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"Passing The Torch" Post 22a of 40

18 Aug 2022 17:52 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

Headliners, Politicians, and the GG9 Obama Welcome Video - Part A

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 22a of 40 - 18 August - Headliners, Politicians, and the GG9 Obama Welcome Video

“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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Since the beginning, the Gay Games have attracted headliner entertainment and politicians alike. From Tina Turner and Stephanie Mills at Gay Games I: San Francisco 1982, to Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Richard M. Daley Jr. at Gay Games IV: New York 1994 and Gay Games VII: Chicago 2006, respectively, pictured below are those who have graced the Gay Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies.

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Gay Games 9 Opening Ceremony, Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland. Photo: Tricia Uveges

SHAMEY CRAMER: I spent the Summer of 2013 in Washington DC as a volunteer advocate on the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, and served as the delegation lead for the Oval Office Signing Ceremony with President Obama that November.

 Shamey Cramer with Gautam Raghavan, White House LGBTQ+ Liaison
(R) Shamey Cramer with Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin

Thanks to Team DC’s Brent Minor, himself a former FGG Co-President, I was able to attend the on-field activities for the “Night Out at the Nationals” baseball game in mid-June. I had the opportunity to chat with Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, the first lesbian to serve openly in the U.S. Senate. She had participated in Gay Games IV (where she earned a silver medal in volleyball) and was thrilled to hear of its progress since.

FGG Co-President Emy Ritt, FGG Honorary Life Member, US Senator Tammy Baldwin

Another individual in attendance was Gautam Raghavan, who served as the White House Office of Engagement liaison for the LGBTQ+ community. When I asked him how we could get an invitation to President Obama to officially open Gay Games 9, we exchanged contact information. Three days later, FGG Co-President Emy Ritt and I met Gautam at a coffee shop across the street from his offices next the White House.

Gautam outlined what we needed to put in the letter, and the best time frame for submitting our request. Fortunately, we were still thirteen months out from the event, so we had time to adhere to the presumptive timeline.

Understanding the massive amounts of similar requests the White House receives on a daily basis, with the odds against us, I felt it best to not even let anyone know the request was being put into action. Those who were aware included Gay Games 9 Board member Gregg Levine and myself, GG9 CEO Tom Nobbe, Emy and Kurt, and later Joanie and producer Patrick Roberge; and Valarie McCall, representative for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.


Letter from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to President Barack Obama

After drafting the letter and receiving approval by the FGG and GG9 leadership, the letter was forwarded to Valarie for Mayor Jackson’s approval and signature. Once signed by Mayor Jackson, it was submitted to the White House on October 8, 2013.

Now all we had to do was wait.

Ten days before Opening Ceremony, I received an email from Gautam. The video was still being considered as part of the President's schedule for the following Friday. All we could do was wait and pray.

FGG Honorary Life Member, with Gautam Raghavan at the "Night Out With The Nationals" baseball game

On Monday, I received another confirmation email from Gautam, with a simple request: could I please provide some talking points for President Obama?

If I thought meeting President Obama in the Oval Office was amazing, being asked to write words for him to speak is even more humbling. By the next morning, I submitted nearly a dozen key points that could be addressed in the brief speech. Points that touched on the historic changes that have occurred since the Gay Games founding, including since they were last held in the USA, in Chicago. Basically, providing him with the key talking points that we have had from the beginning: we use sport to address the issues of homophobia, sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination; sport as a vehicle for human rights.

At the end of the day on Thursday, I once again received an email from Gautam: barring any incident, the video recording was scheduled for the President some time the next afternoon - the day before Opening Ceremony. I would receive an email with a coded link once the video was ready for me to download and share with Patrick Roberge, the Opening Ceremony Producer and Showrunner.

Needless to say, I felt as if I was the cat that had swallowed a whole flock of canaries. I was also sitting on pins and needles all day Friday, attending an FGG Board meeting, still praying no international crisis would suddenly occur; and then not knowing when the video would actually arrive.

To make matters even more intense, the Cleveland Games Committee produced an extraordinary gala at the Art Museum that evening, with many people asking about our plans for the Opening Ceremony the next day. All I could do was smile and say “you'll see!”

I got back to my hosts’ home from the  Art Museum around midnight to discover the video link. I jumped on the phone with Gregg Levine, forwarding him the link as well, so we could watch it together. After waiting what seemed like forever for the video to download, we both were able to watch it together over the phone. All I recall is being in a state of euphoric shock - WE DID IT!!!

Opening Day began very early for me, overseeing the Memorial Moment ceremony, attending the Scholarship Welcome Reception, checking in on Opening Ceremony rehearsals, and producing and hosting the Legacy Awards being given out at a VIP reception inside the Q Arena for nearly 300 VIPS, sponsors and dignitaries - still not being able to mention a word about the content of the show.

After the Parade of Athletes & Artists came the singing of the national anthem. The auditorium was in darkness, as the music and applause faded. For a second, there was silence. And then, the four-sided Jumbotron in the middle of the Q Arena was lit up with President Obama saying: “Hello, Everybody, and welcome to the United States, and to Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.” Of course, no one probably heard him say anything after “Everybody,” given the thunderous burst of gasps and applause, followed by massive shushing. He continued:

“…a chance to come together…. in my hometown of Chicago….the United States stands with you and for your human rights”

Once again, a massive burst of cheers and applause, then silence. “We're also a country that loves competition, so let's get these Games under way! Good luck to everyone in Cleveland and Akron, and Go Team USA!”

The Q Arena erupted into wild applause and shouts of joy. I sat there, tears glistening in my eyes, feeling very serene and at peace. As the only person on the Board who had actually worked with Tom all those years ago, producing the Obama welcome video meant something deeper. I had achieved another benchmark that Tom, Jean Tretter and I, and the other members of the IGOA had envisioned in October 1982: to have the head of state participate in the Gay Games Opening Ceremony. A new "Personal Best" for the Gay Games.

To see the Barack Obama video from Gay Games 9, click HERE.

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Listed and pictured below are those dignitaries, entertainers, and celebrity athletes who have graced the Gay Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies with their presence.

Event / Year





Gay Games I 1982

San Francisco

Acting Mayor Doris Ward, Congressman Phil Burton

Tina Turner, Stephanie Mills, Armistead Maupin, Rita Mae Brown

former U.S. Olympians George Frenn and Susan McGrievy

Gay Games II 1986

San Francisco

Mayor Dianne Feinstein

Jennifer Holliday, Jae Ross

Gay Games III 1990


Comedienne Robin Tyler

Gay Games IV 1994

New York City

Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor Mario Cuomo (Basketball)

Harvey Fierstein, Cyndi Lauper, Patti LaBelle, Greg Louganis, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Barbara Cook, Kathy Najimy, Armistead Maupin, Sir Ian McKellen, Desmond Child, Crystal Waters, Phyllis Hyman, Lillias White

Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova,

Gay Games V 1998


The Weather Girls, Dana International

Gay Games VI 2002


Governor of New South Wales, Right Honourable Justice Michael Kirby, New South Wales Governor Professor Marie Bashir

k.d. lang, Kath & Kim,

Gay Games VII 2006


Mayor Richard M. Daley, Jr., United States Ambassador James C. Hormel, Deputy Mayor Elfi Scho-Antwerpes

Jimmy Somerville, Jason & deMarco, Billy Porter, Ari Gold and the Broadway cast of Avenue Q, Cyndi Lauper, Erasure’s Andy Bell, Megan Mullally, Ant, Sharon McKnight, George Takei, Margaret Cho, Kate Clinton, Holly Near, Barbara Higbie, Nedra Johnson, Teresa Trull, Jody Watley, Cirque du Soleil performers, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Heather Small, Betty, Levi Kreis & Eric Himan, Ant, Doria Roberts, Kristine W.

Billy Bean, David Kopay, Esera Tuaolo, Leigh Ann Naidoo, Greg Louganis

Gay Games VIII 2010


Deputy Mayor Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, USA Ambassador Philip Murphy, Hillary Clinton, Openly gay German Vice Chancellor Guido Westerwelle

Taylor Dayne

Matthew Mitcham, Leigh Ann Naidoo, Michelle Ferris, Dave Kopay, John Amaechi

Gay Games IX 2014

Cleveland + Akron

President Barack H. Obama, Senator Sherrod Brown, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic

Melissa Etheridge, Lance Bass, Boy George, Alex Newell, Andrea McArdle, Pointer Sisters

Blake Skjellerup, Greg Louganis, Robbie Rogers, Jason Collins, Leigh Ann Naidoo

Gay Games X 2018


Mayor Honorable Anne Hidalgo, Laura Flessel

Jean-Paul Gaultier, Offer Nissim


See photos of the individuals listed above in Post 22b


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

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