The birth of the Gay Games was marked by conflict with the Olympic movement.
In June 1981 San Francisco Arts and Athletics was founded by Olympic decathlete Dr Tom Waddell to produce the first “Gay Olympic Games.” In August 1982, less than three weeks before the Opening Ceremonies, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) obtained a court order barring SFAA from using the name “Gay Olympic Games”, invoking the 1978 Amateur Sports Act (now The Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act, revised in 1998), which under US federal law appointed the USOC as the coordinating body for all Olympic-related athletic activity in the United States. The act protected the trademarks of the IOC and USOC and gives the USOC exclusive rights to the words “Olympic,” “Olympiad” and “Citius, Altius, Fortius,” as well as Olympic-related symbols in the United States.
As a result, the word “Olympics” was blacked out from all Gay Olympic Games materials, leaving the words “Gay Games”, a name we are proud to continue to defend.
The legal proceedings went all the way to the Supreme Court, going as far as threatening the Waddell family home. That claim was dropped only in 1993 — years after his death in 1987. (See more HERE)
After the USOC v SFAA Supreme Court decision, the FGG, the successor to San Francisco Arts and Athletics, then had to contend with the ‘branding’ issues around our interlocking-ring logo and the association of the rings with the words Inclusion Participation, and Personal Best. Here negotiations were successful, and the rings, inspired by the logo for Gay Games I, remain our emblem.
The FGG at Pride House 2012
Gay Games Olympian ambassadors
The Gay Games and the Olympic movement
“From Games to Games”: an invitation to Olympians
A call for equality at the Olympics: Atlanta Plus, synchronized swimming, and more
BASOC, the Bay Area Sports Organizing Committee, founded to support San Francisco Olympic bidding, supported the FGG’s efforts to reach closure on the conflict that gave birth to the Gay Games. While USOC has never apologized for its clearly homophobic attack on the “Gay Olympic Games”, relations have improved, and the FGG, represented by Sara Waddell Lewinstein, FGG President Gene Dermody and Vice President Derek Liecty, were part of a joint ceremony at the San Francisco LGBT Community Center along with Anne Warner Cribbs of BASOC, on whose board. Dermody and Liecty have served.
With the support of USOC, the FGG sought “Designated Event Status” (DES) that allowed a blanket waiver for Gay Games IV participants from travel restrictions for HIV-positive people, status that two years later would benefit USOC for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Gay Games IV in 1994 were listed as a noteworthy event in the USOC annual handbook. The same waiver was obtained for Gay Games VII in 2006.
Gay Games Ambassador Greg Louganis, who came out at Gay Games IV, was given the USOC’s highest award; Sportsman of the Year. In hs acceptance speech, he dedicated the award to Tom Waddell. Louganis would have success in lobbying to prevent the 1996 Olympic volleyball competition from being held in homophobic Cobb County, Georgia.