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"Passing The Torch" Post 12 of 40

08 Aug 2022 11:31 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

Gay Games V

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

Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.

Post 12 of 40 - 8 August Gay Games V

“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 GGV Director of Sports.

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Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.

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