitaries included Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and his wife, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Connie Schultz. Their addresses to the packed stadium were heartfelt and very well received.

During the entire week of GG9, the people of Cleveland and Akron displayed their support and friendship, volunteered by the dozens, and opened their hearts to the Gay Games and its participants.

* * *


Richard Hogan at Gay Games IX, 2014

RICHARD HOGAN: Cleveland had an amazing atmosphere during the Gay Games! All week the tallest building in town had rainbow lights which were visible for miles. The locals were very welcoming and seemed very proud to have us visiting their city. Like so many others, I was very impressed to see USA President Barack Obama welcome us during the Opening Ceremony. What a great surprise!

One evening I attended a concert by the Cleveland Orchestra at the beautiful Severance Hall. The concert was in association with the Gay Games but it looked like most of the audience were locals. After the concert my friends and I gathered outside for a drink before going to dinner. All of a sudden someone started to sing and before long there was a large “choral flash mob” singing fun gay themed songs. I was later told the singers were local Ohio residents who just wanted to join the fun… and it was really great fun!

I participated in Track & Field and finally won a Gay Games medal, a bronze in the 100 metre sprint. Of course, I value my previous Participation Medals just as much!

* * *


CHEER SF check presentation to the FGG Scholarship Fund at Gay Games IX. Anthony Alston second from left.

ANTHONY ALSTON: Little did I know that in April 2014 I would be called back to Seattle to become a full-time caregiver for my mom as she battled Alzheimer's disease. It broke my heart to leave the team that I deeply loved but going home was the right thing to do. I was needed here. As I write this essay, after eight incredible years, my mother is being transferred to an adult family home. I am no longer able to provide the same level of one-to-one care that she requires. I knew this day would come but it still hurts because adulting is hard.

Now, CHEER was fully engaged and visible. Thanks to the stewardship of Sanford and Rob Smitherman, CHEER had a more active role at the Games. Not only did CHEER perform a collaborative routine with their sister squads, CHEER SF also performed in a tribute to the birthplace of “Superman” during the Opening Ceremony.

CHEER was everywhere! We welcomed the participants onto the arena floor during the parade of athletes. We were “spirit jamming” at the venue exits of the Quicken Loans Arena following the Opening Ceremony. We hosted our CHEER competition and exhibition in the Cleveland Auditorium Music Hall. We cheered at Gay Games basketball games and dart throwing competitions. We performed at the Closing Ceremony. CHEER SF even hosted a fundraiser at a local bar. We were excited to raise $12k during our 10 day stay in Cleveland. Half of the raised funds went to a local nonprofit supporting the HIV/AIDS community and the other half went to the FGG’s scholarship fund. At that time, CHEER was the single largest donor to date for the scholarship program.

CHEER New York took gold in “Sport Pom” and CHEER San Francisco collected the silver. Wow! Silver! At the Gay Games! What a feeling! CHEER NY brought hip hop fire to the competition. It was awesome! I understand that CHEER NY had “Broadway” level dancers on their team and I was totally cool taking second place to them. Mind you, I had been away from CHEER SF for several months and I was grateful to learn new choreography quickly enough so as to not bring my team’s performance down. I still had that “CHEER SF magic” as I’d like to call it. For those that don’t know this was the moment that “CHEER Seattle” was announced to the world. If you could only see my mouth drop to the floor when I heard the words come out of Sara Toogood’s mouth on what was to come. Toogood was relocating to Seattle with her husband.

* * *


(l to r) Sandra Ghiralducci, Jessica Waddell Lewinstein, Kyle Chang, Sara, Waddell Lewinstein, Hlengiwe Buthelezi. Photo: Kelly Murphy-Stevens


Tom Waddell Award recipients Elvina Yuvakaeva and Gene Dermody. Photo: Kelly Murphy-Stevens 

JESSICA WADDELL LEWINSTEIN: In Cleveland, I was back again, but now as part of the audience, and as a full-grown woman. This time, as someone who had a better understanding of the challenges people continue to face around the world. I remember being in awe of Elvina Yuvakaeva, the Russian LGBT Sports Federation Co-President and GG9 Waddell Award recipient, and everything she had to overcome to be there. And I remember feeling full of delight and excitement to see a message to the Gay Games from the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

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Post 22 of 40 - 18 August - Headliners, Politicians, and the GG9 Obama Welcome Video

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *

Since the beginning, the Gay Games have attracted headliner entertainment and politicians alike. From Tina Turner and Stephanie Mills at Gay Games I: San Francisco 1982, to Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Richard M. Daley Jr. at Gay Games IV: New York 1994 and Gay Games VII: Chicago 2006, respectively, pictured below are those who have graced the Gay Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

* * *


Gay Games 9 Opening Ceremony, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland. Photo: Tricia Uveges

SHAMEY CRAMER: I spent the Summer of 2013 in Washington DC as a volunteer advocate on the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, and served as the delegation lead for the Oval Office Signing Ceremony with President Obama that November.


  
 Shamey Cramer with Gautam Raghavan, White House LGBTQ+ Liaison
(R) Shamey Cramer with Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin

Thanks to Team DC’s Brent Minor, himself a former FGG Co-President, I was able to attend the on-field activities for the “Night Out at the Nationals” baseball game in mid-June. I had the opportunity to chat with Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first lesbian to serve openly in the U.S. Senate. She had participated in Gay Games IV (where she earned a silver medal in volleyball) and was thrilled to hear of its progress since.


FGG Co-President Emy Ritt, FGG Honorary Life Member Les Johnson, US Senator Tammy Baldwin

Another individual in attendance was Gautam Raghavan, who served as the White House Office of Engagement liaison for the LGBTQ+ community. When I asked him how we could get an invitation to President Obama to officially open Gay Games 9, we exchanged contact information. Three days later, FGG Co-President Emy Ritt and I met Gautam at a coffee shop across the street from his offices next the White House.

Gautam outlined what we needed to put in the letter, and the best time frame for submitting our request. Fortunately, we were still thirteen months out from the event, so we had time to adhere to the presumptive timeline.

Understanding the massive amounts of similar requests the White House receives on a daily basis, with the odds against us, I felt it best to not even let anyone know the request was being put into action. Those who were aware included Gay Games 9 Board member Gregg Levine and myself, GG9 CEO Tom Nobbe, Emy and Kurt, and later Joanie and producer Patrick Roberge; and Valarie McCall, representative for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

  

Letter from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to President Barack Obama

After drafting the letter and receiving approval by the FGG and GG9 leadership, the letter was forwarded to Valarie for Mayor Jackson’s approval and signature. Once signed by Mayor Jackson, it was submitted to the White House on October 8, 2013.

Now all we had to do was wait.

Ten days before Opening Ceremony, I received an email from Gautam. The video was still being considered as part of the President's schedule for the following Friday. All we could do was wait and pray.


FGG Honorary Life Member Les Johnson with Gautam Raghavan at the "Night Out With The Nationals" baseball game
 

On Monday, I received another confirmation email from Gautam, with a simple request: could I please provide some talking points for President Obama?

If I thought meeting President Obama in the Oval Office was amazing, being asked to write words for him to speak is even more humbling. By the next morning, I submitted nearly a dozen key points that could be addressed in the brief speech. Points that touched on the historic changes that have occurred since the Gay Games founding, including since they were last held in the USA, in Chicago. Basically, providing him with the key talking points that we have had from the beginning: we use sport to address the issues of homophobia, sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination; sport as a vehicle for human rights.

At the end of the day on Thursday, I once again received an email from Gautam: barring any incident, the video recording was scheduled for the President some time the next afternoon - the day before Opening Ceremony. I would receive an email with a coded link once the video was ready for me to download and share with Patrick Roberge, the Opening Ceremony Producer and Showrunner.

Needless to say, I felt as if I was the cat that had swallowed a whole flock of canaries. I was also sitting on pins and needles all day Friday, attending an FGG Board meeting, still praying no international crisis would suddenly occur; and then not knowing when the video would actually arrive.

To make matters even more intense, the Cleveland Games Committee produced an extraordinary gala at the Art Museum that evening, with many people asking about our plans for the Opening Ceremony the next day. All I could do was smile and say “you'll see!”

I got back to my hosts’ home from the  Art Museum around midnight to discover the video link. I jumped on the phone with Gregg Levine, forwarding him the link as well, so we could watch it together. After waiting what seemed like forever for the video to download, we both were able to watch it together over the phone. All I recall is being in a state of euphoric shock - WE DID IT!!!

Opening Day began very early for me, overseeing the Memorial Moment ceremony, attending the Scholarship Welcome Reception, checking in on Opening Ceremony rehearsals, and producing and hosting the Legacy Awards being given out at a VIP reception inside the Q Arena for nearly 300 VIPS, sponsors and dignitaries - still not being able to mention a word about the content of the show.

After the Parade of Athletes & Artists came the singing of the national anthem. The auditorium was in darkness, as the music and applause faded. For a second, there was silence. And then, the four-sided Jumbotron in the middle of the Q Arena was lit up with President Obama saying: “Hello, Everybody, and welcome to the United States, and to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.” Of course, no one probably heard him say anything after “Everybody,” given the thunderous burst of gasps and applause, followed by massive shushing. He continued:

“…a chance to come together…. in my hometown of Chicago….the United States stands with you and for your human rights”

Once again, a massive burst of cheers and applause, then silence. “We're also a country that loves competition, so let's get these Games under way! Good luck to everyone in Cleveland and Akron, and Go Team USA!”

The Q Arena erupted into wild applause and shouts of joy. I sat there, tears glistening in my eyes, feeling very serene and at peace. As the only person on the Board who had actually worked with Tom all those years ago, producing the Obama welcome video meant something deeper. I had achieved another benchmark that Tom, Jean Tretter and I, and the other members of the IGOA had envisioned in October 1982: to have the head of state participate in the Gay Games Opening Ceremony. A new "Personal Best" for the Gay Games.

To see the Barack Obama video from Gay Games 9, click HERE.

* * *

Listed and pictured below are those dignitaries, entertainers, and celebrity athletes who have graced the Gay Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies with their presence.

 

Event / Year

Location

Politicians

Entertainers

Athletes

Gay Games I 1982

San Francisco

Acting Mayor Doris Ward, Congressman Phil Burton

Tina Turner, Stephanie Mills, Armistead Maupin, Rita Mae Brown

former U.S. Olympians George Frenn and Susan McGrievy

Gay Games II 1986

San Francisco

Mayor Dianne Feinstein

Jennifer Holliday, Jae Ross

Gay Games III 1990

Vancouver

Comedienne Robin Tyler

Gay Games IV 1994

New York City

Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor Mario Cuomo (Basketball)

Harvey Fierstein, Cyndi Lauper, Patti LaBelle, Greg Louganis, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Barbara Cook, Kathy Najimy, Armistead Maupin, Sir Ian McKellen, Desmond Child, Crystal Waters, Phyllis Hyman, Lillias White

Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova,

Gay Games V 1998

Amsterdam

The Weather Girls, Dana International

Gay Games VI 2002

Sydney

Governor of New South Wales, Right Honourable Justice Michael Kirby, New South Wales Governor Professor Marie Bashir

k.d. lang, Kath & Kim,

Gay Games VII 2006

Chicago

Mayor Richard M. Daley, Jr., United States Ambassador James C. Hormel, Deputy Mayor Elfi Scho-Antwerpes

Jimmy Somerville, Jason & deMarco, Billy Porter, Ari Gold and the Broadway cast of Avenue Q, Cyndi Lauper, Erasure’s Andy Bell, Megan Mullally, Ant, Sharon McKnight, George Takei, Margaret Cho, Kate Clinton, Holly Near, Barbara Higbie, Nedra Johnson, Teresa Trull, Jody Watley, Cirque du Soleil performers, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Heather Small, Betty, Levi Kreis & Eric Himan, Ant, Doria Roberts, Kristine W.

Billy Bean, David Kopay, Esera Tuaolo, Leigh Ann Naidoo, Greg Louganis

Gay Games VIII 2010

Cologne

Deputy Mayor Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, USA Ambassador Philip Murphy, Hillary Clinton, Openly gay German Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle

Taylor Dayne

Matthew Mitcham, Leigh Ann Naidoo, Michelle Ferris, Dave Kopay, John Amaechi

Gay Games IX 2014

Cleveland + Akron

President Barack H. Obama, Senator Sherrod Brown, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic

Melissa Etheridge, Lance Bass, Boy George, Alex Newell, Andrea McArdle, Pointer Sisters

Blake Skjellerup, Greg Louganis, Robbie Rogers, Jason Collins, Leigh Ann Naidoo

Gay Games X 2018

Paris

Mayor Honorable Anne Hidalgo, Laura Flessel

Jean-Paul Gaultier, Offer Nissim

 

      
Gay Games I (L to R): Tina Turner, Rita Mae Brown, Mary Dunlap

 
Gay Games I George Frenn & Susan McGrievy



Gay Games II: Mayor Dianne Feinstein with Tom Waddell


Gay Games III: Robin Tyler

      
Gay Games IV (L to R): Patti LaBelle, Cyndi Lauper, Barbara Cook, Armistead Maupin

      
Gay Games IV (L to R): Kathy Najimy, Sir Ian McKellan, Lillias White, Desmond Child

      
Gay Gay Games IV (L to R): Dianne Reeves, Crystal Waters, Phyllis Hyman, Martina Navratilova & Billie Jean King

    
Gay Games IV (L to R): Suzanne Westenhoefer, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Greg Louganis

  
Gay Games V (L to R): Weather Girls, Dana International

  
Games VI (L to R): k. d. lang, Justice Michael Kirby

      
Gay Games VII: (L to R) Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Margaret Cho, Jessica Waddell Lewinstein, Erasure's Andy Bell 


      
Gay Games VII: (L to R) Kate Clinton, Jorge Valencia, Jody Watley, Megan Mullally


      

Gay Games VII: (L to R) Esera Tuaolo, Geiorge Takei, David Kopay, Broadway cast of Avenue Q

      

Gay Games VII: (L to R) Matt Alber, Ari Gold, Leigh Ann Naidoo, Billy Bean

      
Gay Games VII: (L to R) Poppy Champlin, Mayor Daley with Cologne Deputy Mayor Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, Cyndi Lauper, Sharon McKnight

      

Gay Games VII: (L to R) Jason & deMarco, Leigh-Ann Naidoo with Billy Bean, Staceyann Chin, Shavonne Conroy

      

Gay Games VII: (L to R) Levi Kreis & Eric Himan, Ant, Doria Roberts, Kristine W.
Gay Games VII photos by: Beckermedia, Amy Moseley, Bob Olayas, Jay W, Ryan Kolodziej, Ron Favors, Rose Mary Mitchell

      
GGVIII: (L to R) Cologne Deputy Mayor Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, Michelle Ferris & John Amaechi, Matthew Mitcham, German Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwell

      
GGVIII: (L to R) Hillary Clinton, Matthew Micham & Michelle Ferris (Dave Kopay in background), Ambassador Phil Murphy, Taylor Dayne & FGG Officer of Communications Kelly Stevens

      
GGIX: (L to R) Pointer Sisters, Alex Newell, Andrea McArdle, Greg Louganis

    

GGIX: (L to R) President Barack H. Obama, Senator Sherrod Brown with wife Connie Schultz, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson & Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic, Blake Skjellerup

  
GGIX: (L to R) Lance Bass, Boy George

      
GGX: (L to R) Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Laura Flessel, Offer Nissim, Jean-Paul Gaultier


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Post 23 of 40 - 19 August - The End of 1WE: Focus Forward

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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SHAMEY CRAMER: Three months after the Montreal Summit between the FGG and GLISA, the FGG held its Annual General Assembly in Sofia Bulgaria, hosted by Tangra SC; the first time a queer sports-related event occurred east of the Balkans. The Assembly members were very irate that we hadn’t reached a successful conclusion. I remember pointing out to them that the only deal GLISA was willing to consider required the Host Organization to pay nearly US$500,000 License Fee, which was exorbitant and unrealistic. The Assembly representatives insisted we re-engage, so I was once again put on the team, with newly-elected Board member Armin Lohrmann also assigned to the task.


Koln working group: Martin,  Christensen, Armin Lohrmann, Greg Larocque, Joanie Evans, Barry Taylor, Shamey Cramer

In October 2013, The FGG and GLISA began communications once again to see about repairing the damage that had been caused ten years earlier by Montreal’s decision to launch the OutGames. During that time, OutGames I in Montreal, OutGames II in Copenhagen and OutGames III in Antwerp all suffered multi-million dollar losses.

When Joanie Evans joined the Board in early 2014, she replaced Kurt Dahl as the FGG Team Leader for what would become known as One World Event/1WE. Armin, Joanie, and I developed a strong bond and good working relationship. We also worked well with GLISA representatives Gregg Larocque from Canada and Martin Christensen from Denmark. Soon after, Barry Taylor from Australia joined their team.


L-R: Joanie Evans, Martin Christensen, Barry Taylor, Armin Lohrmann, Shamey Cramer and Greg Larocque

FGG representatives, including Emy Ritt, had met at the annual meeting for the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation in Lubljana where they outlined and agreed to a revised plan for negotiations.

It was also around this time I reached out to attorney David Huebner, the former U.S. Ambassador to Aotearoa/New Zealand, who agreed to represent the FGG in our ongoing negotiations. He would later serve as an observer to the legal proceedings involving the detainees held in Guantanamo Bay by the U. S. Government for their involvement with the attacks that occurred on 11 September, 2001.

In December 2014, SC Janus, the queer sports organization in Cologne Germany, hosted the 1WE Working Group. Although the discussions between the six representatives were mostly smooth, there were several sticking points, including GLISA once again refusing to have a third-party audit of our two organizations.

During the next thirty days, the Working Group drafted the Cologne Report, which outlined several ways we could move forward. Due to health matters, Barry Taylor stepped down from the group, and was replaced by Victor Elkins, the new GLISA Co-President. Gregg Larocque and I represented the Working Group at a Town Hall in San Francisco in April 2015.

In May, a Memo of Understanding was drafted and approved between the two groups, which caused quite a bit of animosity from the FGG “Old Guard” based in San Francisco, directing their anger toward the 1WE Working Group, especially the three FGG members. We were subjected to unnecessary vitriol on social media and in the Bay Area Reporter’s Jock Talk opinion column. This, in turn, caused increased obstinance from GLISA during the negotiations, further delaying resolution and putting the FGG team between a rock and a hard place.


Stockholm meeting, L-R: Armin Lohrmann, Shamey Cramer, Martin Christensen, Joanie Evans, Victor Elkins

Since GLISA still refused to an external audit, the FGG Board voted unanimously to support a Risk Analysis summary as the Working Group hosted another forum during the Stockholm 2015 EuroGames. Also in attendance was Ivan Cano, the main organizer for the Miami 2017 OutGames.

On September 26, in a show of solidarity, a Site Selection meeting was scheduled. Unfortunately, GLISA representatives did not attend. A week later during the monthly 1WE Working Group call, I once again pressed to have an outside audit, with GLISA representative Gregg Larocque claiming it was “not worth the expense.”

During its 2015 Annual General Assembly in Limerick Ireland, the FGG voted to support the Memo of Understanding, but chose not to accept the first two of the four options presented in the Cologne Report. Thus, the FGG Board continued focusing on the other two options as it moved forward with its Risk Analysis.

It was also determined that the next step would be for each organization to have seven representatives on a Transition Commission. The FGG team was pleased to have former FGG Co-Presidents Kathleen Webster and Rick Peterson join the FGG Board members who had been part of this operation the past three years.

In order to activate the Risk Analysis, the FGG created a list of 48 questions - 31 which were submitted to GLISA for a response. Unfortunately, GLISA continued to stall, refusing to respond to the questions.

Despite continued letters back and forth between the two sets of Co-Presidents, GLISA continued to refuse to respond to the FGG requests, or appoint members to the Transition Commission. On 29 January 2016, The FGG submitted its third request for a response to our 31 questions, with a 5 February response deadline, letting GLISA know that not responding to the questions made it too high risk a venture to create a combined quadrennial event.

When GLISA chose not to respond, the FGG Board voted at its February meeting to cease all discussions and activities with GLISA. A letter was sent to the GLISA Co-Presidents on 2 March informing them of our decision, and published a Letter to the Global LGBTIQ+ Sports Community citing our reasons for doing so.

It had been more than a dozen years since Montreal had walked away from hosting Gay Games VII, and seven since the FGG did everything it could to create a unified event. The following year, on what was supposed to be the Opening Day for OutGames IV: Miami 2017, with thousands of athletes and artists already assembled, Ivan Cano and the other organizers issued a statement informing the participants that they had not secured the venues and were cancelling the OutGames.

Needless to say, since most of the athletes and artists were already in Miami or literally in flight, there was a lot of anger. Following an investigation by the state of Florida’s Attorney General, it was deemed that although the Miami organizers had mismanaged their event, they could not be held liable for the financial burden by those who had trained, registered, and attended the anticipated event.

Although the organizers shirked their responsibilities, many of the local sports organizations, as well as those with previous experience producing their sport competitions, worked fervently to present opportunities for the athletes and artists to engage. It was nice to see that even in the most difficult of circumstances, the athletes and artists rose to the occasion.

GLISA soon folded, and the following year, Gay Games 10: Paris 2018 proved to be the most financially successful Gay Games to date.

* * *


Ad for the ill-fated 2017 Miami OutGames Opening Ceremony, cancelled one day before it was scheduled to take place

TONY SMITH: Along with promoting Gay Games 10 Paris and the bid process for Gay Games 11, the road to Paris also entailed the arduous communications necessary during the negotiations with the World OutGames organization. OutGames ended up closing operations in that timeframe due to corporate mismanagement. With regards to communications efforts, I was adamant that the FGG would always take the higher ground and empathy for all during those tough times. The FGG’s success has continued due to its commitment to athletes, supporters, and the mission of the organization.

* * *

    
The rainy 2014 International Rainbow Memorial Run, held just outside historic Kezar Stadium, the site of GGI and GGII. Reggie Snowden holds the green flag. The center photo shows Gene Dermody holding the microphone for Brent Nicholson Earle, who is wearing Tom Waddell's 1968 Olympic warm-up jacket.

REGGIE SNOWDEN: Living in San Francisco, we are lucky to have so many historic events right here in our backyard. From the inception of the Gay Olympics that became Gay Games to the creation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, I don’t need to walk far to find inspiration.

In 2014, I attended the International Rainbow Memorial Run with a small handful of members from the San Francisco Track & Field Club and San Francisco FrontRunners. It was another foggy, rainy morning in San Francisco and the incomparable warrior Brent Nicholson Earle shared his words of wisdom and emotional story about running across the United States for Breast Cancer awareness and for those he had lost to AIDS. Each section we stopped along the run, Brent would share more stories and it ended at the United Nations Plaza at Civic Center, downtown San Francisco when they did the quilt ceremony and read names we can never forget. We had about 15 people towards the end of the event. I promised Brent I would organize the next International Rainbow Memorial Run that would take place in 2018, prior to Gay Games, Paris.

To follow up with my promise to Brent, I started to reach out to various clubs. Being an active member of San Francisco FrontRunners, it was easy to get the runners involved along with San Francisco Track & Field. Cheer San Francisco lead us with a roar as wrestlers, basketball players, volleyball players, soccer players, tennis players and other organizations were in attendance.

The President of SF FrontRunners welcomed us as we had one of the largest circles to welcome guests and supporters. Honorary Lifetime Members of the Federation of Gay Games Brent Nicholson Earle and Gino Carmody, both recipients of the prestigious Tom Waddell Award, addressed the participants as we proceeded from Stow Lake to the AIDS Memorial Grove where more stories were shared. From there, we ran to where it all began in 1982: Kezar Stadium. We did a roll call of each city Gay Games were hosted by and recognized a couple members who have attended all Gay Games since 1982. From there we completed the run and we’re welcomed by CHEER San Francisco and sister clubs as we completed the run.

We were honored to have Gino Carmody sing and speakers included Sara Lewinstein Waddell and State Senator Scott Wiener. As the names were announced and the quilt ceremony took place, CHEER San Francisco created an impromptu magical moment as they embraced hands to form a large circle of around 80 participants. As so many names were announced, there were tears of sorrow as we reflected on how far we have come but also as a reminder that our fight isn’t over yet for participation, inclusion and personal best around the world.

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Post 24 of 40 - 20 August - Gay Games 10

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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* * *

  
Noemi Arzate at Paris Gay Games in 2018

NOEMI ARZATE: Hola mi nombre es Noemi Arzate Miranda de Mexico soy una Mujer Trans activista por los derechos de las personas de la diversidad sexual y de género, deportista, madre de 2 hijos y presidenta de A.C. Azkatl México Diversidad Deporte y Cultura.

En lo personal a lo largo de mi vida de mi infancia, niñez, juventud y hasta la actualidad el sector trans ha sido el centro de discriminacion dentro de nuestra sociedad, se nos ha negado el derecho en todos los ámbitos en todos los espacios, profesiones y al deporte.

El deporte en lo personal fue mi impulso para salir adelante, para luchar por mis sueños para disciplinarme para alejarme de las drogas y tener otra perspectiva de la vida como mujer trans,(no solo somos estilistas ni trabajadoras sxuales), no pense que el deporte fuera para mi, tenia mucho miedo ejercerlo por que son espacios eteronormales donde solo existe el machismo.

Lo intente empese a jugar fútbol dentro de ligas eterosexuales me corrian o se burlaban de mí, pero seguí mi sueño hasta alcanzarlo con muchas resistencias pero muy satisfecha,

Ahora ya tenemos espacios seguros sin discriminacion, una liga gay que es un recinto dentro de mi comunidad ya por más de 14 años, fui becada por la federación Gay Games donde me dieron la oportunidad de realizar el más grande de mi sueños unas olimpiadas a nivel mundial donde conocí más de 80 países,sus culturas y su pasión por el deporte y el poder representar a mi país fui la mujer más feliz, y para concretar mi felicidad mi sueño obtuve medalla de plata en fútbol soccer, gracias a ese viaje y medalla se me abrieron las puertas en lo personal, laboral y seguir impulsando al sector trans para que alcancen sus sueños.

obtuve muchos reconocimientos muchas entrevistas, la medalla al mérito deportivo por el congreso de la ciudad de méxico(por primera se le otorga vez a una mujer trans) entre muchas cosas más, gracias a la experiencia  de los Gay Games.hemos llegado a colombia, los ángeles, las vegas etc.

Ahora seguimos construyendo sueños, trabajando a favor del deporte e inclusión y derechos humanos para las personas LGBTQ+

POR QUE EL DEPORTE ES PARA TODOS. DEPORTE TRANS.

Hi my name is Noemí Arzate Miranda de Mexico,

I am a trans woman, sexual and gender diversity activist, an athlete, mother of 2 sons, and President of the A.C Azkatl Mexico Diversidad Deporte y Cultura 

Personally, throughout my life, from childhood and young adult life, and currently, the trans community has been at the center of discrimination within our society. We have been denied rights in all areas, spaces, professions, and even sports. However, sports have propelled me toward my dreams, and have given me motivation and discipline to stay away from drugs and a new perspective of life as a trans woman (not all of us are hairstylists or sex workers). I never thought sports were for me. I was afraid to play any sport because they are predominantly heteronormal spaces where machismo exists. 

Yet, I tried. I started off with soccer, playing in heterosexual leagues, but I was kicked out and made fun of. As challenging as this was I did not let it bring me down because I was chasing my dreams so I kept playing until I was accepted.

Today, we have safe spaces free of discrimination. We have a gay league and a venue within my community that is now 14 years old. I was since given a scholarship by the Federation of Gay Games where I was provided the opportunity to realize my biggest dream: to participate in the global Gay Games 10: Paris 2018. At the event, I met people from 80 different countries and learned about their respective cultures and passions for sports. It was an empowering experience to represent my country, I was the happiest woman, but more importantly, I earned a silver medal in soccer, which opened the doors to new opportunities to leverage my achievements to pave the way for other people like me in the trans community.

For now, we keep making dreams a reality, and support sports as a vehicle for inclusion and human rights for the LGBTQ+ community. BECAUSE SPORT IS FOR EVERYONE - TRANS SPORT.

* * *

    
Ivan Yap at the Paris Gay Games in 2018.

IVAN YAP: My first Gay Games was Paris 2018 thanks to the partial scholarship from FGG which enabled me to participate. I competed in Bowling and won 3 bronze medals. This doubled-up the sweet moment as a first timer. 2018 also coincidentally was the year where I got more involved with FGG. I was elected as the first Asian officer to the Board as Officer-at-Large. My journey with FGG continues today in my second term as the Officer of Membership.

* * *

  
The finish lines for Triathlon and Mountain Cycling. Photos: Franck Weens (L); R. Dugue (R)

KATE ROWE: Came back again as a volunteer to help with the Paris 2018 triathlon and cycling. This proved to be a challenge. Also participated in both and captured more medals. Was also a Team Sydney rep at the AGA.

This was to be my last involvement. At 68, it was time to let go and experience new passions. I now play the ukulele, performing when I can.

* * *


Hlengiwe and her medals from GG10 Track & Field

HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: Great games with 7 medals (3 Golds, 3 Silvers & 1 Bronze). This is a year I left being an Assembly Member and was elected to FGG Board of Directors as an Officer at Large. When I returned home, I was honoured with the Feather Award of Sports Personality of the Year, a prestigious honour, because of the cumulative work I have done for the Queer community over the years, including the Gay Games achievements, and founding the AfroGames, which debuted in December 2018.

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The houseboat on the Seine where Jim Hahn and others stayed during GG10

JAMES HAHN: Gay Games 10 would return us to Europe in the City of Light, Paris. Doug Litwin and I and assorted band members stayed on a beautiful houseboat on the banks of the Seine. It had a 50-foot glass wall on the side of the river. I've never stayed in more beautiful housing. I will always remember this Games because of the venue downtown next to a museum as well as a very welcoming vibe. My favorite story from this Games was from when Doug and I were on a bus on our way back to the houseboat after bowling. After a couple of stops, a young lady and her two sons got on the bus and stood next to us. I noticed that the older of the two boys had a pin in his baseball cap. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the last Team San Francisco pin I had on me and presented it to him. His eyes just lit up! Then it hit me, I didn't have anything for his younger brother. Yikes! I dug into my backpack and thankfully, I had another pin that I could give to the younger boy. I scored twice!

I spent a few minutes chatting with mom who spoke perfect English and she looked relieved that someone else was entertaining the boys for a few minutes. They got off the bus a little while later, the boys still glowing.

* * *


Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris at the GG10 Opening Ceremony. Photo: M. Faluomi

EMY RITT: I live in Paris and served as an FGG Board Member and Co-President before resigning in December 2014 to serve as the Paris 2018 Director of International Relations.

The selection of Paris in October, 2013, to host the tenth edition of the Gay Games was based on the long experience of team members in organizing sport events, as well as their in-depth knowledge of the Gay Games, and their ten-year history of organizing the International Tournament of Paris, also known as the TIP. Several Paris team members had previously served on the FGG Board and/or as FGG Delegates representing FSGL, the French umbrella club. Also, the Paris Team had strong relationships with the municipal and national government agencies, and with local businesses and civil society.

The “City of Light” was easy to sell to potential participants, and for the first time in over ten years, there was no longer any competing global event to consider. However, there were a few glitches along the way, including during the Opening Ceremony. Apparently, the food and drink vendor did not believe that ten thousand people would attend the ceremony, which resulted in a severe shortage of personnel, food, and drink. With very hot temperatures that day, many participants left early. By the end of the ceremony, the stadium was practically empty, and many participants were not happy campers.

    
The spectacular GG10 Closing Ceremony at l’Hôtel de Ville

To see a video of the amazing Closing Ceremony, click HERE

Fortunately, the rest of the week went very well, and the “saving grace,” so to speak, was the ground-breaking Closing Ceremony, which took place in the center of Paris in front of the historic City Hall (l’Hôtel de Ville) featuring a series of beautifully choreographed sketches performed by many of the local sports clubs. The fabulous costumes, music, and storyline were a huge hit!

Support from the City of Paris, including the national Department of the Interieur and its Security team, as well as the local police, fire protection, and first responders, was excellent.

All in all, the week of Paris 2018, the tenth edition of the Gay Games, was a resounding success (un succès retentissant)!

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Gay Games 10 Tennis players. Photo: C. Giros

SHIV PAUL: When I attended my first Gay Games in Cologne in 2010 at the age of 39, I was blown away by how much it moved me, mostly because it was an entirely unexpected feeling. I had moved from London to New York in 2005 with my then boyfriend from whom I split up after 6 months of being in Manhattan. In a new place with a new life before me, I turned to what had given me solace in my youth but which I had neglected for some time because I couldn’t quite find my place in it all – sport. Tennis has always been my first love of sport and I threw myself back into it with a vengeance by joining the gay tennis league in Manhattan.

My first doubles partner became one of my best friends and we travelled with other friends to compete regularly on the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance tour. When he suggested we attend Gay Games VIII in Cologne, I thought it was simply another tennis tournament we’d be playing in. Arriving in Cologne to the throngs of participants, spectators, and supporters of the Games, the colour, the spectacle, the pure adrenalin was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It rapidly occurred to me that I had had no idea what to expect.

Like the parade of nations, for example. Seeing representatives - sometimes a sole one - from countries that had severe penalties for being LGBTQ+, both broke my heart and steeled my resolve to do and be something more for my fellow community members. It is easy to feel disconnected from your own community in the LGBTQ+ universe, and disenfranchised too but in that space at that moment – and to this day – I recall feeling that "No, I am not disconnected. I am part of something meaningful and powerful and brave. And there is work still to be done." I am part of a community, a fight, a mission, to support, protect and champion those who are made to feel less than merely because they want to live and be who they authentically are.

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Figure Skating in Paris. Laura Moore in the left photo

LAURA MOORE: The Paris figure skating event was the first one to be recognized by the ISU, at least a portion of it. One day of the competition was judged by ISU judges. Skaters in those events had to skate to ISU rules, with men in skirts and same gender partnering forbidden. Georg Kling is now IGFSU co-delegate to the FGG. He skated a protest performance on the ISU day. It was brilliant and hysterical. He was disqualified and given no score. One judge walked out. One positive highlight of the men’s competition in the ISU portion was an on-ice marriage proposal to a skater’s boyfriend.

Ice Dance, Pairs, and entertainment categories were run by IGFSU /ISI. ISI officials who had come from the US were very happy to have been a part of such an amazing event, Lisa Fedick of ISI has described our work with the Gay Games as “life changing”. She proudly ordered Gay Games figure skating jackets for all the officials.

By the time I was training for Paris, I had become an ice dancer. After some partner drama in NY, I arrived in Paris partnerless, but with the costume I had made for the woman I had planned to skate with. I hoped for a Cinderella miracle. I had given her dress and the tuxedo I wore for a solo performance to fellow NY skater Chris Lipari.

I spread the word that anyone who could skate the American Waltz should contact Chris. My partner for the event was posted as “Mme Mystere.”

I took the ice for warmup alone. Near the end of the warmup Joel Dear skated up to me wearing my tuxedo. I was in tears as he joined me for the last minute before the dance started.

My gay prince had arrived. After part of the dance pattern, I was stunned to realize we were not alone on the ice. I saw a very tall muscular blond waiting to take me in his arms for the next part of the dance. It was Christian Erwin, Joel’s ice dance partner. in full drag wearing the dress that matched mine!

Skating with my hand on his shoulder, trying not to displace his long blond wig, I didn’t notice Jill Ahlbrecht had come to take me through the end of the dance.

I was awarded a gold medal but none of my “menage a trois” of partners had completed enough required steps to qualify. They sat at my feet on the podium. What a special moment!

Joel and Christian’s powerful romantic duet skated “In Passing” was an instant Gay Games classic and has been performed in front of numerous Ice Theatre of NY audiences, Joel’s future husband Rishi was a new man in his life in 2018. He didn’t want to see Joel skate until the Gay Games. I laughed when Rishi showed up at an ice rink in shorts, but watched him fall deeper in love with Joel that day.

Most of the skaters took part in the Exhibition, including a very special group number choreographed and learned in a couple of hours. It began with a waltz in an imaginary Parisian Park. I was thrilled that Mark Stanford was cast as the ingenue who would catch our collective gaze. He wore my lavender dress and was resplendent. I knew Mark when he was a teenager and I was a beginning skater in my 30s. We had not seen each other in decades.

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Richard Hogan (R) with former FGG Co-Presidents Rick Peterson and Roberto Mantaci at Paris Opening Ceremony. Over Richard's left shoulder is Laura Moore

RICHARD HOGAN: My memories of the Paris Gay Games start long before 2018. Many individuals from Paris have contributed to the Gay Games movement over the years and I was very glad the event was finally going to their city.

The Consul General of France held two receptions in Sydney to promote Gay Games 10. The first was when the FGG held its 2016 Annual Meeting in Sydney. At that gathering, the former High Court Justice Kirby referenced the speech he gave during the Sydney Gay Games opening ceremony. He reminded us of the equality issues we faced in 2002 and compared them to the current state of affairs. While we all agreed there was still much to fight for, our situation had greatly improved, especially with the recent marriage equality decisions in Australia and around the world. 

The other French reception was for Team Sydney athletes going to Paris. I had the honour of being MC for the night. I rarely get nervous speaking to a group and the night was going well until I had to introduce the VIP guests. I got emotionally choked up when I introduced a local government politician, Christine Forster. Half way through the introduction, I realised it was the first time I ever said, “and her wife.” Perhaps it was the glass of French champagne but that was one moment I will never forget. I realised then that the world was definitely becoming a better place.

The week in Paris was wonderful. I participated in Track & Field so my days were spent at the stadium renewing friendships made in Cleveland. It was difficult but I found time to play tourist. Of course, there was a reception at the Australian Embassy. The Games Village had a great atmosphere, so I spent quite some time there. During the week I met many of the Hong Kong representatives, and am now looking forward to attending the first Gay Games in Asia in 2023… or maybe I’ll go to Mexico, I’m not sure yet.

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Post 25 of 40 - 21 August - Gay Games 11: Co-Hosts

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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HONG KONG 2023

The world was a very different place when Hong Kong first won the bid to host Gay Games 11 in 2017. In 2019, there was social unrest in Hong Kong. Just as the situation began to ease, the world was hit with COVID in early 2020. It has now been 2.5 years.

Due to the unpredictable progression of COVID variants and ongoing corresponding travel restrictions in Hong Kong, there are continuing challenges for participants from around the world to travel to here. Yet, as the organisers of Gay Games 11 in Hong Kong, we remain steadfast and committed to our original vision of organising the most inclusive and diverse Games celebrating its 40 years history, and the first time in Asia.

So, where does that leave us, the organisers of Gay Games 11?

We were put to our first test in the summer of 2021 as we were gearing up to prepare for registration opening: should we devote the limited resources of GGHK, a fully volunteer-run, non-profit charitable organisation, to work on registration opening by November 2021 (i.e. one year out of the original scheduled date), OR should we postpone the event for a year so to enable FGG member organizations to develop an appropriate training schedule for Gay Games 11 in 2023, and make alternate arrangements for their own 2022 tournaments?

In the end, we decided to delay the Games until 3 – 11 November 2023 as it will enhance the likelihood of delivering on our promise to have the Games in HK serve as a beacon of hope for the wider community across the region. The postponement announcement was made on September 15, 2021, with the support of the FGG.

Following the postponement announcement, the organizing team was busy reviewing our plans. Little did we know that just as we were getting ready to re-start Gay Games 11 after the New Year holidays, Hong Kong was hit with the fifth wave of COVID in January/February 2022, and we were put to our second test.


Current flyer for Gay Games Hong Kong

To visit the GGHK website, click HERE To see the Brandon Li short film about life in Hong Kong, click HERE
To see the latest "Come Out For The Games" video, click HERE

At that time, many countries/regions around the world had already adopted the “living with COVID” approach, and international travel was beginning to resume. However, that was not the case in Hong Kong, and the city was (and has been) maintaining one of the strictest quarantine requirements in its efforts to contain the spread of COVID.

Faced with continued challenges brought on by the COVID pandemic, with the desire to ensure more participants can join the Games, regardless of their location, the Hong Kong Games organizing committee proposed the concept of a co-hosted event to the FGG in February 2022.


By having Gay Games 11 accessible to participants across two locations we can ensure we meet our aim of being as inclusive as possible while international travel continues to recover. We will still be holding the first Gay Games in Asia, but potentially for the first time in Latin America as well, welcoming the widest possible audience to both cities.

By having Gay Games 11 accessible to participants across two locations we can ensure we meet our aim of being as inclusive as possible while international travel continues to recover. We will still be holding the first Gay Games in Asia, but potentially for the first time in Latin America as well, welcoming the widest possible audience to both cities.

If anything, COVID taught us to be agile and adaptable to a constantly changing environment. We now have over 200+ passionate volunteers working on the common goal of bringing the most inclusive Gay Games to Hong Kong. The uncertainties brought on by COVID are an opportunity for us to show the rest of the world the resilience and commitment of the team in HK to organise the most inclusive Games in its 40-year history: and the first time in Asia and in Central/Latin America!

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GUADALAJARA 2023

MONICA SANCHEZ: La primera vez que supe de Gay Games fue cuando los miembros de FGG visitaron Gudalajara para conocer nuestra ciudad como parte del proceso de nuestra primera postulación en el 2017. A partir de ese momento, el alcalde de Guadalajara me nombraría como la representante del gobierno para la postulación de los juegos. Los Gay Games eran un enigma para mí, aún cuando había sido parte del comité de los juegos panamericanos, ex voleibolista profesional de playa y a mi pesar una atleta frustrada, no sabía de la existencia de dicho evento. Unos meses más tarde me vería en un avión con un grupo de personas desconocidas que nos dirigíamos a Paris para presentar nuestra postulación. Aunque no fue fácil, porque la mayoría nos sentíamos incómodos en un ambiente desconocido, presentamos nuestra propuesta lo mejor que pudimos logrando un triste segundo lugar. Sin embargo, algo había cambiado dentro de nosotros.

Cuando regresamos de Paris Juan Carlos Razo nos invitó a ser miembros de la primera Federación Mexicana Deportiva de la Diversidad. Ese logro y las ganas de conseguir los juegos en el futuro nos impulsarían a participar en Paris 2018.

Mis primeros Gay Games en Paris me brindaron la oportunidad de conocer el corazón de los juegos. Me abrí a nuevas experiencias, como asistir a la competencia de baile, entre otras competencias que fui a observar. Para una latina, que siempre le ha encantado bailar, era difícil imaginarse a dos personas del mismo sexo bailando salsa, tango, danzón. Y Que creen? Fue lo mejor de París, lo que más me impacto emocionalmente, las parejas que bailaban con una pasión, elegancia y profesionalismo me hicieron flexionar y querer que mi gente experimentará el mismo sentimiento. Fue una de las muchas razones por las que quería ser parte del equipo que lograra traer los Gay Games por primera vez a México y a Latinoamérica. La magia del legado de los Gay Games ya me había alcanzado.

Después de tiempos tan difíciles que vivimos como humanidad y de la muerte de mi padre por covid; el gobernador del estado de Jalisco me designaría otra vez como representante del gobierno para nuestra segunda postulación en Brighton, Reino Unido. A pesar de tener que hacer cuarentena, Juan Carlos, Alex, Andrés, Roció y yo decidimos vivir “el big brother londinense”. Ya que queríamos estar en “igualdad de condiciones” que Munich y Valencia, porque las videoconferencias jamás sustituirán la presencia humana. Fue una de las mejores experiencias de mi vida, descubrí grandes amigos, que a través de vivir 15 días bajo el mismo techo, nos haría unirnos lograr hacer una gran presentación. Sí, una gran presentación para mí, porque finalmente enfrente de los miembros de FGG (y la primera vez públicamente) salí del clóset contando mi historia personal.

Nací con todas las habilidades para ser una atleta de alto rendimiento, pero mi familia y una sociedad católica y extremadamente machista no estaba preparada para una mujer libre de estigmas. Comencé en el equipo escolar de basquetbol a los 8 años, a los 11 ya era seleccionada de Jalisco y a los 12 me invitaron al equipo nacional. Y ahí empezó mi frustración, mi entrenadora era “muy masculina”, “ una marimacha” para mi familia y no permitirían que su hija fuera así. Por eso estuve en todos los deportes posibles hasta que muy tarde en mi vida me volví voleibolista de playa profesional. Después mi padre se disculparía por no haberme entendido, por no haber tenido la capacidad de cambiar su manera de pensar y haberme dejado lograr mi sueño. Ahora entiendo que mi destino era, a través de mi carrera gubernamental, tratar de hacer de mi ciudad un mejor lugar para vivir y a través de mi experiencia como funcionaria pública, y como todos los ciclos en la vida , me llevarían a dirigir los primeros juegos de la diversidad de México y de América Latina.

El legado de la magia de los Gay games ahora impactará las vidas de lxs jóvenes latinoamericanxs. Romperá los estereotipos de roles: de qué es ser mujer u hombre; qué profesiones, deportes y hobbies podemos elegir, independientemente de nuestra orientación sexual o identidad de género.

Los Gay Games Guadalajara 2023 serán un evento histórico, porque serán los juegos de la unión, la fraternidad y el amor para todxs!!

MONICA SANCHEZ:  The first time I heard about the Gay Games was when FGG visited Guadalajara as part as their site selection process for Guadalajara’s first bid in 2017. The mayor of Guadalajara appointed me to represent the government for that moment on. Gay Games were an enigma for me even though I was involved in the Panamerican Games and I was a former professional beach volleyball player and a frustrated athlete.

But then, suddenly I found myself in a plane with a bunch of unknown people heading to Paris to officially present our bid. It was not easy, most of us felt uncomfortable in an unknown environment but proudly we did our best and sadly we did not make it. Nevertheless, something had changed inside us all. When we came back from Paris, Juan Carlos Razo invited us to create the first Mexican Federation of Sports and Diversity and, we the committee, decided to continue our way to Paris 2018.


Monica Sanchez (R) with Laura Flessel, French Minister of Sport, Paris 2018


Monica Sanchez at the Paris Gay Games Opening Ceremony with Rocio Lancaster from the Mexico delegation

My first Gay Games in Paris 2018 gave me the opportunity to experience the essence of the games. I opened myself to watch the dance sport among other disciplines. For a Latin woman that has loved to dance all her life, it was difficult to think about same sex dance, and guess what? It was the best performance I saw in Paris and the one that impacted me the most emotionally. The beauty behind those couples, even though the place was not good at all, made me reflect and share with our community back home the same feeling. It was one of many reasons I wanted to be part of bringing the Games for the first time to México and Latin America. The magic of the Gay Games legacy had already touched me.

Then, after difficult times for all of humanity and the loss of my father due to COVID, the governor appointed me to bid again in Brighton in 2021. Against all odds, Juan Carlos, Rocio, Alex and myself decided to “live the big brother London” in order for us to be present and in “equal conditions” with Valencia and Munich. One of the best experiences in my life, I found true friends and that made feel united and we made a great and powerful presentation. It was a great presentation because finally in front of the FGG members (first time publicly) I came out with my personal story.

I was born to be an athlete but my family and a macho (manly) and Catholic society, were not ready for a free and a liberated woman. I started as a basketball player at the age of 8, at 11 I was already at the state team, and when I turned 12, I as part of the National Team. But guess what, my coach was “too masculine” a “marimacha” in Spanish to my family and they were not going to allow me to be like her. So, I tried every sport possible until I became very late in my life a professional beach volleyball player. Later in life, my father apologized to me for not breaking his mind and stereotypes to allow me to choose my path. Now, I understand that my destiny was to try to make my city a better place to live through my government career and that brought me to lead the first Gay Games in Latin America.

The magic of the Gay Games legacy now will impact the Latino American young population. It will break the stereotypes of the roles of how to be a woman or a man. What career or sport you can choose independently of your sex or gender orientation. Gay Games Guadalajara will make history because they will be the games of the union, the fraternity, and love for all!!

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EL ESTIGMA DE SER GAY EN MEXICO Y ATLETA

JUAN CARLOS RAZO: Soy Juan Carlos Razo, crecer en un país latinoamericano en los 80s siendo gay no era nada sencillo, el machismo y las costumbres sociales hasta el día de hoy siguen siendo frentes por los cuales luchar día a día. Pero nada comparado a intentar ser seleccionado nacional y gay a la vez, toda una odisea.

Yo encontré en el deporte la puerta de escape para mis problemas de ese momento, aprendí que siendo deportista podría viajar y estar en un mundo ajeno al infierno en el que vivía, mi deporte el voleibol me dio esa oportunidad, que un día tomé y jamás la solté.

El camino no fue fácil, siempre supe contra lo que tendría que luchar y aguantar, la vida misma me lo comprobó que el esfuerzo tendría que ser el triple siendo gay si quería llegar al equipo nacional, lo cuál conseguí a los 19 años, unos años más adelante siendo inclusive fuí el capitán, el primero abiertamente gay en la historia de mi país en un equipo representativo.

El deporte me abrió muchas puertas, ser un deportista de alto rendimiento me enseñó las bases de la responsabilidad, la constancia y sobre todo la entereza de creer en ti y en tus sueños, pero lo más importante … el sentimiento y el orgullo de ser tú mismo.

El proyecto de Gay Games es muy importante para mí, ahora como presidente de la federación mexicana deportiva de la diversidad puedo extender ese sentir, ese espíritu de pertenencia y seguridad a muchas más personas, que sin esta oportunidad seguramente nunca en su vida tendrían la opción de sentirse dentro de un proyecto tan empático, libre y afín. Trabajar por traer Gay Games por primera vez a México y Latinoamérica me llena de satisfacción y orgullo, por primera vez tendremos la oportunidad de abrir puertas y recibir a atletas de todo el mundo, haciendo lo que en México sabemos hacer mejor: Ser excelentes y los mejores anfitriones.

Los juegos también serán parte esencial en el proceso de identidad, aceptación e integración de la comunidad LGBTQI+ en la sociedad misma. Los juegos se dan en el mejor momento, justo cuando el tema ha tomado una gran importancia en nuestro país, estoy seguro que serán el primer gran proyecto de muchos que soñaremos y concretaremos con trabajo, porque así como un día soñamos con ver en nuestro país este gran evento, así llegarán otros más.

Dedico este proyecto y este sueño a dos grandes amigos, los cuales como muchos de nosotros se adelantaron en el camino de la vida, Alfonso Jackson, compañero de juego y de mil aventuras y Ricardo Vázquez, gran amigo y guía en mis primeros pasos en la vida gay, sé que estarán felices por todo esto y compartirán conmigo cada día de los juegos cuando por fin los tengamos en casa.

THE STIGMA OF BEING A GAY ATHLETE IN MEXICO


Juan Carlos playing Beach Volleyball
 

JUAN CARLOS RAZO: I am Juan Carlos Razo. Growing up in a Latin American country in the 1980s, being gay was not easy at all. Machismo and social customs to this day continue to be issues that we fight day after day. But nothing compared to trying to be part of the Mexican national volleyball team and gay at the same time. It was quite an odyssey.

I found in sports the escape door for my problems at that time. I learned that as an athlete I could travel and be in a world far removed from the hell in which I lived. Volleyball gave me that opportunity, which one day I took and never let go. The journey was not easy, I always knew what I’d have to fight against and endure. Life itself proved to me that the effort would have to be triple being gay if I wanted to reach the national team, which I achieved at age 19. A few years later, I became the team captain and the first openly gay player in the history of the country on a representative team.

Sports opened many doors for me. Being a high-performance athlete taught me the bases of responsibility, perseverance, and above all the strength to believe in yourself and your dreams. But most importantly... the feeling and pride of being yourself.

The Gay Games project is very important to me. Now as the president of the Mexican Federation of Sports for Diversity, I can extend the feeling of belonging to many more people who without this opportunity would surely never have the option in their lives to be part of such empathic, freeing, and amazing event. Working to bring the Gay Games to Mexico and Latin America for the first time fills me with satisfaction and pride. For the first time, we’ll have the opportunity to open our doors and receive athletes from all over the world, doing what we do best: be welcoming and excellent hosts.

The Gay Games will also be an essential part of the process of identity, acceptance, and integration of the LGBTQI+ community in society itself. The games take place at the best time, just when the topic has taken on great importance in our country. I am sure that it will be the first great project of many more that we’ll dream of and achieve with hard work and dedication.


Juan Carlos with Alfonso Jackson (Mexico national volleyball Alfonso (national team volleyball member

)

Juan Carlos (L) with Ricardo Vazquez, mentor and life long friend

I’d like to dedicate this project and this dream to two great friends, who, like many of us, went ahead on the path of life - Alfonso Jackson, a great companion in the game and a thousand adventures, and Ricardo Vázquez, a great friend and guide through my first steps in the gay life. I know they will be happy about the Gay Games taking place in our country and will share with me the joy when we finally have them at home.

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Post 26 of 40 - 22 August - A Tribute to Rick Peterson

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Rick Peterson Open-Water Swimming, 2022

During the course of producing this series, the FGG was saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Rick Peterson. Rick was a driving force behind the creation of Team Seattle for Gay Games II, the Seattle Orcas swim and water polo teams, and served as the first Male Co-President of the FGG.

Fortunately, Rick provided content for this series prior to his passing. His essay can be located HERE

Following are memories from those who knew and worked with Rick during the formative years of the FGG.

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Rick Peterson making his Branding presentation at 2019 Annual Meeting in Guadalajara

SEAN FITZGERALD: Rick Peterson was the first Federation of Gay Games Male Co-President, the position I hold today. I had the honor to introduce Rick to the Gay Games membership at the 2019 Annual General Assembly in Guadalajara. He made a presentation on how the Gay Games can increase their Brand visibility. Rick remained active in the FGG after serving as Co-President. He recently participated in our "Passing the Torch" series to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games. Read Rick's words HERE 

Unfortunately Rick passed away while swimming in Lake Washington early this week. The news has shocked and saddened the entire Gay Games family. His commitment and leadership will be sorely missed. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.

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Rick Peterson (far right) with Susan Kennedy (to his right) at Gay Games IV NYC 1994

SUSAN KENNEDY: When I think of Rick Peterson, many adjectives come to mind. He was bright, talented, endlessly optimistic and above all, kind. Rick served as the first male Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games and I had the privilege to serve with him from 1991 through 1994.

In the early days of the Federation, there was much work to be done simply putting the building blocks of the organization in place. Committees, committee chairs, fundraising, raising the profile of the Federation, dealing with trademark issues and looking ahead long-term at the health and well-being of the organization and the event itself.

Rick was always in the middle of these discussions, his creative mind seeing things the others may have missed and taking the time and making the effort to systematically and patiently make his case. For example, Rick was the driving force behind the creation of The Federation Endowment Fund. He was also a lead player in the creating the Business Plan Development Committee so the Federation could begin discussions on creating a business plan.

In early 1993, the Executive Committee traveled to Colorado Springs to meet with representatives of the USOC to discuss trademarking issues, but also to discuss ways that our organizations could work together. During our visit, Rick’s “ad man” side was in heaven since one portion of our visit involved discussions about sponsorships and merchandise.

Rick and I also worked together on obtaining the 10-day blanket waiver for Gay Games IV. This waiver, allowed athletes who were HIV positive to enter the country without declaring their HIV status. Together we worked with staff in the State Department, Health and Human Services and Immigration and Naturalization Services. Phone calls, faxes and face to face meetings in the fall of 1993 ultimately proved to be successful and in March of 1994, then Attorney General Janet Reno granted the waiver.

I will always remember standing with him on stage in New York at Wein Stadium during Opening Ceremonies and again at Yankee Stadium for Closing Ceremonies when we announced that the Gay Games would be going off the North American continent for the first time and would be in Amsterdam in 1998.

Rick and I shared many, special Gay Games moments together beyond the ones mentioned here. During our time serving together, we experienced great joy and great sadness. I always knew as did he, that if one of us needed to talk, we were there for each other. We trusted each other implicitly and while we didn’t always see eye to eye, we both loved the Federation and the Games. Whether you knew Rick or knew of him, rest assured that this organization and this event are better for him being involved and if you want to honor him, the next time you find yourself in a heated passionate discussion, stop and remember that if Rick was standing there, he would be kind.

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Rick Peterson, varsity swimmer at Washington State University, 1971. Rick swimming at Gay Games II, 1986

KATHLEEN WEBSTER: When I think of Rick, I think of his eyes, his warm smile and his genuine presence. Most times, Rick had a sense of calm about him. He often was able to bring together disparate people with conflicting agendas and find a middle ground. Rick had his own strong opinions but he was open to change – and he succeeded in bringing others together because he listened with respect and attention.

We first met when I became involved as a FGG volunteer in 1994. Rick was co-president at that time, serving with Susan Kennedy and I watched and learned as they partnered to lead the FGG forward through the rapid growth and changes of those times. Even when Rick stepped down as co-president, he continued his commitment to the FGG and Gay Games and supported and mentored those of us new to the organization. Rick and I worked together on a few projects over our respective tenures on the FGG board of directors. I remember once he took me aside to discuss language in a license agreement the FGG legal team was drafting with the current host organization. Rick felt that some of the language was too strong and asked if we could reword it to sound “nicer.” The lawyer in me tried to explain that the language was “boiler plate” legalese, included in all similar contracts and to rewrite it could open the door to all sorts of unforeseen problems of interpretation. But the friend in me just had to smile because this was so Rick – he was professional, dedicated and he still wanted everyone to feel good.

In 2016, I was asked to serve as a consultant to the FGG Working Group as the FGG board of directors was preparing to end further negotiations with the organization responsible for the OutGames. I had been happily retired from the FGG since 2007 and my first response was a decisive, or so I thought, no. But then I talked to Charlie Carson who told me that Rick also had been asked to serve. So I reached out to Rick and we talked. I knew from all our years of service together that I not only could work with Rick, I could trust him – his honesty and integrity. As we say in the martial arts, I knew that Rick would have my back and I would have his. I am grateful I had that last opportunity to work with him for a cause near and dear to us both.

Rick was a strong and tireless advocate for swimming, for the Gay Games. He also freely volunteered his advertising and promotional expertise to further those missions.  And Rick was a genuine friend. I will miss those eyes and his smile, but he will live on long in the memories of the many lives he touched.


Rick Peterson with Life Partner Thomas DeVera, at Gay Games X Paris 2018

To Thomas, Rick’s life partner of so many years – we send you our love and our prayers. Rick’s Gay Games friends are always here for you.

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Rick Peterson at Gay Games II Closing Ceremony, 1986

GENE DERMODY: I had heard of Rick for years while working closely with Susan Kennedy on newly created Team San Francisco (1987) as a response to the upcoming Gay Games III: Vancouver 1990.

The proximity of Seattle to Vancouver and San Francisco with the very powerful Team Seattle & IGLA, both Rick’s forté, made them a natural alliance before they were even made an FGG team because Vancouver’s inner sports structure was so weak.  

Susan was top notch Basketball, Rick a top notch Swimmer, and I was just a Wrestling volunteer holding Team San Francisco together. Susan was obsessed with the USOC negotiations because we all needed peaceful, constructive closure prior to Vancouver in order to solicit sponsors.

Susan was very professional, very practical, and open to some discussion. Rick’s professional corporate expertise was a godsend for Susan. In many ways, he was probably the silent power-partner, packaging the language and strategy, but Susan was the Boss.

San Francisco Arts & Athletics, the original 501c3 (non-profit) organization that put on Gay Games I and II, transformed itself in th Federation of Gay Games. That FGG selected Peg Grey of Chicago, and Rick Peterson of Seattle as their first Co-Presidents.

I knew Rick was closely associated with IGLA, the premier LGBTIQ+ Aquatics governing body, and was eager to see their 501c3 incorporation documents (as well as Team SF’s, Team Seattle’s, the FGG’s, and Beat The Street’s) as I prepared to take Wrestling down the same path toward legitimacy in joining the FGG family. Rick helped me get draft docs to get me started.  

The Team Seattle & IGLA language and design were more of an education than anything else. I attended the FGG’s Annual Meeting in New York City, and then again in San Francisco the following year. I was told that until Wresting could show a 501c3 document (like an IGLA), the FGG was uninterested.

At the Vancouver Gay Games in 1990, my connections with NY’s Tom Cracovia began our quest to get Red Books in to the Host Contracts, as we observed the operational sports problems of Vancouver.


Rick Peterson as FGG Male Co-President

I also finally met Rick Peterson while running my wrestlers through the big Vancouver park. We hit it off, and laughed at my ‘Village Voice’ critique that forced Vancouver to pay better attention to the sports, once FGG’s Sean Kelley was sent up there to oversee things.

Rick understood the hurdles smaller new sports would face joining the FGG: having a very unfriendly FGG membership policy locked into 501c3 documents was too great an obstacle!

He impressed me with his very laid back professional style, and he promised to help me at the next FGG Annual Meeting to get my agenda items started.

I knew I did not have the time before the meeting to create the international 501c3 organization the FGG wanted (this organization would eventually become Wrestlers WithOut Borders/WWB), but I did already have the local Golden Gate Wrestling Club (GGWC) 501c3 docs in effect as of 1987 in order to obtain SF City Rec Center rates favor.

I had already gotten the signatures of sign off from the 14 other wrestling clubs (AU, EU, US) while in Vancouver at a meeting we held at a big party, but we needed to formalize it.  

Rick advised me to apply to the FGG as temporary Wrestling Rep, using GGWC as a stand in until WWB was up to legal snuff.

At the FGG Annual Meeting, the resistance to Wrestling, me, and GGWC was surprising & illogical to me. I can only think that the new FGG wanted to show legitimacy, by being as restrictive and controlling as the old IOC!

When it came to vote on the GGWC offer, Tom Cracovia passionately spoke up for me, highlighting the much needed Red Book work we had already started.

Rick did not publicly speak up for me, but offered much private verbal encouragement, and made a point of often being seen with me conversing… a political coup.

It was Rick’s idea to respect & use the FGG rules, be a Sport Rep (not an Individual Rep), stress past proven service, stress the already started wrestling organizational sign-offs, and not give up should it fail.

Rick and Susan Kennedy were concerned that another San Franciscan on the new FGG Board was not a good political idea, but they couched their neutrality statements with praise for GGWC’s accomplishments for Gay Games I and II. GGWC was accepted by 2 votes, even while Rick & Susan abstained.

In the subsequent years, I became a fan of Rick’s quiet unobtrusive style, he knew when and how to quiet me down. I specifically remember an AGA where Rick’s partner at the time, Mitch, and I got into a big debate about the need for ‘Sensitivity Training’ for the FGG reps.

Mitch and I were both very combative, and we need to go to our corners.  Someone actually brought out boxing gloves!  Rick was especially effective at understanding and addressing the real differences in our different perceptions of ‘Sensitivity Training’, and it was quietly resolved because of the respect we all had for Rick as a leader.

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Kimberly Hadley (left), Linda Wedewer, Rick Peterson

KIMBERLY HADLEY: I didn't have the opportunity to "work" directly with Rick but Linda Wedewer and I spent an absolutely wonderful day with Rick when we were visiting Seattle a couple of years back.  Rick spoke so fondly about his swimming, especially in Lake Washington near the Montlake Cut where the historic ASUW Shell House was located.  This is where the infamous team of 9 young University of Washington rowers known as the "Boys in the Boat", representing the US Olympic Rowing Team, trained for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin and who took the Gold Medal in front of Adolf Hitler's eyes.  He just gleamed at this story, one neither of us had ever heard of before. "Marsh Island" was also nearby and we had a wonderful stroll along the Arboretum Trail there.

When I think about Rick, he will always have that same smile on his face and have a kind word to be said.  Rick’s heart exuded love for those who came from all walks of life and especially for those who were part of the LGBTQ+ community. His longtime passion for the Gay Games (for whom he was the Federation’s first Male Co-President) continued long after he left the board and went on to become an Honorary Life Member.

More recently, he returned to help lead the Federation with its rebranding efforts, working tirelessly with the Federation's Development Committee & GGHK2023 (the Hong Kong Host) with its sponsorship opportunities.  Rest in peace, my friend. You will be greatly missed by so many of us and your longtime contributions will never be forgotten.

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EDITOR'S NOTE: To read an excellent 29 August tribute article about Rick Peterson in the Bay Area Reporter newspaper (San Francisco), authored by News Editor Cynthia Laird), please click HERE.

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Post 27 of 40 - 23 August - Visions for the Future & Gay Games XII: Valencia 2026

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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KATE ROWE: The world has changed in the last 40 years. LGBTQ+ spirt has changed. There are far more opportunities for LGBTQ+ spirt and culture. My belief is that Tom Waddell’s vision and model was the way forward. But now in 2022, we need to change the model to fit the new world.

We still don't have enough young people, people with disabilities or other diverse constituencies. We have not made progress on equal participation of women, yet in mainstream sport, great inroads are being made. We can learn from them all.

I have been a passionate believer in Tom Waddell’s vision and played my part. It is up to us all and the board now and in the future, to rise to the challenge of change.

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IVAN YAP: Since Hong Kong won the bid in 2017 to host Gay Games 11, it has lifted up the dynamic in Asia. FGG Asian membership has grown from one member organization to seven. The Straits Games has also transformed from a social sporting event group into an internationally legalised organisation when it has jointly formed and registered with the Taiwanese government together with two other organisations from Taiwan and Japan.

This regional organisation is now carrying the name Asia Pride Games Alliance with the headquarter residing in Taipei, Taiwan. The first Asia Pride Games was also held in Taipei with fullest support from the Taiwanese government. The 2nd edition of the Games is going to be carried out in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 2023.

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EMY RITT: Over time, the current FGG Site Selection process, led by David Killian, has matured into a more formal and serious business negotiation. Are there still potential issues and pitfalls to avoid? Of course, but the Site Selection process has been improved as the FGG organization has matured, and the last 2+ years of COVID and other challenges have been a reminder that there will always be unexpected issues requiring creativity and flexibility in order to continue the Gay Games legacy.

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SHIV PAUL: In my capacity during my time on the FGG Board as Vice President of External Relations, I endeavoured to be the voice of FGG in the external world, protecting the brand and using it to shine a light on the LGBTQ+ communities’ struggles and its successes. When I am asked why it is necessary to have a Gay Games, I always reply that the fact it is still here 40 years later, in part, answers this question. The Games has always fought to enable participation, inclusion, and (the delivery of your) personal best in sport and culture, and also in life. My dream for the future of the Games is for it to be a truly visible, prominent, and loud representative voice for the LGBTQ+ communities at the most important tables in the world. The most important fight of all is for everyone to feel embraced by the loving arms of inclusion and belonging whenever and wherever they choose to present their true selves. But for as long as there are spaces and moments where those are lacking, the arms of the Games will always be there.

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TONY SMITH: Another element of the future continues to be the very essence and importance of the Gay Games and its mission. With the world experiencing more and more tolerance and equality, the future of the Gay Games was questioned many times. The Gay Games mission is to promote equality through sport and culture, and this will continue until the entire world experiences true equality. This equality includes the evolution from the history of focusing on Lesbians and Gays to our bisexual, trans and queer members of our family. The 2026 bids for Guadalajara, Munich, and Valencia reflected today’s world in these regards and their commitment to address these newer challenges for our LGBTQ+ community. The bids from these cities also emphasized further evolution of sports to include modern events such as Quidditch from Harry Potter and E-sports.

While the visibility and equality of the LGBTQ+ community continues to grow, we also continue to have setbacks. It is paramount for the future of the Federation of Gay Games to have the pulse of the entire world and continue working to promote equality through sports and culture for unforeseeable years in the future.

* * *

LAURA MOORE: I have, in the past, thought that the Gay Games might become obsolete. I imagined a time when LGBTQ+ people would be integrated into all areas of society. Working on the Gay Games Scholarship Committee, I realize how incredibly privileged most Gay Games participants are. The Gay Games remain a necessary and life affirming resource. Today, living in a country that is sliding swiftly backwards, I realize that I will continue to fight the same battles I have been fighting for the rest of my life.

I hope the Gay Games survive. It is increasingly difficult for hosts to be able to accommodate an ever-increasing list of events. As equitable as we want to be, we lack the volunteer power necessary to include winter sports that need to be outdoors. For many years, the volunteer FGG Board of Directors and sports and culture leaders were getting older. Today we have a wonderful team of younger dedicated volunteers bringing their views and experiences to the FGG and Gay Games.

One of the most challenging issues for us is the name “Gay Games.” I agree with the traditionalists among us that we should honor Tom Waddell and his vision. On the other hand, I recognize that there are now many queer people who don’t see the word “Gay” as applying to them. I am proud to serve on the FGG Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee where I have had the opportunity to have my own biases and assumptions challenged. I believe that we need to be relevant in ways that will grab the attention of the younger people who are the future of our movement.

* * *

MARK BROWN: Other than having the Gay Games come back home to San Francisco, I would love to see them take place in Las Vegas. There’s already an annual gay sports festival with thousands of athletes, so they have plenty of experience running things, including many of the Gay Games events. And they’re used to hosting big events there, so the travel costs for attendees would be reasonable.

* * *

JEAN-NICKOLAUS TRETTER: We need to have something like the Gay Games and other similar institutions. That is so future generations can learn that they are not just a sexual anomaly; they are a very important people with a history, with a culture, and with outstanding abilities. No matter how good you are, or not, by participating in the Gay Games you become someone and have an identity about yourself and others around you. It builds self-confidence and self-worth within ourselves and our communities. Besides, those Gay Games medals hanging on your walls look pretty impressive when people come over.

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GAY GAMES XII: VALENCIA 2026

The Gay Games will be coming to Valencia Spain in 2026! They were chosen at the 2021 Annual General Assembly in Brighton UK.

To read the press release about this news HERE.

  

To see a video of the final phase of the multi-year Site Selection process at which Valencia was announced as the host for Gay Games XII in 2026, click HERE.

The FGG wants to thank the bidding teams from Guadalajara and Munich, who were both finalists for Gay Games XII.

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Post 28 of 40 - 24 August - Post Scripts

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


Kate Rowe (right) at Gay Games VIII in Cologne, 2010

KATE ROWE: The world has changed in the last 40 years. LGBTQ+ sport has changed. There are far more opportunities for LGBTQ+ sport and culture. My belief is that Tom Waddell’s vision and model was the way forward. But now in 2022, we need to change the model to fit the new world.

We still don't have enough young people, people with disabilities or other diverse constituencies. We have not made progress on equal participation of women, yet in mainstream sport, great inroads are being made. We can learn from them all.

I have been a passionate believer in Tom Waddell’s vision and played my part. It is up to us all and the board now and in the future, to rise to the challenge of change.

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Rob Smitherman at Gay Games 9, Cleveland+ Akron, 2014

ROB SMITHERMAN: The Federation of Gay Games, which began as San Francisco Arts & Athletics, has been an amazing institution for the past 40 years, keeping alive the Gay Games vision first begun in 1982. The board, the Assembly, and the many volunteers for the FGG have worked to make each Gay Games better, and they provided the structure for success.

A group that deserves much of the credit for each Gay Games is the host city working group that actually produces the Games. Each city organization must develop, manage, and create the event from scratch, using the guidelines set out by the FGG. Every Gay Games has produced an amazing event, with over 30 sports, several cultural events, an opening and closing ceremony, and often a festival village. These successes have been due to the host city leadership, volunteers, and staff devoting their lives to the Gay Games in their city.

I have attended every Gay Games since Amsterdam in 1998. I was fortunate to be part of the staff at the Chicago Gay Games, working as a sports manager. I then worked for the host teams in Cologne in 2010 and Cleveland/Akron in 2014. I also have been a member of the Steering Committee, a working group that has several representatives from the FGG and the host city. This has allowed me to be in awe of the host city volunteers and staff, those that make the Gay Games actually work.

Each host city organizing committee is a bit different. The group could consist of almost all volunteers with a few paid staff and consultants, or it could have a larger paid staff overseen by a volunteer board. Whatever the form the host is made up of people who are passionate about the Gay Games and the LGBTQ+ community. These people give up part of their lives for many years to make the Gay Games successful in their cities.

Since I was not part of the host city organizing committees before Chicago I cannot recognize individuals of those teams specifically. However, those organizers created an incredible event for each Gay Games, and then “passed the torch” to the next one. Each host city was able to build on the success of the previous one, and each learned from their challenges and difficulties.

Many people deserve praise, but from an operations and production standpoint, one person who deserves special recognition is Stuart Borrie of the Sydney Gay Games. Stuart created a report that is the most comprehensive and clear explanation of how to organize a Gay Games. We are still using it 20 years later. He is a major reason that the host cities after Sydney were able to create a successful event.

Gay Games VII: Chicago 2006 was organized by a dedicated team of volunteers, including the co-chairs Suzie Arnold and Sam Coady, and vice-chairs Tracy Baim and Kevin Boyer. They led a volunteer team that consisted of many in the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago. They also hired a great staff that produced each aspect of the Gay Games.

Gay Games VIII: Cologne 2010 was the dream of the LGBTQ+ Sports Club in Cologne, SC Janus. Annette Wachter and Michael Lohaus were the co-chairs, with Armin Lohrmann as the executive director, and they provided such great leadership. They led a team of volunteers, most of whom were part of SC Janus. Imagine having over 10,000 people for a week-long event that was produced almost exclusively by volunteers. Their success was a result of the passion and love that they had for Cologne and for the LGBTQ+ community.

Gay Games 9: Cleveland+Akron 2014 was a special and unique Gay Games, hosted by two small cities, both with a small LGBTQ+ sports community. The eventual group that organized the Gay Games was a volunteer board headed by Steve Sokany and Hollie Ksiezyk. The board relied on a staff to organize and produce the events, headed by Executive Director Tom Nobbe, as well as Marketing Director Ann Gynn and Development Director Mary Zaller. The board, staff, and volunteers produced a successful Gay Games in so many ways, including making a positive impact in the local communities, and creating a small budget surplus that eventually was able to donate to local LGBTQ+ causes.

Gay Games 10: Paris 2018 was led by Manuel Picaud, as well as Co-President Pascale Reinteau, who developed an outstanding team that produced yet another successful Gay Games. The French LGBTQ+ sports club FGSL contributed to producing many the sports events. Emy Ritt, prior FGG Co-President, was a great asset in the ultimate realization of the most recent Gay Games. These leaders and countless volunteers produced an amazing event in an amazing city.

We now have three host cities for future Gay Games. Hong Kong, led by Lisa Lam and Alan Lang, have developed a dedicated group of volunteers to manage and produce the Hong Kong version of Gay Games 11. Guadalajara Gay Games 11 is quickly bringing together the city, volunteers and staff to host a successful event. Valencia is just getting started with its plans to produce Gay Games 12. 

We also need to acknowledge the cities that bid to host the Gay Games but were not chosen as host. Each of those cities have had volunteers who dedicated several years of developing and presenting bids for the Gay Games. I have had the honor of meeting, working with, and sharing the disappointments of many of the great representatives from the bid teams of these cities. These wonderful volunteers deserve our respect and thanks.

Being part of the host city team has been a life-changing experience. The drive, determination, and passion of each host city organization has created the Gay Games that we know today. I wish I could name all of the people who have made a difference for each host city, but the list would be too long. Please join me in honoring them by remembering their dedication and commitment to making each Gay Games a success.

* * *


Joanie Evans announcing the new host for Gay Games XII in 2026

JOANIE EVANS: I have now been to 7 out of 10 Gay Games held so far. Over the past 20+ yrs, my involvement with the FGG has been varied: I’ve been an Observer, Vice President of Diversity, member of various committees, and was even part of the London 2018 Gay Games Bid Team and for the past 8 years as Co-President.

* * *


Doug Litwin (right) at Gay Games IV, NYC 1994

DOUG LITWIN: My Gay Games story has continued through Amsterdam, Sydney, Chicago, Cologne, Cleveland + Akron, and Paris and it’s not stopping any time soon. Happy Fortieth Anniversary, Gay Games!

* * *


Emy Ritt at FGG annual meeting in Cape Town South Arica 2008

EMY RITT: Since 1982, Gay Games Hosts and the FGG have been consistently analyzing the lessons learned in order to form a more perfect Gay Games and to reach a Personal Best with each new edition. We thank all Host Organizations and FGG volunteers for their enthusiasm, dedication, and personal sacrifice for the Gay Games.

Being a part of the Gay Games has been a life-changing experience and an immense privilege. Giving back to the Gay Games, even if just a little, has been a ‘raison d’être’ for over twenty years, an amazing adventure, and the greatest gift of all. Now, with gratitude, the baton has been passed to the next generations. Thank you. Merci.

* * *

  
(L) Jessica with her father Tom Waddell, Gay Games II, 1986
(R) Jessica at Opening Ceremony Gay Games VII, 2006 (photo : Beckermedia)

JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: Over the last 40 years, I have grown up with the Games while watching the Games grow alongside me. The Games is an intrinsic part of my being, and I owe a lot to it. My life, my career, my extended family. It has shown me the benefits of celebrating our differences, and bonding through our similarities. To value diversity, and the ability to show each other respect. The importance of standing together in solidarity and standing up for equality. Values that I can only hope to instill in my own two children now.

* * *


Shamey Cramer with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin

SHAMEY CRAMER: When one donates time to a non-profit, most of that work is done selflessly, anonymously and without reward. I will always want to be best remembered as the founder of Team Los Angeles, and one of the few that actually worked with Tom Waddell to create an international governing body during the first four years of operations.

I am also proud of the work I did with Rand Wiseman-Curtright and Phil Manciero to establish the Los Angeles Festival Games between Gay Games I and II, which led to a very cohesive queer sports network in Los Angeles. To this day, we still have one of the most successful queer sports communities - as competitors as well as producing sports tournaments and festivals.

Although I spent an additional four years founding and overseeing two Los Angeles Gay Games bid finalists, it is the writing and event producing I did during my six years on the FGG Board that made the greatest impact. That, and mentoring the new generation of LGBTQ+ sports administrators around the world.

* * *


Derek Liecty celebrating his 90th birthday, July 2022

DEREK LIECTY: I was asked to be a founding member of The Federation of Gay Games in 1989 and served for thirteen consecutive years as Director.  My main focus with The Federation was to do outreach outside the United States bringing the message of the Games of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best to as many countries as possible with encouragement to attend the Games.

For forty years The Gay Games has carried on the legacy of Tom Waddell and I am so privileged to have been a part of this world changing event.

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Kurt Dahl with Joanie Evans speaking at Gay Games 9 Opening Ceremony

KURT DAHL: Being part of the Gay Games movement has forever changed my life. I never expected to be a Co-President of an organization like the FGG. I also never expected to meet so many amazing people over the past 20 years. I still remember going around with David Kopay in Cologne handing out medals, and meeting people like the US Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy (now Governor of New Jersey), Matthew Mitcham, Cyndi Lauper, Ben Cohen, Esera Tuaolo, among others.

Again, thanks Gay Games, for changing my life.

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Jeffry Pike at Gay Games II, San Francisco 1986

JEFFRY PIKE: My connection to Roy Coe stays vibrantly alive through the Roy M. Coe Scholarship Fund. For me, one of the truly rewarding aspects of meeting and knowing the recipients of the Coe Scholarship Fund is to see how their stories are changed after they attend the Gay Games. Be it providing new leadership in their communities or being more assured with who they are on this planet, they each now have a greater “a sense of pride.”

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Post 29 of 40 - 25 August - 1982: Building Momentum and the National Torch Relay

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


Richard Hunter (center) on the medals stand at Gay Games I

SHAMEY CRAMER: I will always remember the first time I met Richard Hunter. But then, everyone remembers the first time they met Richard Hunter - he was just one of those guys. He, more than any other individual, was the nucleus that led to the founding of West Hollywood Aquatics, the first team within United States Masters Swimming whose mission focused on the inclusion of Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender athletes. But that was still a few months down the road.

After meeting with US Olympian Susan McGrievy on June 1 1982 to formally create Team Los Angeles, I quickly organized those from the list who had contacted her or the San Francisco organizers. We called the first meeting of all athletes on Sunday, 13 June in the Poinsettia Park gymnasium, where a newly-formed men's basketball team was scrimmaging. The meeting started at 6pm, with swimmers, volleyball players, runners, wrestlers and others, all meeting for the first time. You could feel the electricity.


Team LA at the Gay Games I Closing Ceremony led by Richard Hunter and Ric Bohner

The meeting was barely underway when it came to a complete standstill: through the north doors came two bronzed, bare-chested Adonises in cutoffs and sandals. The one carrying a piece of corrugated cardboard had a personality the size of Texas, and this brilliant, mega-watt smile that just wouldn't quit. He was one of those people who just couldn't help himself from making an entrance - it was just part of what made Richard Hunter who he was. The sleepy-eyed beauty at his side was Ric Bohner, a swimmer-diver who would also become one of the original founders of WH2O.

They had just returned from Venice Beach (the gay beach at that time) where they were recruiting new team-mates. Richard showed us the cardboard sign, which read something to the effect: “Los Angeles Swim Team forming for Gay Olympics in San Francisco - Swimmers Needed." As if either of them needed a reason to talk to men in speedos. But it worked. They actually recruited some of our best swimmers with that hand-made sign.

My Team LA Co-chair Rand Wiseman-Curtright and I continued to work with Richard and Ric, and others who began creating the structure of the swim team. Two car washes were arranged in the parking lot of the Detour, a gay bar located at Sunset Junction in Silverlake. Thanks to Ron Kirkoff, they became a car wash AND a bake sale. I arranged a third car wash for the swimmers in the Studio One parking lot in West Hollywood.

Between the funds raised from these events, plus the $1,000 grant we secured from Christopher Street West Pride Committee, we were able to cover the cost of registrations, uniforms and equipment for nearly all of our 147 athletes.

* * *


Jean-Nickolaus Tretter in 1983

JEAN-NICKOLAUS TRETTER: When we contacted San Francisco Arts & Athletics about having the torch relay come through Minneapolis-St Paul, they said no; there was no way to get it from Cleveland to San Francisco because there was no one willing to organize a run through the central United States. Since we really wanted to be part of the torch relay, and were already promoting the Gay Games, Team Minnesota volunteered to take up organizing the relay through the entire central part of the United States. But there’s a little problem there. The Great Plains states are very flat and very long, and to have enough runners to cover that entire distance would be extraordinarily difficult. The gentleman running the torch relay out of San Francisco told us “just get the torch to Denver. We don’t care how you do it, but we can take it from there.” So we made a few changes.


One of the things the torch relay had to do was make money for the Gay Games, so the various torchbearers had to get financial pledges for every mile they carried it. We had enough people to run it from Cleveland through Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin to Minneapolis-St. Paul, but then there was central and southern Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas - the whole thing going to Denver. What we came up with is that people didn’t have to run those distances, they could either ride on a bike, or if we absolutely needed to, people could drive those distances in a car. Then, for the driving segments, we allowed people to pledge as low as a penny a mile. It ended up working out quite well. We did a big send-off from the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, and the people in Lincoln Nebraska and Wichita Kansas got their communities together and threw big welcoming parties.


We weren’t sure about having people running or being alone on a bicycle on some of those prairie roads. We were concerned about having openly gay people running through those areas, where people tend to be a little more conservative and unwelcoming, so we followed them all the way in a van to make sure they were safe. When we got to Denver, we heaved a great sigh of relief, then turned right around and went back to St. Paul.


The torch arriving in San Francisco for Gay Games I

And the torch got to San Francisco just fine.

The 1982 National Torch Relay schedule included the following cities:

  • June 13 - Stonewall Inn, New York City
  • June 24 - Piedmont Ohio
  • June 26 - Columbus Gay Pride Parade
  • June 27 - Columbus
  • June 28 - Findlay
  • June 29 - Toledo
  • June 30 - Angola IN
  • Jul 1 - South Bend IN
  • Jul 2 - 5 - Chicago, IL
  • July 6 - Milwaukee, WI
  • July 7 - Madison
  • July 8 - Madison
  • July 9 - Sparta
  • July 10 - Eau Claire
  • July 11-15 Minneapolis/St Paul, MN
  • July16 - Albert Lea, MN
  • July 17 - Des Moines IA
  • July 18 - Omaha, NE
  • July 19 - 20 - Lincoln
  • July 21 - Fairmont NE
  • July 22 - Minden, NE
  • July 23/24 - McCook, NE
  • July 25 - Imperial
  • July 26 - Sterling, CO
  • July 27 - Ft. Collins, CO
  • July 28 Boulder, CO
  • July 29/30 - Denver, CO
  • July 31 - Empire, CO
  • Aug 1 - Kremmling, CO
  • Aug 2 - Hayden, CO
  • Aug 3 - Elk Springs, CO

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Post 30 of 40 - 26 1982: August - Response to the Olympic Injunction

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


Team Los Angeles member Phil Manciero wearing unaltered "Gay Olympics" shirt at the GGI Opening Ceremony, 1982

SHAMEY CRAMER: In mid-August, 1982, we had our Team Los Angeles send-off party at Studio One, with drag queen Kenny Sacha as the MC. The funds we received from Christopher Street West allowed me to design and print our yellow and teal t-shirts for everyone, with the words Team Los Angeles Gay Olympic Team across the front. Our athletes wore these into Kezar Stadium for Opening Ceremony under their navy zip-up hoodies.

  
Announcements about the reaction to the Olympic injunction

That same week, we received the shocking news: the United States Olympic Committee had won the right in court to prevent us from using the word "Olympic." Every item printed, etched or embedded with the word Olympic had to either be destroyed, or the word removed. It really did seem the USOC wanted to be excessively vindictive and cause as much financial pain as possible, which only made our athletes dig their heels in even further.


More Team L.A. members proudly wearing their "Gay Olympics" shirts

Not a single member of Team Los Angeles covered over the word “Olympic” on our Opening Ceremony t-shirt. Our thought was “if they want to arrest us over the use of a simple word, then come and get us!” We were ready for that fight.


Attorney and Olympic swimmer Susan McGrievy in 2009

To see a video interview about the USOC case with activist attorney (and torch bearer at Gay Games I) Susan McGrievy, click HERE.

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"Gay Olympic Games" banner at Reno Gay Pride, June 1982

* * *

GENE DERMODY: I got to San Francisco ten days before the Opening of Gay Games I as a wrestler from New York City. The California Superior Court decision had come down a week before my arrival. I was not involved with San Francisco Arts & Athletics, but because of my friendship with Don Jung and his involvement with Golden Gate Wrestling Club, and the planning of the wrestling event, I became a keen observer.

  
(L) Gay Olympic Games poster before and after defacing. (R) Tom Waddell covering the "O" word

Don worked as a wrestling coach at Mission High School on 18th Street, not far from the Castro District. He was the artist who designed the Gay Games I poster art used on the one very striking Gay Olympic Games poster (human form icons of each sport). They were the posters where the word OLYMPIC was eventually crossed out - purposely, but not very well - and manually fixed around the Castro where they were already posted in windows. Don was obviously upset at having his artwork defaced, but c’est la vie.


Another unaltered Gay Olympic Games poster

San Francisco Arts & Athletics, the nonprofit that produced Gay Games I and II that evolved to become the Federation of Gay Games, had no “excess” funds, according to SFAA Board member Paul Mart. Board member Sara Lewinstein only had a few dozen of these posters, and carefully guarded them as they were valuable.

I remember going around the Castro one night with Don to cross out the word “Olympic” on the posters. We also went to a few Polk Street bars as well. The patrons were not keen on defacing the posters, but SFAA apparently was under pressure to clean up.


Flag Corps performing at the Opening Ceremony. If you look closely, the word "Olympic" is marked over on their shirts

I do not remember Don doing any other object defacing. Most of that defacing work was done by Sara’s people. There was not a lot of swag with the word “Olympic” on it to sell to begin with. Printing was very expensive, and carefully managed. I had one of the original grey T-Shirts with blue lettering “Gay Olympics” on it, and finally wore it until it was threadbare.

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Post 31 of 40 - 27 August: 1982 - Final Preparations - California, Here We Come!

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


Coach Michael Roth at Gay Games I

DR. MICHAEL ROTH: I finished my Master’s degree in 1964 and started medical school in 1966. In between that time, I became a high school substitute teacher and swim coach in the Detroit area, with my mentor being John Zwick. During that brief period, I actually coached a handful of All-American athletes.

Richard Hunter was a patient of mine, and he and Ric Bohner asked me if I would be interested in coaching the swimmers they had recruited to participate in the first Gay Olympic Games later that summer. Besides getting the newfound team ready for competition, I also made a lifelong friend with Mike Wallace, another doctor on the team. And let me tell you, as an experienced coach, I worked them hard! But it paid off.

* * *

JEFF SHOTWELL: Swim practice was daily (or very frequent) and we practiced at the West Hollywood Park Swimming Pool in the evening after work. At the time, I was a smoker and Michael (Roth) told me I had to quit to be a part of the team. I was one of the two youngest members of the team at just 21 but I was so out of shape! I'd hoped that quitting smoking would enhance my times and endurance as I hadn't swum in about 6 years! Practice was really quite intense as we only had about 6 weeks or so to be ready for the "Gay Olympics" to be held in SFO.

We all raised money for the team doing many Saturday car washes. That was especially fun as we all had a chance to get to know each other (outside of practice) and we all began to bond as a team. I made several friends on the swim team that summer of 1982, most importantly, Doug Orloff (and his husband, Jim) who I still consider my closest friends.

* * *



Volleyball action at Gay Games II in 1986. Photo: Ann Meredith

JACK GONZALES: In order to prepare for the upcoming Gay Games, the majority of our Los Angeles team played (drilled) at the Hollywood YMCA with a volleyball club (Universal Volleyball Club). The majority of the club were straight with the exception of my team. Our sexual orientation was never brought up, but I suspect that the coach and other players ‘knew our story’. We had quite an exceptional group of individuals that made up the team. All had excellent skills which made for a very talented team.

* * *


The Gay Games I banner with "Olympic" covered over


A rare unaltered Gay Games I poster


Gay Games posters before and after removal of "Olympics"

SARA WADDELL LEWINSTEIN: In the last month prior putting on the first Gay Olympic Games, this is what we were all doing: crossing out the word Olympic from EVERYTHING! Shirts, posters, medals, EVERYTHING! Tom was also securing advertising for our first program; he was everywhere. Speaking on radio programs, board meetings, and he took over last minute as the sports director, along with myself. We were both the International Sports Co-Directors, which happened in the last month. We were everywhere doing everything last minute, especially with trying to get as many entries as possible. Everything was last minute. Men and Women coming together for the first time in his/her story. The First Gay Bleep Games! What a sight for sore eyes, as we everyone started arriving.

* * *


Print ad for Gay Games I

     

Charlie Carson and friends around San Francisco. Photos: Charlie Carson

CHARLIE CARSON: Fly TWA to San Francisco. Things are fun right away. Athletes identify each other with big grins upon landing – I meet a group of Los Angeles swimmers and we share a van into the city. One, Frank Maciejewski, turns out to be the third housemate with me and Jeff at Dominic Galardi’s house, as many residents offer hosted housing. We head to Registration to pick up our participant packet and then the San Francisco State University pool to loosen up. Discover the sometimes-chilly S.F. August air. Dinner at the Norse Cove with Frank and Rafael Montijo (who would become one of International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics’ co-founders). Jeff and I go to L.A. swimmers’ team meeting at the Hilton – lively group, and there are so many they’ve divided into L.A., Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica to get around the “one swimmer per city” rule (ha!). Undercurrent on the street is about the USOC’s lawsuit a few weeks back that stopped the use of the word Olympic in between the two words Gay Games.

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HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY - GAY GAMES!!!

Post 32 of 40 - 28 August: 1982 - Gay Games I Opening Ceremony

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

* * *


Lighting of the torch at Gay Games I by George Frenn (L) and Susan McGrievy (R). Photo: Lisa Kanemoto

To see a video of the Gay Games I Opening Ceremony and the lighting of the torch by Olympian Susan McGrievy, click HERE

To see an interview with Susan McGrievy about the GGI Opening Ceremony , click HERE


Chris Van Scoyk at Gay Games II in 1986

CHRIS VAN SCOYK: The Opening Ceremony was held at Kezar Stadium and it was an unforgettable feeling of pride and exhilaration to march together with our team and teams from around the world. And dancing with Dana Cox from Seattle while listening to Tina Turner sing was totally sublime. Gosh, we were lucky to be part of the first Gay Games. For sure an experience that was a highlight of my life. San Francisco was so welcoming and we were treated like celebrities wherever we went in the city. I will never forget the emotions of that time. We knew we were making history for our community.

* * *


Entrance of the Board of Directors. Sara Waddell Lewinstein is third from the right, alongside Tom Waddell. Photo: Lisa Kanemoto


The Gay Games Board on stage at the Opening Ceremony

SARA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: My first memory is of the Board of Directors marching around the field at Kezar Stadium while leading the participating athletes to the stage. I had recently become the Co-Sports Director for the Games, after previously working on the Board of Directors as the Bowling Co-Chair and Women's Outreach Lead. Standing alongside me was Chris Puccinelli, Zohn Artman, and Dr. Tom Waddell. And as we lined up, alternating between men and women, we held hands, full of excitement and pride for having been able to successfully kick off this incredible event that brought us all together.

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The Gay Games I Opening Ceremony. Photo: Lisa Kanemoto

JACK GONZALES: My arrival in San Francisco for Gay Games started in the Castro district. We had to register with photo IDs at a school. It is also where we met our host (for those of us who requested housing). I recall the city being very active with the influx of thousands of people. San Francisco was the perfect city to host these first Games. AIDS / HIV was around, but still in the early stages. One saw no evidence or concern about this soon to be Gay Epidemic. Everyone was in a joyous mood. The City was very busy. Restaurants and bars/nightclubs were packed nightly.



The San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps performing at the GGI Opening Ceremony 

For its first large scale event of this magnitude, it was well organized with no noticeable mishaps. It definitely helped if you were the type of person that can move forward in any circumstance. I recall the Opening Ceremony at Kezar Stadium. All the different cities and countries were dressed to represent their respective teams. It was very inspiring with a splash of awe when we walked into the stadium. There were so many people in the stands. The athletes walked into the stadium with their team/city. We stood / sat while we listened to the various speakers. The entertainment was Tina Turner. She was magnificent. She gave everyone additional energy through her singing & music. It was wild. At the conclusion, everyone emptied the venue on their way to dinner, dancing or wherever.

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The Gay Games I stage where Ken Ward and his fellow musicians were supposed to play. Armistead Maupin is speaking

KEN WARD: A jazz band which had been recently formed out of the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps, and was run by an absolutely CRAZY musician named Guy Foster-Hayden. This preceded the formation of the City Swing Big Band by 2 years. The Foster-Hayden band was asked to open for Tina Turner who was the entertainer for the Opening Ceremony. We were ready to go but were then told that there was a problem with the sound system, so we would have to wait a while. We waited and waited and waited, and eventually were told that the sound system would not be fixed in time for us to play before Tina Turner. BUMMERRRRRRRRR! Our big chance squelched.

  
The San Francisco Band on the field (left) and with the Los Angeles Band (right)

So we sat in the bleachers at Kezar Stadium watching and listening to the San Francisco and Los Angeles gay bands play and saw the two conductors embrace to loud cheers in the middle of the field.

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Tina Turner wow-ing the GGI Opening Ceremony crowd

DOUG ORLOFF: In San Francisco, I stayed with friends of friends who graciously let me and my partner stay in their spare room. On a side note, that partner and I got together in 1979 in Kansas City and we are still together 43 years later. 

When the Opening Ceremony was starting, we were outside the stadium just like the Olympics, and we marched in as a team under our city flags. We had no idea what to expect. It might just be our loved ones and friends inside the stadium. But as we cleared the tunnel, and walked onto the track, the roar was just crazy. There were thousands of people in the stands cheering us and celebrating like only LGBT+ people can. 

I was walking by Bill Swann and Ron Kirkoff and I couldn’t speak. I was choked up and very emotional. Ron, of course, was cracking jokes and laughing. He had the whole team start waving to the crowd like we were royalty. The mantra was “Furs, pearls, tiaras” as we waved the stiff hand gesture Queen Elizabeth does.

All hell broke loose when Tina Turner performed. That a big star would perform for a gay event was bananas. We danced, we sang, and when she did “Proud Mary,” she tore the place down!

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Team Los Angeles entering the Gay Games I Opening Ceremony

JEFF SHOTWELL: When we arrived in San Francisco, all the swimmers were assigned to different "hosts" who had opened their homes to house many of the gay athletes. I was paired with Bill Swann and our hosts were so welcoming. As a matter of fact, it seemed the entire city of San Francisco layed out the welcome mat for all of the athletes - we were cheered and applauded everywhere we went. It was an unbelievable experience.

I have 2 very fond memories of the Opening Ceremony.  The first was walking into the stadium as the "Los Angeles Team" in our uniforms (t-shirts, I believe) and seeing the massive crowd and all of the people cheering! It was overwhelming and that feeling is seared into my memory. I felt to be a real part of the gay community that day.  The second memory was seeing Tina Turner perform on stage for all of us. Tina Turner! What a performance! The atmosphere in that stadium that day was electric. We all knew we were part of something big, but did we realize we were making HISTORY? I didn't, nor do I think many of my teammates thought we were - at the time. All I knew is I was having a blast with this great group of guys, in a fabulous city, doing something I really loved - swimming.

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(L) Tina Turner wows the crowd at the GGI Opening Ceremony; (R) Team Minnesota at the GGI Opening Ceremony


San Francisco Examiner coverage of Gay Games I. Jean Nickolaus Tretter (left in glasses) and Team Minnesota teammate Morrie Spang (holding flag)

JEAN-NICKOLAUS TRETTER: I remember Tina Turner. Of course, she had just left Ike Turner, and what I remember is the biggest ongoing discussion was whether she was a lesbian or not. Back in those days, you just didn’t do things like that, performing at a large, all-gay event. A lot of the lesbians took off their shirts. Team Minnesota had 87 participants for Gay Games I - the largest team from outside California.

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Gene Dermody (center) with Team New York members at GGI Opening Ceremony

GENE DERMODY: I wrote this letter (below) to my YMCA training partner soon after the Opening Ceremony, and it was later included in an LGBTQ+ Castro anthology. I was 34 years old, but it reads like I was 15 years old and I had just won my first tournament. This is how life-shattering this Gay Games experience was for me. I gave up my thirteen-year safe, tenured position teaching and coaching in northern New Jersey and moved to San Francisco within six months with no apartment and no job. The Gay Games had exposed the critical mass of the community that I had been desperately searching for in all the wrong places. It was also the best personal and professional decision I could have ever made:

Saturday 28 August 1982 Gay Games Opening Ceremony Outside Kezar Stadium, San Francisco

It is hard being so jaded to convey the absolute feeling of liberation and joy I felt that day at Kezar Stadium. I have never experienced that level of exhilaration since. As preparations were being made inside the stadium, some 1,300 athletes milled about outside for some three hours, in the typical cool fog of San Francisco. We could hear the wild cheering inside, but were not yet sure what they were excited about. Could it be us? Many “travel-challenged” like me, who thought California summer weather was hot and humid, arrived dressed only in shorts, t-shirts, and back-packs, not prepared for the overcast 60-degree chilly winds.

But we didn’t notice our goose bumps. We were too busy checking out the other athletes. Where did they all come from? Like the kids we never allowed ourselves to be, we were soon making new friends, sizing up the caliber of competition, and networking with our alter egos.

The buzz was incessant, but it was a markedly “different” banter for a Gay group: “Where did you Wrestle? Who was coaching at Bakersfield? What weight would Larry Blakeley compete at? How much weight did you cut? Would Title IX kill Princeton’s program? When are the weigh-ins?“..etc. It was as if -everyone- was finally speaking”‘my” language, and I had finally found “my” lost tribe!

As we were ushered into the stadium by city for the “March of the Athletes,” I was handed one of the New York City flags to lead Team NY’s athletes. A warm sun suddenly exploded out from behind the clouds, as if on cue, to announce the entry of gods into Valhalla. I vividly remember Tina Turner singing on stage and crying profusely for no apparent reason. I felt as if I had finally come “Home” after a very long exile.

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Mauro Bordovsky (L) with Shamey Cramer at the Gay Games IX send-off party in Los Angeles

MAURO BORDOVSKY: Entering Kezar for the Gay Games I Opening Ceremony was amazing and emotional. Although I had competed extensively for my University in Brazil, the Gay Games and entering Kezar Stadium was the first time I felt like an Olympic athlete. The city of San Francisco was very welcoming. Many people on the streets, on public transportation, at events, at restaurants, etc. were curious about us athletes, the sport(s) in which we were participating, and how we were doing. Some restaurants even gave free food to gold medalists. I stayed with local hosts, which was a great way to make new friends and get to know a new city.

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(L) Athletes from Sydney Australia at Gay Games I; (R) Tina Turner rocking out

JAMES HAHN: I made my way to San Francisco on August 28, catching a ride from another bowler I knew from Sacramento (close to Davis). I arrived at the Opening Ceremony more than three hours ahead of time, just to make sure I would be able to take everything in.

Many of the athletes were wandering about with their team uniforms on. Participants from nearly every major city and nearly every state could be found. Numerous international participants could also be spotted, including some from as far away as Australia. I still remember watching a group from Canada doing the “Bunny Hop” to pass the time.

The City/State signs showed up shortly and I found my place between a billiards team from Daly City and a bowling team from East Palo Alto. We marched into the stadium, watching the audience in the stands rise to their feet and cheer us on as we marched around the perimeter of the grass, and then settled onto the grass to watch the program begin.

First up, one of the board members of San Francisco Arts and Athletics welcomed us to the first ever Gay Games. Note that the name Gay Olympics had to be retired a few days prior due to the injunction brought by the United States Olympic Committee. The first speaker could not use the term. The next person who spoke was also limited by the terms of the lawsuit from using the word “Olympics.”


Attorney Mary Dunlap speaking forcefully at GGI about the USOC injunction

The third person who spoke, representing the City and County of San Francisco, was Supervisor and acting Mayor Doris Ward. She was there because Mayor Dianne Feinstein had conveniently skipped town as did John Barbagelata, President of the Board of Supervisors. Doris was not bound by the terms of the lawsuit. She very proudly and very loudly welcomed us to the first Gay Olympic Games. Everyone in the stadium leapt to their feet, cheering wildly.

A little while later, Meg Christian, the singer-songwriter who wrote the first Gay Games anthem, called “Reach for the Sky” performed. She stepped onto the stage and introduced herself to the crowd, before exclaiming “I never thought I would ever be the opening act for Tina Turner!” After the anthem was finished, out comes Tina Turner dressed in a silver flapper dress and treated us to about a half dozen of her hits, all from before “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”

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Team San Francisco entering the Opening Ceremony


Charlie Carson (at right in red tie) at GGI Opening Ceremony

CHARLIE CARSON: Arrive at Kezar Stadium for the Opening Ceremony. New York group of about a dozen has agreed to wear jeans and white dress shirts. George has brought red ties (decades ago, a red tie was a gay male identifier in NYC). Most are runners, but others are in tennis, wrestling and physique. We have one female, entered in Physique. The biggest city contingents are from California; most of the 1,300 or so participants are from the North American west coast. The large Minneapolis group stands out in pale blue warmups. Tom Waddell and Rita Mae Brown speak to the athletes on bullhorns while we wait, and the Sistah Boom female percussion group plays before heading inside.


International teams at Gay Games I. Photo: Lisa Kanemoto

Finally, the athletes march in and it is INCREDIBLE. The stadium is huge; not filled, but still there are several thousand spectators, cheering wildly. As NYC gets about halfway down the sideline the speakers fill Kezar with the “Chariots of Fire” theme and things get emotional. We’re under no illusion we’re at an Olympic Games, but we are at the first of this. More words from Tom Waddell and Rita Mae Brown. Congressman Phil Burton speaks. Defying the cease & desist order, acting mayor Doris Ward declares it the “first Gay OLYMPIC Games.” Tina Turner entertains; fierce. On cue, the sun comes out for the torch lighting, and they release hundreds of pastel-colored balloons. Everyone is happy and proud; everyone cries. Meg Christian sings “Reach for the Sky” and we leave for the pool again to loosen up. What a start!

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Post 33 of 40 - 29 August: Gay Games I: Bowling, Medals, and Swimming

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Park Bowl: Site for Gay Games I and II bowling. Photos: Jim Hahn

JAMES HAHN: The next morning, on Sunday, I bowled in Singles and did pretty well. However, later that afternoon, I learned that my favorite grandmother had passed away on the day of Opening Ceremony. This happened before the days of cell phones and all my mother knew was that I was in San Francisco. She actually tracked me down through the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and I got the message from the Reverend Mother.

I did manage to place 18th and I thus made it to the next round, something I’ve done in each subsequent Gay Games, except for New York.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: It was at the San Francisco Tavern Guild gay bowling leagues where Tom Waddell met Sara Lewinstein. Thus, the roots of the Gay Games can be traced to those leagues held at Park Bowl on Haight Street a half-block from Golden Gate Park.]

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The Gay Games I medal

SARA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: My women's bowling team won the Gold Medal. After receiving the medal and placing it around my neck, I quickly left for the Powerlifting / Weightlifting event, where I had been asked to give out their medals. When I walked into the facility, everything stopped! The place was full of people who all started standing up and clapping.

I quickly turned to see what they were clapping at, only to find that the whole place was clapping for me! They had not seen the medals yet, and here I was, walking in wearing one of the very first ones to of been given out. I proceeded to hold up my medal for everyone to see, and they could not stop cheering. I was in tears holding it and could not believe what was happening.

This was definitely a very special moment for me.

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Charlie Carson (L); Hal Herkenhoff (R) at Gay Games I


(L to R) Steve Smetzer; Ric Bohner; James Ozanich; GGI 50 yard Backstroke at Gay Games I. Photo: Charlie Carson

CHARLIE CARSON: Morning of the first competition, with finals for longer distance events and the 100 yd. Mixed Gender Relays. See the heat sheets and I get that same old swim meet feeling I hadn’t had in six years. And then I tell myself I’m too old to be nervous and that calms me down: will just do my best. I’ve clipped my body hair but haven’t decided yet whether to shave down.

Swimming has about 125 participants. The hot hunks are Richard Hunter of L.A., Chris Dale of Minnesota, and Berkeley’s Hal Herkenhoff. New York guy Blake shows up and says he wants to swim only the 50 Fly before heading to the Russian River. We’re in the same age group so the one-person-per-city rule governs. Since I’m in most all the other sprints I say OK.  Bomb the 200 IM – not happy with my time – still, seriously, what did I expect training on my own at NYU? But then I start qualifying for some event finals.

Turns out there are no national caliber athletes. We are all pretty much second tier swimmers who had some local age group and, for a few, collegiate success – with several recreational swimmers like Australian Bobby Goldsmith who, during the warmups, we’re teaching to touch with two hands in breaststroke. Bobby entered almost every event in the 36-45 age group; he’s bubbly and charmingly clueless about swimming rules. I squeak through into the 50 Free at 6th. I’m second in the 100 Back and feel better. After Blake qualifies for the 50 Fly, we put together a 100 Mixed Medley Relay with Californians Allison Tierney and Karen Cagle. Our relay wins and I have a gold medal – the pressure is off! Yay! Do a Men’s 100 Medley Relay with Blake, Bobby Goldsmith and another guy (whose name I’ve forgotten), but we don’t place. Blake leaves for the Russian River.

Jeff and the other divers can’t warm up because the 1650 Freestyle takes too long. He becomes fast friends with Minnesota’s Lynn Johnston, the only female diver. Swimmers hang out watching the track and field events next door. Meet Ron Kirkhoff and Steve Smetzer (L.A. – so many from L.A.!). In the showers afterwards, L.A.’s Rick Bohner says about me, “Look at those buns!” Café San Marcos for dinner. Hang out with Steve in the evening and head back to Dominic’s early to get plenty of sleep for tomorrow.

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Post 34 of 40 - 29 August: Gay Games I: Spreading the Word and Tom Wins Gold

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Top: Tom Waddell throwing the javelin; Middle: Gay Games I medals; Bottom: Tom (left) with other medal winners 

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SARA WADDELL LEWINSTEIN: I got the Dykes on Bikes to be our sports messengers during the Games. They brought us all the results for our 15 sports… daily, and everyday, so we could post everything. It was quite the sight for all of our eyes. Tom took the Gold medal in a few track and field events. Javelin was his best!

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International Male store in West Hollywood and IM print ad

SHAMEY CRAMER: Three weeks after I founded Team Los Angeles in late June, my boyfriend died in a freeway auto accident. Since I used the last of my paid vacation days to attend his funeral, I couldn’t afford to take time off to spend the entire week in San Francisco.

On Monday, 30 August, my Team LA Co-chair Rand Wiseman-Curtright called me at my office to convey all the results he had accumulated. I wrote everything down as fast as I could, but it was impossible not to get choked up hearing the excitement and pride in his voice.

After typing up the information as a two-sided news sheet, I then ran off several hundred copies on the photocopy machine. After work, I took the bus into West Hollywood and get off in front of International Male clothing store, on the west side of West Hollywood. I would proceed to walk all the way home to my apartment on Sycamore – which was just under three miles – stopping in every bar and business where there would be gay people, and passed out the info sheet.


Team Los Angeles athlete (wearing "Olympic" t-shirt) on the Gay Games I track

Although people were wondering what I was doing the first night or two, once people saw it was me approaching the last two days, they got all excited to see what the latest news was coming out of San Francisco. Since there was barely any media coverage outside of the Bay Area on the Gay Games, providing this kind of immediate information “guerrilla-style” was the only way to get the word out in those pre-Internet days.

I did this every day that week before flying up to San Francisco on Friday evening.

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Charlie Carson with fellow medal-winning swimmers poolside and around town. Note the woman in the second photo has the word "Olympic" crossed out on her shirt

CHARLIE CARSON: After the warmup we have a coach’s meeting, much of it led by Morri Spang of Minneapolis. We agree no more ad hoc relays being put together among individual swimmers now that we know each other’s abilities. Slightly annoyed, but I get it. Nobody likes the format of two days of prelims with two nights of finals, the nonstandard age groups, the one-entry-per-city rule; we’ll urge a sanctioned Masters format if there’s a second Gay Games. Today’s events start at 11:30. Qualify first in the 100 Fly this time – wow. Fourth in 100 Individual Medley. 50 Breast is a joke and missing qualifying is good for my humility. Telegram to L.A. coach, Dr. Michael Roth, from a patient: “The best of luck in San Francisco. I’m very proud of you all.” – from Elizabeth Taylor (!).


Richard Ferris, Chair of Gay Games I diving event

Leave because the break is four hours until 6:30. Jeff stays to dive and is concerned because Diving Chair Richard Ferris is good. Getting to know Andy and Scott from Sacramento – already a couple at 19 and 20 and adorable. Eat at Norse Cove, then to City Athletic Center with L.A.’s Mauro Bordovsky, Mike Wallace, Frank, and others.  The jacuzzi hits the spot. Home for a nap and it’s back to the pool. Decide to skip the 50 Back I’m likely to qualify in because I can’t handle four finals on Wednesday night – the schedule really is insane. Watch and visit with others. L.A. and Berkeley dominate tonight’s relay finals.


(L to R) Charlie Carson, Richard Hunter, Ron Kirkhoff

Home with Jeff and the Castro is hopping. Hamburger Mary’s for dinner with Jeff, Frank and J.P. Lanctot (another from L.A.!). Meet up with other swimmers and head to the Oasis bar, a former hotel with a bar by the outdoor pool. We’re starting to be amazed at the lack of coverage in the local papers – isn’t this the most important thing in the city now? Then to the Midnight Sun, a video bar, with a hilarious Edith Prickley skit from SCTV and The Go-Go’s Vacation. Good crowd but we don’t stay out too late – the bigger finals races are still to come. Yup, I’m shaving.

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Post 35 of 40 - 31 August - Gay Games I: Swimming, Wrestling, and a Special Telegram

“Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

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Swim Coach Michael Roth

DR. MICHAEL ROTH: I was very proud of how well our swimmers performed. Not only were we representing Los Angeles, which would be hosting the Olympics two years later, but this was the first time gay people were being recognized for something other than their sexual preference or identity.

After each day’s competition, the team would often head into the Castro District. I remember telling them they were allowed thirty minutes before I made everyone go home and prepare for the next day’s competition.

  
Elizabeth Taylor in 1982

Halfway through the meet I received a telegram from a very special patient of mine. They read it over the loudspeaker, making sure to announce that the telegram was from none other than Elizabeth Taylor. The place went wild. That was a very special moment for me. For one of the most famous people on the planet to take the time to do such a simple gesture was very endearing. Elizabeth knew how much it meant to me, and how happy it would make me and everyone else feel. That’s the kind of person she was.

Towards the end of the meet, we still needed another woman to fill one of our mixed medley relays. A woman from the stands stepped forward, even though she really wasn’t a swimmer. I told her “just do the doggie paddle if you have to.” When she finished, the entire natatorium gave her a rousing ovation for her efforts. But that’s what the Games were about - everyone feeling welcomed and included.

Of course, this was the time when AIDS began ravaging the community. Many of the swimmers ended up becoming patients of mine, and I ended up losing over 500 friends to the disease. I had so many patients come to me by request. When I asked them why, they simply stated “because we heard you cared.”

Whether it was my work as the coach for the swim team, or working with my patients, more than anything, I tried; I really tried to do my best. But it is still very painful to remember all the loss we experienced.

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Gene Dermody on the Gay Games I wrestling mat

GENE DERMODY: Don Jung’s Golden Gate Wrestling CLUB (GGWC), which was founded explicitly for Gay Games, was thrust into a leadership role as the excited wrestlers demanded more!

CA USA-Wrestling Officers and Officials were present to sanction and run the tournament out of respect for Don. Future CA-USA-Wrestling sanctioning was a major political hurdle now removed, and every Gay Games since has been sanctioned. No other Gay Games sport received official sanctioning in 1982 or 1986.

     
Gay Games I wrestling action

The welcoming address by Holocaust Survivor Dr. Allen Abraham, a retired wrestling coach and Athletic Director at Columbia University and then UCSF, cut the butterflies and fears of the wrestlers sitting nervously on the mats, and brought them to hugs and tears with these words (paraphrased): “Look around the room. See the future and be proud. By competing here today, you are ‘Changing The World’”.

 

The interpersonal connections created in 1982 were extraordinary because we were unknown to each other, and yet instantly we’re on the same egalitarian athletic/social page. These dynamic group connections within the sport competitions generated the powerful LGBTQ+ sport governing bodies that would proliferate local LGBTQ+ sports clubs. International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) was by far the most professional, successful, and the Role Model for other LGBTQ+ sports.

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Gay Games I swimmers on the starting blocks

CHARLIE CARSON: Take it easy all day and don’t join the L.A. guys to sightsee.  Shave arms in morning. Meet Steve Smetzer to go to the souvenir store to buy pins and a Gay Olympic Games t-shirt. Rather than destroy inventory, vendors can still sell product if the word “Olympic” is covered at the point of sale (masking tape on the t-shirts; white paint on the pins – of course we remove the tape or scratch off the paint once purchased). Steve and I laugh at a t-shirt with “E.T. – Elizabeth Taylor,” sold!  Back to Dom’s to shave legs and nap two hours. Marcello’s for pizza. MUNI to the pool and don’t do much warmup. Shaved down; you feel like a bullet in the water.


     
Gay Games I swimming action and fabulous volunteers

Finals start. Chat with Allison and Karen and Scott and Hal, and Pat Prince from Honolulu. And then I win the 100 Backstroke – completely unexpected. And then move up from sixth to finish 2nd in the 50 Free! Hoppin’ all over the place, and wear my E.T. t-shirt on the awards stand. Blake decided not to come back from the Russian River for the 50 Fly that I scratched…um, OK… I didn’t need another final anyway. Do an exhibition relay with Andy, Pat and Mark Wussler of Tucson and we would’ve finished second. Tom Waddell gives medals tonight. Competition chair Jill Ramsey blows soap bubbles around us on the awards stand. The crowd treats us like rock stars, and in reality it doesn’t matter that there are no big names here. With our general equal level of ability, we have some very close races which makes things exciting regardless.


Swimmers out on the town on Castro Street

To the Castro afterwards with Mauro, Frank, Rick and Richard. Richard has won all his races so far and is our little meet’s star. Most of L.A. is at the Sausage Factory. Back to Dominic’s and – well, won’t name which roommate doesn’t come home tonight…

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Post 36 of 40 - 1 September - Gay Games I: Swimming and Shades of Pink Flamingo