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"Passing The Torch" Post 21b of 40

17 Aug 2022 12:08 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

Gay Games 9: CLE + AKR 2014

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 21b 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.

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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.

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 (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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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(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.

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

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