"Passing The Torch" Post 32b of 40

02 Sep 2022 11:23 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

Gay Games I Opening Ceremony

HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY - GAY GAMES!!!


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 32b of 40 - 28 August: 1982 - Gay Games I Opening Ceremony

Continued from Post 32a

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(L) Athletes from Sydney Australia at Gay Games I; (R) Tina Turner rocking out

JAMES HAHN: I made my way to San Francisco on August 28, catching a ride from another bowler I knew from Sacramento (close to Davis). I arrived at the Opening Ceremony more than three hours ahead of time, just to make sure I would be able to take everything in.

Many of the athletes were wandering about with their team uniforms on. Participants from nearly every major city and nearly every state could be found. Numerous international participants could also be spotted, including some from as far away as Australia. I still remember watching a group from Canada doing the “Bunny Hop” to pass the time.

The City/State signs showed up shortly and I found my place between a billiards team from Daly City and a bowling team from East Palo Alto. We marched into the stadium, watching the audience in the stands rise to their feet and cheer us on as we marched around the perimeter of the grass, and then settled onto the grass to watch the program begin.

First up, one of the board members of San Francisco Arts and Athletics welcomed us to the first ever Gay Games. Note that the name Gay Olympics had to be retired a few days prior due to the injunction brought by the United States Olympic Committee. The first speaker could not use the term. The next person who spoke was also limited by the terms of the lawsuit from using the word “Olympics.”


Attorney Mary Dunlap speaking forcefully at GGI about the USOC injunction

The third person who spoke, representing the City and County of San Francisco, was Supervisor and acting Mayor Doris Ward. She was there because Mayor Dianne Feinstein had conveniently skipped town as did John Barbagelata, President of the Board of Supervisors. Doris was not bound by the terms of the lawsuit. She very proudly and very loudly welcomed us to the first Gay Olympic Games. Everyone in the stadium leapt to their feet, cheering wildly.

A little while later, Meg Christian, the singer-songwriter who wrote the first Gay Games anthem, called “Reach for the Sky” performed. She stepped onto the stage and introduced herself to the crowd, before exclaiming “I never thought I would ever be the opening act for Tina Turner!” After the anthem was finished, out comes Tina Turner dressed in a silver flapper dress and treated us to about a half dozen of her hits, all from before “What’s Love Got To Do With It.”

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Team San Francisco entering the Opening Ceremony


Charlie Carson (at right in red tie) at GGI Opening Ceremony

CHARLIE CARSON: Arrive at Kezar Stadium for the Opening ceremony. New York group of about a dozen has agreed to wear jeans and white dress shirts. George has brought red ties (decades ago, a red tie was a gay male identifier in NYC). Most are runners, but others are in tennis, wrestling and physique. We have one female, entered in Physique. The biggest city contingents are from California; most of the 1,300 or so participants are from the North American west coast. The large Minneapolis group stands out in pale blue warmups. Tom Waddell and Rita Mae Brown speak to the athletes on bullhorns while we wait, and the Sistah Boom female percussion group plays before heading inside.


International teams at Gay Games I. Photo: Lisa Kanemoto

Finally, the athletes march in and it is INCREDIBLE. The stadium is huge; not filled, but still there are several thousand spectators, cheering wildly. As NYC gets about halfway down the sideline the speakers fill Kezar with the “Chariots of Fire” theme and things get emotional. We’re under no illusion we’re at an Olympic Games, but we are at the first of this. More words from Tom Waddell and Rita Mae Brown. Congressman Phil Burton speaks. Defying the cease & desist order, acting mayor Doris Ward declares it the “first Gay OLYMPIC Games.” Tina Turner entertains; fierce. On cue, the sun comes out for the torch lighting, and they release hundreds of pastel-colored balloons. Everyone is happy and proud; everyone cries. Meg Christian sings “Reach for the Sky” and we leave for the pool again to loosen up. What a start!

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