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"Passing The Torch" Post 18 of 40

14 Aug 2022 09:43 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

Gay Games VIII

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 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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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