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 28 of 40 - 24 August - Post Scripts
“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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Kate Rowe (right) at Gay Games VIII in Cologne, 2010
KATE ROWE: The world has changed in the last 40 years. LGBTQ+ sport has changed. There are far more opportunities for LGBTQ+ sport and culture. My belief is that Tom Waddell’s vision and model was the way forward. But now in 2022, we need to change the model to fit the new world.
We still don't have enough young people, people with disabilities or other diverse constituencies. We have not made progress on equal participation of women, yet in mainstream sport, great inroads are being made. We can learn from them all.
I have been a passionate believer in Tom Waddell’s vision and played my part. It is up to us all and the board now and in the future, to rise to the challenge of change.
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Rob Smitherman at Gay Games 9, Cleveland+ Akron, 2014
ROB SMITHERMAN: The Federation of Gay Games, which began as San Francisco Arts & Athletics, has been an amazing institution for the past 40 years, keeping alive the Gay Games vision first begun in 1982. The board, the Assembly, and the many volunteers for the FGG have worked to make each Gay Games better, and they provided the structure for success.
A group that deserves much of the credit for each Gay Games is the host city working group that actually produces the Games. Each city organization must develop, manage, and create the event from scratch, using the guidelines set out by the FGG. Every Gay Games has produced an amazing event, with over 30 sports, several cultural events, an opening and closing ceremony, and often a festival village. These successes have been due to the host city leadership, volunteers, and staff devoting their lives to the Gay Games in their city.
I have attended every Gay Games since Amsterdam in 1998. I was fortunate to be part of the staff at the Chicago Gay Games, working as a sports manager. I then worked for the host teams in Cologne in 2010 and Cleveland/Akron in 2014. I also have been a member of the Steering Committee, a working group that has several representatives from the FGG and the host city. This has allowed me to be in awe of the host city volunteers and staff, those that make the Gay Games actually work.
Each host city organizing committee is a bit different. The group could consist of almost all volunteers with a few paid staff and consultants, or it could have a larger paid staff overseen by a volunteer board. Whatever the form the host is made up of people who are passionate about the Gay Games and the LGBTQ+ community. These people give up part of their lives for many years to make the Gay Games successful in their cities.
Since I was not part of the host city organizing committees before Chicago I cannot recognize individuals of those teams specifically. However, those organizers created an incredible event for each Gay Games, and then “passed the torch” to the next one. Each host city was able to build on the success of the previous one, and each learned from their challenges and difficulties.
Many people deserve praise, but from an operations and production standpoint, one person who deserves special recognition is Stuart Borrie of the Sydney Gay Games. Stuart created a report that is the most comprehensive and clear explanation of how to organize a Gay Games. We are still using it 20 years later. He is a major reason that the host cities after Sydney were able to create a successful event.
Gay Games VII: Chicago 2006 was organized by a dedicated team of volunteers, including the co-chairs Suzie Arnold and Sam Coady, and vice-chairs Tracy Baim and Kevin Boyer. They led a volunteer team that consisted of many in the LGBTQ+ community in Chicago. They also hired a great staff that produced each aspect of the Gay Games.
Gay Games VIII: Cologne 2010 was the dream of the LGBTQ+ Sports Club in Cologne, SC Janus. Annette Wachter and Michael Lohaus were the co-chairs, with Armin Lohrmann as the executive director, and they provided such great leadership. They led a team of volunteers, most of whom were part of SC Janus. Imagine having over 10,000 people for a week-long event that was produced almost exclusively by volunteers. Their success was a result of the passion and love that they had for Cologne and for the LGBTQ+ community.
Gay Games 9: Cleveland+Akron 2014 was a special and unique Gay Games, hosted by two small cities, both with a small LGBTQ+ sports community. The eventual group that organized the Gay Games was a volunteer board headed by Steve Sokany and Hollie Ksiezyk. The board relied on a staff to organize and produce the events, headed by Executive Director Tom Nobbe, as well as Marketing Director Ann Gynn and Development Director Mary Zaller. The board, staff, and volunteers produced a successful Gay Games in so many ways, including making a positive impact in the local communities, and creating a small budget surplus that eventually was able to donate to local LGBTQ+ causes.
Gay Games 10: Paris 2018 was led by Manuel Picaud, as well as Co-President Pascale Reinteau, who developed an outstanding team that produced yet another successful Gay Games. The French LGBTQ+ sports club FGSL contributed to producing many the sports events. Emy Ritt, prior FGG Co-President, was a great asset in the ultimate realization of the most recent Gay Games. These leaders and countless volunteers produced an amazing event in an amazing city.
We now have three host cities for future Gay Games. Hong Kong, led by Lisa Lam and Alan Lang, have developed a dedicated group of volunteers to manage and produce the Hong Kong version of Gay Games 11. Guadalajara Gay Games 11 is quickly bringing together the city, volunteers and staff to host a successful event. Valencia is just getting started with its plans to produce Gay Games 12.
We also need to acknowledge the cities that bid to host the Gay Games but were not chosen as host. Each of those cities have had volunteers who dedicated several years of developing and presenting bids for the Gay Games. I have had the honor of meeting, working with, and sharing the disappointments of many of the great representatives from the bid teams of these cities. These wonderful volunteers deserve our respect and thanks.
Being part of the host city team has been a life-changing experience. The drive, determination, and passion of each host city organization has created the Gay Games that we know today. I wish I could name all of the people who have made a difference for each host city, but the list would be too long. Please join me in honoring them by remembering their dedication and commitment to making each Gay Games a success.
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Joanie Evans announcing the new host for Gay Games XII in 2026
JOANIE EVANS: I have now been to 7 out of 10 Gay Games held so far. Over the past 20+ yrs, my involvement with the FGG has been varied: I’ve been an Observer, Vice President of Diversity, member of various committees, and was even part of the London 2018 Gay Games Bid Team and for the past 8 years as Co-President.
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Doug Litwin (right) at Gay Games IV, NYC 1994
DOUG LITWIN: My Gay Games story has continued through Amsterdam, Sydney, Chicago, Cologne, Cleveland + Akron, and Paris and it’s not stopping any time soon. Happy Fortieth Anniversary, Gay Games!
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Emy Ritt at FGG annual meeting in Cape Town South Arica 2008
EMY RITT: Since 1982, Gay Games Hosts and the FGG have been consistently analyzing the lessons learned in order to form a more perfect Gay Games and to reach a Personal Best with each new edition. We thank all Host Organizations and FGG volunteers for their enthusiasm, dedication, and personal sacrifice for the Gay Games.
Being a part of the Gay Games has been a life-changing experience and an immense privilege. Giving back to the Gay Games, even if just a little, has been a ‘raison d’être’ for over twenty years, an amazing adventure, and the greatest gift of all. Now, with gratitude, the baton has been passed to the next generations. Thank you. Merci.
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(L) Jessica with her father Tom Waddell, Gay Games II, 1986
(R) Jessica at Opening Ceremony Gay Games VII, 2006 (photo : Beckermedia)
JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: Over the last 40 years, I have grown up with the Games while watching the Games grow alongside me. The Games is an intrinsic part of my being, and I owe a lot to it. My life, my career, my extended family. It has shown me the benefits of celebrating our differences, and bonding through our similarities. To value diversity, and the ability to show each other respect. The importance of standing together in solidarity and standing up for equality. Values that I can only hope to instill in my own two children now.
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Shamey Cramer with U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin
SHAMEY CRAMER: When one donates time to a non-profit, most of that work is done selflessly, anonymously and without reward. I will always want to be best remembered as the founder of Team Los Angeles, and one of the few that actually worked with Tom Waddell to create an international governing body during the first four years of operations.
I am also proud of the work I did with Rand Wiseman-Curtright and Phil Manciero to establish the Los Angeles Festival Games between Gay Games I and II, which led to a very cohesive queer sports network in Los Angeles. To this day, we still have one of the most successful queer sports communities - as competitors as well as producing sports tournaments and festivals.
Although I spent an additional four years founding and overseeing two Los Angeles Gay Games bid finalists, it is the writing and event producing I did during my six years on the FGG Board that made the greatest impact. That, and mentoring the new generation of LGBTQ+ sports administrators around the world.
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Derek Liecty celebrating his 90th birthday, July 2022
DEREK LIECTY: I was asked to be a founding member of The Federation of Gay Games in 1989 and served for thirteen consecutive years as Director. My main focus with The Federation was to do outreach outside the United States bringing the message of the Games of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best to as many countries as possible with encouragement to attend the Games.
For forty years The Gay Games has carried on the legacy of Tom Waddell and I am so privileged to have been a part of this world changing event.
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Kurt Dahl with Joanie Evans speaking at Gay Games 9 Opening Ceremony
KURT DAHL: Being part of the Gay Games movement has forever changed my life. I never expected to be a Co-President of an organization like the FGG. I also never expected to meet so many amazing people over the past 20 years. I still remember going around with David Kopay in Cologne handing out medals, and meeting people like the US Ambassador to Germany Philip Murphy (now Governor of New Jersey), Matthew Mitcham, Cyndi Lauper, Ben Cohen, Esera Tuaolo, among others.
Again, thanks Gay Games, for changing my life.
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Jeffry Pike at Gay Games II, San Francisco 1986
JEFFRY PIKE: My connection to Roy Coe stays vibrantly alive through the Roy M. Coe Scholarship Fund. For me, one of the truly rewarding aspects of meeting and knowing the recipients of the Coe Scholarship Fund is to see how their stories are changed after they attend the Gay Games. Be it providing new leadership in their communities or being more assured with who they are on this planet, they each now have a greater “a sense of pride.”
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Read the entire "Passing The Torch" series as it is posted daily HERE.