Reprinted from CNN.com
By Scottie Andrew, CNN
July 31, 2021
(CNN) Tom Waddell knew what to expect from an Olympics opening ceremony. He'd experienced one before as a decathlete at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. He remembered the parade of athletes from around the world, proudly marching alongside their flags before an audience of thousands, cheering on their every move.
Tom Waddell, an athlete in the 1968 Olympics, created the Gay Games first held in 1982 to celebrate LGBTQ inclusion. The next Gay Games are scheduled for 2022 in Hong Kong. Picture above is the 2018 Gay Games opening ceremony in Paris.
His gay and lesbian friends in San Francisco, though, had never experienced an event as thrilling or moving as the opening ceremony. According to various archives, he wanted to share with them the awe and the connection he felt in that moment, and thought that maybe, while they basked in the glow of the applause, the rest of the country might recognize their humanity.
And so Waddell created the Gay Games -- then called the Gay Olympics, until the International Olympic Committee sued over the name. He saw his games as a vessel for change, a venue for activism and a celebration of LGBTQ inclusion.
"The formula for success was visibility and identity," Waddell said in an interview following the first Gay Games in 1982. "And both were right there on the field. We were visible, and we were identified. And what did people see? They saw healthy people, out there, doing something that everyone could understand. They were out there to compete and have fun -- success. That's what the first Gay Games were all about."
Participants compete in the dance sport event of the 2018 Gay Games in Paris.
Waddell died in 1987, but the Gay Games continue to this day, growing into an international phenomenon since their first iteration. They draw over 10,000 athletes and sometimes seven or eight times as many spectators, said Shiv Paul, vice president of external relations for the Federation of Gay Games. They feature many of the same sports traditionally seen at the Summer and Winter Olympics - figure skating, track and field, diving - with additions like bowling, e-sports and dodgeball.
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