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Federation of Gay Games News

Here you will find all the latest news from The Federation of Gay Games and on sport and culture in our community. 

If you have any news you would like to include or have any media enquiries please contact the relevant person on our contact page.

You can also check out the history of the Gay Games in photos and videos by visiting our massive online archives HERE.

  • 17 Aug 2022 09:31 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games 9: CLE + AKR 2014 - 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 21a of 40 - 17 August - Gay Games9: 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.

    * * *

    The Cleveland skyline during Gay Games IX. Photo: Gary Sponholtz

    To see the a video of the entire Opening Ceremony, click HERE
    To see a local Cleveland news report about the Closing Ceremony, click HERE

    MARY ZALLER: GG9 was a game changer for Northeast Ohio. Not only for the LGBTQ Community, but for the entire region. We are still experiencing many benefits of the collaborations and relationships that were built during that time – it was truly transformative!

    Mary Zaller (left) with her wife Mary Prevel

    In 2012, I was hired to be the Director of Development for Gay Games 9. Because Cleveland and Akron are both smaller cities, we needed not only the LGBTQ community, but the general population to get excited about the Gay Games,. I don't have the stats on this, but I think we are the Gay Games that had the most amount of allies as participants and volunteers.

    I could talk forever about how GG9 continues to positively impact our entire community. But I was asked to talk about the financial success of the 2014 Gay Games, presented by the Cleveland Foundation (which was our official name). The fact that the Cleveland Foundation – the first Community Foundation in the country - stepped in early with a large sponsorship, lent us credibility with civic leaders in a time before nationwide marriage equality, and other rights for our community. Many of the major corporations, media outlets, sports teams, and nonprofits in the region stepped up to sponsor. Supporting GG9 became a matter of civic pride. Countless companies large and small were excited to be part of the effort, by contributing cash, in kind sponsorships, volunteer support and more.

    One of the most gratifying outcomes was the large amount of small business sponsorships: over 150. We enabled businesses to participate for as little as $500 and connect their brand to this exciting international event. It was a way to democratize philanthropy for small business owners.

    Gay Games 9 By The Numbers report

    The economic impact was huge: $52.1 million plus $20.6 million in job creation! For those who like stats, there are many facts and numbers on the two attached overview documents.

    We were a Gay Games of many firsts:

    • The first to undertake an organized effort to engage political leaders
    • The first to formally engage a network of local non-profit organizations as community partners
    • The first to implement a sustainability plan
    • The first to have a sitting Head of State address the Opening Ceremony (thanks to the tireless efforts of Shamey Cramer, FGG Officer of Ceremonies)
    • And the first to have a financial profit that enabled us to give back to our regional LGBTQ Community

    Executive Tom Nobbe passing the torch to Paris - Gay Games IX Closing Ceremony

    (L to R): Tom Nobbe, Gay Games founder Paul Mart; Honorary Life Member Richard Hogan

    We had a dedicated board led by Co-Chairs ​Hollie M. Ksiezyk and Stephen G. Sokany, and a never-give-up and ever-growing staff led by Thomas Nobbe, Executive Director. One of the things we are proudest of, is that we ended with a $150,000 surplus that we were able to donate to the LGBTQ funds at the Cleveland Foundation and the Akron Gay Community Foundation.

    The Federation of Gay Games chose Cleveland and Akron Ohio to make a difference by changing hearts and minds in the “heartland” of America. By all estimations, that goal was accomplished with the huge success of GG9.

    * * *

    Gay Games IX Scholarship orientation session. Photo: Doug Litwin

    Gay Games IX Scholarship recipients in Cleveland

    JEFFRY PIKE: Sharing the personal stories of scholarship recipients during and after the Sydney and Chicago Games has increased enthusiasm of donors and led to additional scholarship endowments and donations, thus expanding the opportunity for the FGG to help more participants attend Gay Games IX Cleveland (2014) and Gay Games X Paris (2018).

    "I am actually thinking about becoming a president of the LGBT sports organization in St Petersburg. So, yes, yes, it is interesting for me to be here. I can see more about how to organize an event. It is very important for me. I am very grateful for all the people who helped us to be here today and all the ceremony, it’s really... I will cry, sorry... for me it is my dream to be here, and I am here, so thank you, thank you.”

    — St. Petersburg, Russia Event: Badminton

    “I say very simply what is from my heart, Thank You. It’s not only two words, (starts to tear-up), It’s really important... I, don’t know many words of English. It is really sometimes very hard to know who I am, but today I am happy, I cry, but I feel happy... so thank you.”

    — Moscow, Russia Event: Badminton

    * * *

    Jeferson Sousa (center) with Joanie Evans and FGG Site Selection Officer Dave Killian 

    JEFERSON SOUSA: Hi I’m Jeferson Sousa. I live in Brazil. I have been a physical education teacher since 2004 and sport has been a part of my life since I was a child.

    After I came out from the closet, I tried to find some organisation here in Brazil where I could learn and participate more about lGBTQIA+ issues. To my surprise, I found CDG BRAZIL in São Paulo searching on the internet in 2009. I became a volunteer and two years later, I was invited to become CDG Brazil Vice President. CDG BRAZIL means to me a great history. I learned as well as had a great experience working inside a LGBTQIA+ NGO.

    Flyer for the 2014 "Building Bridges" Town Hall meeting during the Sin City Classic

    The Gay Games changed my life forever. Through their scholarship program, I was able to make a presentation at the Federation of Gay Games 2014 “Building Bridges” symposium in Las Vegas and participated in Volleyball at Gay Games 9 in Cleveland that summer. My team captured a silver medal.

    That was the most incredible experience of my life. I felt like a blessed, embraced, and lucky person. There were so many great people there sharing their experiences and life stories.

    When I returned, I came out to my family, and also came out on national television in Brazil. Through my work with CDG BRAZIL, with the support of the FGG, we produced Rio 2016 Olympic Pride House and a multi-sport festival in conjunction with Sao Paulo Pride 2017.

    And in October 2017, I became the first Latin American member of the FGG Board of Directors when I was selected to be an Officer at Large. I was able to promote greater awareness about the Gay Games with a lot of LGBTQIA + organisations here in Brazil and Latin America. And now, Guadalajara Mexico will host the first Gay Games in Latin America!

    Being part of the FGG and participating at Gay Games changed my life, making me a better, stronger and more polite person.

    * * *

    Jim Hahn (left) with his medal-winning team in Cleveland. Photo: Jim Hahn

    JAMES HAHN: Gay Games 9 would change things up yet again and become the first Gay Games to partner with a local organization to facilitate the production of the Games. This Gay Games would become known as The Cleveland Foundation presents Gay Games 9: Cleveland + Akron 2014. The Cleveland Foundation was formed in 1914 for the purposes of enhancing and promoting Cleveland, Ohio.

    As the saying goes, we arrived in Cleveland. The first thing I noticed was a bright billboard near the highway on the way into town from the airport welcoming people to the Gay Games. It was the first time I'd ever experienced the word “Gay” in bright lights in a very straight, very public setting.

    Cleveland businesses rolled out the "rainbow carpet." Photo: Jim Hahn

    In almost every storefront, including those in the permanent farmer’s markets and in shopping enclaves in various parts of town, there was a rainbow flag or the Gay Games flag. You knew immediately that you were intentionally welcome there. Nearly everything was organized beautifully, including the convention center and the park across the street which was home the Festival Village, a running venue of vendors and stage shows throughout the week.

    Teammate Doug Litwin was lucky to find our team a large, beautiful home in Cleveland Heights to rent. It was a great venue for us to meet with friends and teammates throughout the week. To get to downtown from this house you drove several miles on a long thoroughfare which the first thing I noticed was that nearly every flag pole in front of nearly every building had a rainbow flag on it. The Gay Games has never had such a welcome.

    * * *

    FGG Co-Presidents Kurt Dahl and Joanie Evans speaking at the GGIX Opening Ceremony. Photo: Tricia Uveges

    JOANIE EVANS: For years I had always joked about being the first Black Female Co-President of the FGG, mainly because I had thought it was an inaccessible role for me as I’m working class, live in a council flat and earn a minimum wage. But now I am, I see that it was possible due to my years of participation on boards, committees, and my commitment to sports, which I hadn’t noticed had been noticed. Now that I’ve been in the role for a while, I see the seriousness of what I can represent, not just a woman of colour but as an advocate of sports for ALL.

    FGG Co-Presidents Joanie Evans and Kurt Dahl at the GGIX Opening Ceremony. Photo: Tricia Uveges 

    Leading the Board out, ahead of the Parade of Athletes in Cleveland/Akron 2014 was amazing. I had been in Cleveland for a few days before the games started and had wandered around the city with my pals Elizabeth Kerekere and Alofa Aiono from New Zealand. Little did I know how much my life would be changed after the Opening Ceremony. It took me over an hour to leave the stadium as I was mobbed by participants, which I wasn’t expecting at all.

    The rest of the Games, I had no time to myself. I had chosen not to play football as it would not have allowed me to visit as many of the events in Cleveland and Akron to show my support to the participants and hear from them what a difference the games has made for them in the same way it had for me and I loved every interaction.

    * * *

    Tony Smith (center) at Gay Games IX Closing Ceremony. Photo: Tony Smith

    TONY SMITH: While with the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association, I served as President and helped our organization host two North American Gay Volleyball Championships in Denver, not to mention countless local leagues and tournaments. In 2010, I pitched a position to the organizers of the 2014 Gay Games 9 Cleveland + Akron called the International Champions Coordinator, a program that continues to this day. The sole purpose of this program is to get more athletes to participate.

    I created the International Champions Program based on the observation of how the world of LGBTQ sports had evolved since the Gay Games began. Public and organized LGBTQ sports are a recent phenomenon due to equality trailblazers around the world; one initial way to organize athletes for the Gay Games were “TEAMS” organized by major cities and states i.e. Team San Francisco, Team Colorado, etc. Since then, however, LGBTQ sports have evolved grown exponentially to be focused mostly by sport, by orientation and by location i.e. Colorado Gay Volleyball Association, National Gay and Lesbian Flag Football Association, etc. This evolution required the Gay Games to re-think how it reached out to athletes all around the world – the key being reaching out to our target audiences of athletes already participating in sports and cultural activities featured at the Gay Games. One example I stressed is that casting a wide net of Gay Games promotion at Gay Pride Parades is simply not focused enough; we need to get Gay Games promotional materials directly in the hands of the very people we want to get to the Games.

    The International Champions Program works to laser-focus marketing to sports and cultural events participating in the Gay Games, followed by identifying individuals that champion all elements of the Games, target outreach to tournaments, organizations and events that have traveling athletes and cultural participants. This marketing includes banners, t-shirts, business cards, social media, influencers, celebrities, government, Ambassadors, and more.

    Following my service 2012-2014 for Gay Games 9, I was elected to the FGG Board of Directors as the Officer of Communications 2014-2018.

    Read more about Gay Games IX in Post 21b

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

  • 16 Aug 2022 10:14 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    FGG and IOC: Finding Common Ground

    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 20 of 40 - 16 August - FGG and IOC: Finding Common Ground

    “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.

    * * *

    Meeting of the Federation of Gay Games and the International Olympic Committee Paris, November 30, 2013

    By Emy Ritt, President Emeritus and FGG Honourary Life Member

    This article is dedicated to the late Marc Naimark, FGG Vice President, External Affairs.

    Founded by an Olympic athlete and subsequently taken to court by the United States Olympic Committee even before the first Gay Games had actually taken place, over thirty years and a series of well-timed circumstances would be needed to result in what some might call a ‘Forrest Gump moment’ when the Federation of Gay Games found themselves ‘in the room’ with the President of the International Olympic Committee.

    FIRST: The first synchronistic event leading up to the historic FGG-IOC meeting took place in 2005 when Cologne was selected to host the 2010 Gay Games. Thanks to Cologne’s Head of Communications, Jochen Färber, who travelled to Paris on a regular basis for his work with Eurosport, we (Paris-based Emy Ritt and the late Marc Naimark), met on a regular basis with Jochen to discuss plans for the Cologne’s Gay Games and to get to know each other. Jochen also worked for the International Fencing Federation managing events in Germany and around the world. In fact, in November 2010, we were invited by Jochen to attend the World Fencing Championships in Paris.

    SECOND: Little did we know that a few years later in 2013, Jochen Färber would be appointed Chief of Staff for a former Olympic fencer from Germany, Thomas Bach, who had just been elected as the new President of the International Olympic Committee. This was the second synchronistic event that led to the historic FGG-IOC meeting.

    THIRD: Meanwhile, reactions to the upcoming 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi (Russia) had been heating up, so to speak. Marc Naimark, FGG’s man behind the scenes, posted articles and information on a very frequent basis about discussions around the world concerning the repressive anti-LGBT+ policies of the Sochi host government. The local Russian LGBT+ political activists were also very vocal on social media, especially regarding what they viewed as the IOC’s complicity with Russia and their repression of human rights. Mainstream media was very active in related political discussions concerning the Sochi Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

    The Russian LGBT+ Sports Federation, a loyal FGG member organization, was planning the first ever Open Games in Moscow to promote diversity and equality and scheduled during the ten-10 day pause between the Olympic and Paralympic events.

    With Thomas Bach becoming the new IOC President on 10 September 2013, and Jochen Färber, a former Cologne Gay Games Communications Director, named as his Chief of Staff on 18 October 2013, the IOC was well- placed to address concerns about LGBT+ human rights at the Sochi Winter Olympics. This was the third synchronistic event to contribute to the historic FGG-IOC meeting.

    FGG-IOC Meeting on 30 November 2013. From left, Konstantin Yablotskiy, Elvina Yuvakaeva, Anastasia Smirnova, Emy Ritt, Jochen Färber, Thomas Bach. Not seen is Marc Naimark, who is taking the photo, and Mark Adams, who is to the right of Mr. Bach. Photo Credit: Marc Naimark

    Presentation of Gay Games Medal to IOC President, Thomas Bach by FGG Co-President Emeritus, Emy Ritt. Photo Credit: Mark Naimark

    THE MEETING: Although Jochen was not slated to officially start his new IOC job until 1 December 2013, he contacted FGG in early November to suggest that we participate in a meeting with IOC President Bach with representatives of the Russian LGBT+ Sports Federation and other Russian activist groups. IOC President Thomas Bach, a former Olympic fencer and medal winner, was already scheduled to be in Paris for the 100th Anniversary Gala Dinner of the International Fencing Federation (FIE) on 30 November. Once again, the sport of fencing was helping to bring key people together. This was the third synchronistic event to contribute to the FGG- IOC meeting.

    In a matter of days, Jochen had managed to confirm the FGG-IOC meeting for Saturday, 30 November, secure a meeting room at a Paris hotel, contact the relevant participants, and organize their transportation and accommodation for those traveling from Russia.

    Despite his busy schedule, which included meeting with the then French President, François Hollande, IOC President Thomas Bach spent more than an hour with Federation of Gay Games representatives, Emy Ritt and Marc Naimark, and the Russian LGBT Sports Federation’s Co-Presidents, Elvina Yuvakaeva and Konstantin Yablotskiy, and the Spokesperson for the Russian LGBT Activist Coalition, Anastasia Smirnova. Accompanying Bach were his soon-to-be new Chief of Staff, Jochen Färber, and IOC Director of Communications, Mark Adams.

    The topics discussed during the meeting focused on the repression of the LGBT+ community in Russia. Reactions from the meeting participants to the historic FGG-IOC meeting were varied, interesting, and in some cases, very prescient, as described below in excerpts from articles written by the late Marc Naimark and journalists from around the world. See below:

    • The IOC confirmed that "a constructive meeting" had taken place.
    • FGG Vice-President of External Affairs, Marc Naimark, who was thrilled with the meeting and optimistic about future conversations, stated: "I know that our friends from the Russian LGBT Sports Federation were disappointed that no actions were announced at the end of the meeting, but that's not what this encounter was about," Naimark said. "The IOC expressed their desire as a sports organization to talk about LGBT issues with LGBT sports bodies. This is a real opportunity to promote our shared values of sport for all and sport free from discrimination."
    • Emy Ritt, FGG Co-President Emeritus, applauded the efforts of the IOC to engage with LGBT sport organizations. “We appreciate the courage and leadership of the IOC’s President, Thomas Bach, in making this meeting happen. For the Gay Games, born in conflict with the Olympic Movement, this evolution is particularly meaningful. We will be inviting both the USOC and the IOC to join us in Cleveland and Akron this August for the 2014 Gay Games. To see them there would be an encouraging sign that the Olympic Movement truly does value the Gay Games principles of “Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best”.
    • Elvina Yuvakaeva, Co-President of the Russian Open Games, explained to Mr. Bach the increasing difficulties in obtaining venues for their sporting events due to the ever-present repression of the LGBT+ community. She feared that after the Olympics and Paralympics, when the attention from the international public would decrease, homophobic repression would become even worse, with, for example, the reintroduction of the bill to remove children from gay parents. Elvina felt that the first Open Games would most probably be the last event in which Russian LGBT athletes would be able to compete in their own country. A letter of support was requested from Mr. Bach, the IOC President, both to help obtain venues and to potentially ward off some of the expected violence during the Open Games, as witnessed during previous LGBT+ events in Russia, such as the Side by Side film festival in St Petersburg.
    • Konstantin Yablotskiy recalled the key issues regarding Sochi: “We expressed our desire for a safe space for LGBT people at the Sochi Games. At the Vancouver and London Olympics, Pride Houses were organized by the LGBT sports community, but in Sochi, our government has banned such initiatives. We still hope that the IOC will be able to intervene to demonstrate its commitment to sport for all and to the values of the Olympic Charter.”

    WITH GRATITUDE: The humble author of this article still finds it hard to believe that I had been part of such an historic moment of the Gay Games movement, and what a privilege it was!

    * * *

    Read more about this historic meeting at and on

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

  • 15 Aug 2022 09:23 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    CLE Reorganization, 1QE / 1WE

    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 19 of 40 - 15 August - CLE Reorganization, 1QE / 1WE

    “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.

    * * *

    Gay Games IX Opening Ceremony. Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio 2014. Photo: Tricia Uveges

    * * *

    Tony Smith (R) and his husband at Gay Games IX Volleyball in Cleveland, 2014

    TONY SMITH: Gay sports began playing a part in my life when I moved to Denver in late 2000. During my very first weekend in my new city, I was invited to play flag football by a friend with people that continue to be friends to this day. By participating, I immediately felt included and did my personal best to fit it with a sport I’d never played before. This participation, inclusion, and personal best set the tone for the next 20+ years.

    I met my husband of 20 years playing volleyball in 2002. I’m a 5’6” setter and he’s a 6’6” middle blocker – a match made in heaven! This led to playing league year-round with the Colorado Gay Volleyball Association (CGVA), and I was quickly asked to join the board of directors due to my then-profession of being an event producer – very needed skills to help manage league logistics, marketing and more. Events and sports bring people together for greater purposes, and I grew up loving events because of all my Mother’s awesome Filipino Disco Parties for family and friends.

    While serving CGVA, I learned of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) and immediately knew that it’d be a logical progression in my spirit of giving back to our community. My goal of serving the FGG was inspired by my family’s long history giving back through military service, not to mention one of my Gay Uncle’s participation in the early fights for Gay equality in the 1960s.

    * * *

    EMY RITT: Soon after being named as the Host of the 2014 Gay Games, the Cleveland Organizing Team started showing signs of improper behavior, questionable financial dealings, and poor leadership. The many hours, days, and months of ensuing discussions accompanied by the wringing of hands, the gnashing of teeth, etc. resulted in FGG transferring the Host responsibilities to a new Cleveland-based team, which consisted of most of the original team, minus the ill-equipped leadership. This action then led, sadly, to several lawsuits being filed by the displaced parties.

    Thankfully, by the end of 2012, the situation had been settled, even if at great expense, and the Cleveland team resumed their work with new leadership in place: Tom Nobbe as Executive Director and Rob Smitherman as VP of Operations. Rob had already worked for both Chicago GGVII and Cologne GGVIII, so his excellent experience was invaluable to GG9.

    To address the elephant in the room, could these issues have been avoided? As FGG Co-President at the time, I have asked myself that question so many times. The short answer is “yes.” Since the first Gay Games in 1982, the FGG had been handling important Site Selection decisions in a rather informal way, based mostly on trust. Legend has it that Gay Games Founder, Dr. Tom Waddell, awarded the third Gay Games to Vancouver’s Richard Dopson with a simple handshake.

    Although FGG had been gradually formalizing the Site Selection process and its related documents since even before the Montreal schism, there were still gaps in the process concerning due diligence. There was still a need to formally and adequately verify the bona fides of the people involved, perform background checks, and confirm that there was no previous history of illegal or dubious activities, business or otherwise, before signing any contracts.

    * * *


    SHAMEY CRAMER: Not long after I was elected to the FGG Board as Officer of Ceremonies late in 2011, Co-President Kurt Dahl contacted me, asking if I would be interested in being part of a revitalized 1QE negotiation team. I immediately said yes.

    One of the first things I made clear was that if there was going to be any serious discussion of our two organizations coming together, an outside audit of both organizations would be necessary. I reached out to an organization based in Chicago that provided valuations for sports events for the sake of corporate sponsors. It was going to cost, but if both organizations agreed to split the fee, it wouldn't be so bad, and would prove to be a wise investment in the long run. Given that both organizations had struggled to attract major corporate sponsorship, having a report such as this would alleviate many concerns a company might have in tying its brand to a global sports event promoting inclusion and diversity.

    Kurt, Emy, and the FGG Negotiating Team (Dennis Sneyers, Klaus Heusslein, and myself) were all in favor of the idea. GLISA Co-President Wessel Van Kampen, head of their negotiating team, immediately rejected this suggestion when we proposed it in the email discussion prior to meeting in Montreal in May 2012. GLISA continued to refuse to have an independent third-party financial audit throughout the entire time I was a member of the 1QE and 1WE negotiating team (2012-2016).

    They would also only agree to a deal where both the FGG and GLISA would receive a license fee of US$225,000 - basically double the license fee a host organization paid to the FGG at that time. Given that no previous host had fulfilled that obligation, it was ludicrous to think it would be a sensible move to have a host city pay double that amount in order to have two governing bodies tell them what to do.

    When we informed our GLISA counterparts in Montreal that the FGG had rejected their offer, I distinctly recall one of the GLISA representatives first comments being: “But you have all the money.” I thought the comment so unusual - and in hindsight, quite telling - that I wrote it down in my notes.

    They could plan and dictate terms all they wanted in our meetings, but I was never going to allow a deal to be signed without an independent financial review, or doubling the burden to a host organization. To do so would be a grave dereliction of duty by an officer of any Board of Directors, non-profit or not.

    * * *

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

  • 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.

    * * *

    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

    * * *

    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.

    * * *

    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!!

    * * *

    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.

    * * *

    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.

    * * *

    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.

    * * *

    (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.

  • 13 Aug 2022 23:44 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games VI - Part B

    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 14b of 40 - 10 August Gay Games VI

    “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.

    * * *

    Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony and local banners

    * * *

    Sailing at Gay Games VI, Sydney 2002. Photo: Emy Ritt

    EMY RITT: Travelling to Sydney with over 200 members of Team France was a powerful experience, in part thanks to the excellent organization of our travel, accommodation, and the entire week of GGVI. This turned out to be a hint of things to come in 2018 when Gay Games 10 took place in Paris.

    Once again, we, the participants, were totally unaware that several members of the FGG Board and member clubs had felt it necessary to travel to Sydney weeks ahead of GGVI to provide emergency financial and logistical support following some unexpected issues.

    Special mention goes to so many whom we will never know, but a few of the names that come to mind include then FGG Co-President Susan Kennedy and FGG Board members Kathleen Webster and Teresa Galetti. Like many supporters of the Gay Games, they and others, including several members of the Sydney Organizing Team (such as Richard Hogan and Kate Rowe, amongst others) provided extraordinary support at great personal sacrifice. Gay Games VI would not have taken place without their remarkable efforts above and beyond the call of duty. Personally, I remember every wonderful second of my GGVI week in Sydney – listing all those wonderful moments would double the length of this document!

    At the GGVI Closing Ceremony, Montreal was announced as the Host of the 2006 Gay Games. Little did we know that unexpected difficulties were looming in the future.

    * * *

    JAMES HAHN: Gay Games VI took us Down Under to the only Games ever held in the Southern Hemisphere. It was there that I started bowling teams and doubles with Doug Litwin (and haven’t stopped since). Doug and I won a bronze medal in Teams and a silver medal in doubles. During the team competition, we met a couple from Arizona who were bowling with one set of parents while the other set of parents were rooting them all on. At that point in time, they had been together nearly 20 years (they had met in college). Both had brothers and sisters who had been divorced, but their relationship has been rock solid and they are still together to this day (and still friends with me on social media).

    Unfortunately, just before I left Australia, my backpack was stolen. I got it back, but the three medals (bronze, silver, and participation) were gone. Thankfully, Doug, through nearly 2 plus years of perseverance was able to get replacements for them. I can’t thank him enough for his efforts.

    * * *

    Amhurst Aztecs soccer team at Gay Games VI

    JOANIE EVANS: My greatest Gay Games memory is getting a Gold medal in Sydney 2002. This was not with Hackney, but with a team called Amhurst Aztecs. This team was made up of women from the UK, NZ and Italy and I had played with them in Amsterdam, where we missed out on a bronze. In the run up the games in Sydney, the team met up a week before so we could train together and for some of us to meet for the first time. We played the best football I’ve known for the amateur game and never lost a match.

    * * *

    Barefoot k. d. lang singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" at Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony.
    To see a video of this performance and a photo retrospective of the event, click HERE

    RICHARD HOGAN: Much has been said about the Sydney 2002 Gay Games Opening Ceremony! Starting with an Australian indigenous welcome we were treated to Dykes on Bikes, sexy convicts in chain gangs dancing with Jimmy Somerville and finally a World LGBT Choir singing with k.d. lang. In the keynote speech, Justice of the High Court of Australia, Michael Kirby said “The movement for equality is unstoppable. Its message will eventually reach the four corners of the world.” Some academics say it was Justice Kirby’s finest speech. That warm summer evening set the stage for a superb Gay Games, “Under New Skies.”

    During the week I attended a number of receptions as the FGG Vice President. One was held in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Gay Games. It was originally planned that Montreal would sign a contract with the FGG during the event but negotiations had stalled. Mid-week a reception was held at the Canadian Consulate General’s office to promote the Montreal Gay Games. I surprised one of the Canadian staff members when I informed her that the contract had not yet been signed. She had no idea and seemed quite shocked.

    My favourite reception during the week was a very small affair at the Sydney Town Hall. It was hosted by Sydney City Council and the Lord Mayor with only Sydney-siders who helped produce the Gay Games invited, about 30 of us. We all knew each other and had worked together over a number of years to bring the Gay Games to Sydney. For many there was a sense of relief that the event was nearing its conclusion but for all of us, there was an air of triumph in the room. As the mayor invited us to have more to eat and drink, he turned around and opened a secret balcony door which looked out onto the Town Hall Ballroom where the Dance Sport finals were being held. It was a fantastic night!

    During Gay Games VI, I played with the Parramatta OUTfielders softball team. We were the last placing team in the competition but certainly had fun and were overjoyed when we beat the Sydney OUTfielders in one of our games. 

    Unfortunately, after 2002, the FGG was entirely consumed with the financial fallout from Sydney’s event and the Montreal contract situation. Under the outstanding leadership of Co-Presidents, Kathleen Webster and Roberto Mantaci, the Federation of Gay Games eventually re-negotiated its Sydney licence fee, ensured all employees were paid in full and reached agreement with its commercial creditors. Meanwhile, the contract negotiations with Montreal ended and a new site, Chicago was selected for Gay Games VII.

    * * *

    Team LA Co-founder Shamey Cramer, West Hollywood Aquatics President Errol Graham and WH2O Co-founder Richard Hunter at GGVI Opening Ceremony

    SHAMEY CRAMER: Sydney was my first Gay Games back since founding Team Los Angeles and participating in Gay Games I. This time, I was able to participate as an athlete as a member of West Hollywood Aquatics water polo team.

    Holding Stadium for Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony. Flagbearers Mike Crosby and Paulo Figueiredo with Team Los Angeles Co-founder and Co-chair Shamey Cramer

    I got to lead our contingent of nearly 670 participants for the Opening Ceremony, which was truly spectacular. Justice Kirby’s speech was awe-inspiring and the entire stadium sang “Happy Birthday” to headliner k.d. lang after her emotionally charged rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

    The next day was a bit surreal. I had been invited to perform the Puccini aria “Nessun Dorma” at the FGG’s 20th anniversary gala event at the Sydney Opera House, immediately followed by a mad dash to the train to get to my first water polo match against the team from Amsterdam at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre in Homebush. Performing in two of the most iconic Sydney venues in one day was definitely an incredible thrill.

    Although our B Team came in fifth, our A Team went undefeated, outscoring their opponents 10-1. When the time came for WH2O-A to play WH2O-B to see who would advance to the finals, our B team forfeited the match, and instead, our two teams played one helluva good scrimmage. After the match, Sion O’Connor and Ivan Bussens from Out To Swim London came up to me and asked “How the hell do you keep up with those guys?” I laughed, and replied: “well, when these are the guys you train with, you don’t have any choice!”

    Jean-Nickolaus Tretter, who was always very proud of his Norwegian ancestry and had founded Team Minnesota back in 1982, travelled to Sydney as well. He was nominated for the Waddell Award and attended the human rights conference in Newcastle prior to the Opening Ceremony. For some reason, Sara Waddell Lewinstein butchered his name during the Closing Ceremony presentation of the Tom Waddell Award, pronouncing it as if he was French. Jean and I still laugh about that all these years later!

    * * *

    Gay Games VI figure skater. Photo: Rick Monk

    LAURA MOORE: The rink in Sydney was neither great nor easy to get to but the skating was wonderful.

    More than a decade had passed since we founded IGFSU, but our membership was still mostly gay men. We welcomed a number of straight women into our events. They couldn’t believe how much fun they were. An unintended side effect was that lesbians came to the ice rink and were disappointed to find lesbians few and far between on the ice, except in ice hockey.

    That was part of the reason I always wanted to make my own skating as gay as possible. I did a complete genderfuck number in Sydney. “Macho Girl” had five changes of music in under two minutes. As the music changed “genders” so did my skating style. I skated that number in many mainstream events as well. It was always well received. I may not be able to skate with a woman in competitions outside the Gay Games, but I push the boundaries with queer themed solo programs everywhere I skate.

    Finding a skating partner has always been a challenge. I skated with Mary Squires in Sydney. She lived in Boston and I live in NY so we only skated together a couple of times before the trip. We did most of the work on our program on a tiny practice rink in Sydney that IGFSU rented before the competition. She and I skated to “Bosom Buddies” sung by Bea Arthur. I didn’t know that Mary was going to put her hands on my breasts until she did in the competition. I was pleasantly surprised.

    * * *

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

  • 13 Aug 2022 10:14 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Rebuilding the Brand

    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 17 of 40 - 13 August - Rebuilding the Brand

    “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.

    * * *

    FGG Board at the 2008 AGA in Cape Town. Kate Rowe is in the front row second from left. Photo: Israel Wright

    KATE ROWE: In 2007, I joined the FGG board and took on the role to look at women's participation. I developed the policy that was adopted at the FGG’s 2008 Annual General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa.

    It was there that I met a remarkable woman and runner named Hlengiwe Buthelezi. She was a volunteer at the AGA. We have been friends ever since and she has gone on to be a member of the board and developed the regional AfroGames.

    * * *

    L to R: Hlengiwe Buthelezi, Martyn Pickup, Marc Naimark at Cape Town AGA 2008. Photo: Israel Wright

    HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: In 2008, I was part of the organizing team and the panelist for the FGG Annual General Assembly in Cape Town along with Ian McMahon. Ian and I first competed at Gay Games Sydney 2002, all the way through Gay Games 9: Cleveland + Akron 2014. In 2009, I was awarded the Federation of Gay Games Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award for the work done the previous year producing the Cape Town AGA.

    * * *

    Emy Ritt at 2008 AGA in Cape Town. Photo: Israel Wright

    EMY RITT: Meanwhile, thanks, in part, to the courage and perseverance of GLISA’s Co-President, Wessel van Kampen, FGG and GLISA had finally entered into discussions to explore the possibility of merging their events into a new entity called “One Quadrennial Event,” also known as 1QE. In June, 2011, both FGG and GLISA were awarded the Berlin Pride Civil Courage Award in 2011 for their efforts to reunite the community. For a short video of the ceremony, click HERE

    * * *

    The FGG Assembly at the 2008 Cape Town AGA

    KURT DAHL: It turns out I was not done with the Gay Games after Gay Games VII in Chicago, as a year or so later I was asked to join the FGG board. Little did I know that would quickly lead to me being the Co-President and leading the FGG through GGVIII in Cologne, and the selection of Cleveland + Akron as host of GG9. Cleveland was a great success where we introduced the Steering Committee concept for managing the relationship between the FGG and Host. However, it also led us to removing the original host organization and assigning the license agreement to a new host organization. It was a very difficult but very necessary decision.

    All during this time, not only were we managing our way thru GGVIII and GG9, but we were also attempting to bring together GLISA and the FGG into some sort of working relationship and get back to having one global sports and cultural event rather than two large events. In the end, we could not come together and eventually GLISA folded. The Gay Games has remained and has had great success with Gay Games 10 in Paris 2018.

    When I stepped off the board in 2018, we had restructured the board, creating several pillars including Gay Games Production, Member Services, etc.

    * * *

    Laura Moore (L) working with Emy Ritt at the 2008 Cape Town AGA

    LAURA MOORE: I turned age 50 right after the Chicago Gay Games and put away my skates for what turned out to be more than seven years.

    It was hard to imagine I could ever miss a Gay Games. I had been teaching fashion design students at both Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and The Art Institute of NYC. I was also working on a Master’s degree and doing back-to-back apartment renovations. MaryAnn and I moved uptown a week after GGVIII. I knew for a long time that I would be unable to go, but there was a hole in my heart that week.

    Sasha Huëllen and Philip Carouge skated in the Gay Games for the first time in Sydney. They formed an IGFSU group in Germany called the Fabulous Skaters. I had the pleasure of skating in the inaugural Fabulous Cup in Cologne, even though I was unable to go to the Gay Games.

    One of the highlights was a group skating number with an international array of skaters all wearing white tee shirts emblazoned with gay slurs. The Gay Games provides opportunities for joyous activism.

    * * *

    IVAN YAP: The Straits Games (TSG) is an annual sports event, started in 2002 between the two countries along the straits of Malacca; Malaysia and Singapore. My first exposure with TSG was in 2005 at the event in Kuala Lumpur.

    The main objective is to Foster Friendship and Promote Healthy Lifestyle in the LGBT Community. These were the main driving forces which pushed TSG forward over the last 20 years. The soft approach has since gained strong interest from cities like Phuket, Taipei, Hong Kong, Manila, Guangzhou, Samui, Bali, Saigon and Chiangmai, other than Kuala Lumpur and Singapore as hosts the Games.

    Participation grew over the years with friends coming from Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Macao, China, Cambodia, United States, Australia, and the Netherlands.

    The sports and social events also varied from Badminton, Bowling, Indoor Volleyball, Welcome Reception, Gala Dinner being the core activities to Table Tennis, Squash, Beach Volleyball, Swimming, Tennis, Basketball, Darts, Snooker, Fun Run, Treasure Hunt, Local Tour, and more.

    2005 was the first time I heard about such a great event which gave a good impression of our community. They were recruiting volunteers, but I missed the opportunity. From that moment, I made a vow to ensure this event would be continued for years to come.

    2008 was the maiden year where I got the chance to host the event and served as the organising chair. The experience has driven me forward to keep the Straits Games alive, so I became the organising chair for 2011 and 2016. Also in 2016, the FGG honored TSG with its Outstanding Sports Organization Legacy Award at their annual meeting in Sydney.

    Being an organiser of this event wasn’t enough for me if I didn’t experience it as a participant. In 2009, I participated in Bowling, and since then, I have not stopped competing.

    * * *

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

  • 12 Aug 2022 11:16 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    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 16b of 40 - 12 August Gay Games VII

    15 - 22 July, 2006; 11,000 participants; Chicago, IL USA

    “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.

    * * *

    Left: Bradley Erickson skating with Laura Moore. Right: Laura and her rainbow corset. Photos: Israel Wright & Alice Cooperman.

    LAURA MOORE: Bradley Erickson and I skated together in Chicago. He had taken the mantle of managing IGFSU through ISI and would later be chosen for the 2014 FGG Volunteer of the Year award. Pairs with a man 16” taller than I was very different than skating with a woman. We had a great time working on our “All That Jazz” number from the musical Chicago. The audience roared when he stripped his warm-up pants off and revealed little shorts and fishnets with garters to match mine.

    I, too, did a bit of a striptease in my solo number. “Ride on a Rainbow”, sung by Johnny Mathis was my love song to the lesbians in the audience, especially my spouse. The crystal studded rainbow corset under my plain white shirt has had a long life in other skating numbers and at many Pride events.

    * * *

    Gay Games VII Bowling action. Photos: Becker Media & Y Marino

    JAMES HAHN: Gay Games VII was originally awarded to Montreal. As a result of a fundamental disagreement on the nature and presentation of the Games, Montreal chose to walk away from negotiations and the Games were awarded to Chicago after an accelerated re-bidding process. Chicago rose admirably to the challenge and pulled off a successful Gay Games in two-plus years instead of the usual five.

    The Opening Ceremony took place at Soldier Field, home of the Chicago Bears NFL team. The Closing Ceremony took place at historic Wrigley Field, which sits on the edge of what is called “Boys Town.” I like to think we turned it into the world's largest gay bar that day. It was also the second time Cindy Lauper performed for us.

    Most of the Gay Games take place in the summer in the host city, and that was true in Chicago as well. At one point, the bowling center suffered brownout with reduced electrical voltage. The bowling machinery was still operating but the air conditioning was not. This was as dose as I've ever come to bowling in my underwear and I’m sure I was not the only one. The only air conditioner working was in the ceiling of the snack bar, but it exhausted itself and caught fire. The fire department soon arrived and bowling stopped as the bowlers went to check things out. Many of us couldn't wait to go somewhere cooler and less humid.

    At the Closing Ceremony, it was announced that the Games would return to Europe in 2010.

    * * *

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

  • 12 Aug 2022 10:03 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games VII - 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 16a of 40 - 12 August Gay Games VII
    15 - 22 July 2006; 11,000 participants, Chicago, IL USA

    “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.

    * * *

    Aimee Pine, GGVII Director of Scholarships. To see a terrific video recapping the Scholarship Program in Chicago, click HERE

    JEFFRY PIKE: For Gay Games VII - Chicago, an FGG Scholarship Committee was formed to work with the host’s scholarship coordinator, Aimee Pine, to distribute the scholarship funds for which the Federation of Gay Games had fiscal responsibility – including the Coe Scholarship Fund. The committee – originally including Paul Oostenbrug, Laura Moore, Derek Liecty, and me – wrestled with the nuance and challenges of comparing needs and ensured that applicants were actually in need of support and demonstrated a true interest in participating in the Games. We also embraced the need for translators, if possible, to remove language hurdles for applicants.

    * * *

    Jeffry Pike and Laura Moore evaluating Scholarship applications prior to Gay Games VII

    LAURA MOORE: My involvement with the scholarship program began with a call from Paul Oostenbrug asking if I would be interested in scoring essays from scholarship applicants for the Chicago Gay Games.

    Jeffry Pike came to NY from Boston and Paul from Chicago. The three of us sat at my dining room table in tears as we read through a box of letters, many handwritten and not all in languages we could understand. It was a stunning experience.

    The late Dick Uyvari and Joe LaPat, GGVII Scholarship Program Patrons

    The collaboration between FGG and the host in Chicago on the Scholarship program was excellent. Dick Uyvari and Joe LaPat financed most of the program. Having them as benefactors and getting to know them in Chicago was wonderful. When I met the scholarship recipients in Chicago, I realized that I would need to be involved with the Scholarship Committee long term.

    Gay Games VII Scholarship reception; GGVII Co-Chairs Sam Coady and Suzi Arnold addressing the recipients. Photos: R. Mitchell

    The scholarship recipients were housed together in Chicago, creating a great bonding experience for them and the opportunity for us to get to hear their stories. I will never forget everyone pointing out where they were from on the world map in the hostel. Sometimes communication doesn’t require a common language.

    In the Gay Games since then, we have organized both orientation sessions and end of the week workshops. These workshops have enabled us to help the recipients prepare to go home and share what they have learned in their home countries, extending the reach of the Gay Games.

    A few scholarship recipients have gone on to create LGBTQ+ organizations in their home countries after their Gay Games experiences. Among the greatest success stories are Konstantin Yablotskiye’s work in helping create the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, Fernando Carvajal’s Club Deportivo Movdeinchile, and Hlengiwe Buthelezi work in South Africa. Hlengiwe has served on the FGG Board of Directors for a number of years.

    I had no experience in fundraising and very limited computer knowledge when Paul challenged me to do a crowd-funding campaign when we were without major benefactors. I didn’t even know what that was but I managed to create a successful campaign on Indigogo for the Gay Games Scholarship Program for GG IV.

    I have been inspired to recognize the Gay Games scholarship program in my will and encourage others to do the same as well as to donate/fundraise in any way they can.

    * * *

    Gay Games VII Opening Ceremony, Soldier Field, Chicago; Papua New Guinea scholarship recipients at the event. Photos: Brett Grafton

    KURT DAHL: The first time I heard about the Gay Games was in 2001 when the Chicago bid team was looking for volunteers. I thought it was cool that Chicago was looking to host GGVII in 2006 and I wanted in, both as a volunteer and as an athlete. I not only joined the finance committee of the bid team, but I also dusted off my high school swimsuit and goggles and got back into the pool to prepare for GGVII.

    Once it was announced that Chicago had actually won the bid for GGVII after the bidding was re-opened, I joined the board of the Chicago host team and eventually was named Treasurer of the host organization. We had to hit the ground running as July 2006 was right around the corner. My husband Jeff and I along with many others from the board traveled around the US to register people for GGVII. I was also able to participate in some swim meets which I had not done in over 15 years. It was so exciting to be back in the pool and competing, and meeting people to talk about the Gay Games. For me the Gay Games had an enormous impact on who I am today.

    I still get chills thinking about the week of July 2006 when GGVII opened in Soldier Field, and how it drew together the queer community not only of the Chicago metropolitan area but the entire Midwest. I still get teary eyed remembering the Closing Ceremony at Wrigley Field and realizing all our hard work had paid off and GGVII was now over.

    * * *

    KATE ROWE: I became a volunteer with the FGG Sports Committee organising the Cycling event. Our expertise was welcome due the fact that with the split with the next host city Montreal, Chicago only had 2 years to organise.

    I went to Chicago in 2005 as Team Sydney representative to the FGG. I was getting more and more involved at a different level, wanting to improve and contribute to making the games grow and develop.

    The Cycling was in danger of being cancelled so I went to Chicago early to help. With a team effort and great support from Chicago organisers, the Cycling was a success.

    Cyndi Lauper at the GGVII Closing Ceremony, Wrigley Field. Photos: Becker Media.

    The split was bound to affect numbers, having two games in two countries meant fewer went to either. That said, it was still a wonderful experience. By now, I had become a triathlete and took part in that event. Very well organised and HOT! Great memories of Cindy Lauper at the Closing Ceremony.

    * * *

    GGVII Opening Ceremony presentation of the Tom Waddell Award recipients. Jessica Waddell Lewinstein is at far right. Photo: Becker Media.

    JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: In Chicago, I finally had the opportunity to dedicate myself to the Games; and to start what would become a long and successful career in marketing and communications with the games. I remember the exuberance that filled the air as a long line of athletes from all over the world awaited their chance to walk onto Soldier Field.

    I remember helping my mentor Tracy Baim (Windy City Times Editor In Chief and Gay Games VII’s Co-Vice Chair) assign photographers to different sports and meet with key stakeholders. I remember spending long days working the press room (and drinking far too much Red Bull to help get me through it). I remember the pride I felt for both myself and my colleagues as we walked out onto Wrigley Field at the end of the event. The experience filled my heart full of love, and gave me a family bonded not by blood, but a common interest in bringing people together. I remember this being one of the best jobs I ever had.

    * * *

    Gay Games VII Closing Ceremony, Wrigley Field. Photo: Alice Cooperman

    EMY RITT: Chicago scheduled GGVII to be held from 5 to 15 July 2006. With barely two years to organize the Gay Games, with all of its 30+ sports and many cultural activities, Chicago persevered to put on a wonderful event, despite the stifling heat. Like all Gay Games events, the financial, logistical, and political challenges were (and are) never-ending. Yet, Chicago overcame the odds and, at great personal sacrifice for several members of the Organizing Team put on a wonderful week of sports, culture, and ceremonies. Special thanks go to the entire Chicago Organizing team, including Sam Coady, Suzi Arnold, Kevin Boyer, and Tracy Baim.

    * * *

    HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: I was a South African flag bearer and at the peak of my fitness and in the prime of my athletic career. At least I had a clue by then of what the Gay Games are and how things work. I was mostly out in the track running or cheering up my friends - many that I had met in Sydney. My personal best Gay Games: 7 Gold medals!!! I ended up on the front page of the Windy City Times newspaper with Cindy Lauper who came to sing at the Closing Ceremony. I mostly hung out with the San Diego ladies that were led by Eurika Otto and Lauri Stock. They introduced me to others like Mandy Sapsford (former South African), a very bubbly and kind mate.

    The idea of founding a Queer organisation that will be sports orientated for Durban was born, so I went back home to share it with other like-minded and KwaZulu Natal LGBT Recreation was born which later on founded African Queer Sports (AfroGames). And I became an FGG Assembly member while I was in Chicago.

    I also played a lead role for the South African Gay Games Bid finalist which we lost to Cologne.

    Back home I suffered a forced coming out which affected me and my running carrier badly.

    * * *

    Sydney Stingers Water Polo team at Gay Games VII. Shamey Cramer is in the back row at far right

    SHAMEY CRAMER: Because of work, I was unable to participate in the entire week of competition. Since my home team of WH2O-polo already had four goal-keepers, the chance of me playing any amount of time was slim to none. Given that these Games were going to be in my hometown, it seemed as if my hopes of having a memorable experience were dimming by the day. And then, a light.

    A few weeks before the Games, the Sydney Stingers put out a call for independent players to join them. Like so many other teams from around the world, they already had plans in place to go to Montreal, based on their initial selection as Gay Games VII host.

    Like so many others, The Stingers were able to send about 7-8 players, but needed a dozen or so to field a team. I contacted Pascal Van de Walle, the Sydney team representative, and informed him I was interested, but could only play two days. He was still very welcoming and grateful. After he informed me they had no goalie coming to Chicago, he was all the more excited, regardless of my low skills. As he put it: “low skills are better than no skills, and it means that none of the rest of us have to be in the cage!” I knew I was going to like this guy.

    I arrived in Chicago the day before Opening Ceremony. I agreed to meet the Stingers at their hotel, where I was issued my Opening Ceremony t-shirt and shorts, and met the team for the first time: Captain Dave, Tim, Jason, Shandor, and Pascal. I wasn’t the only pick-up player; there were several others, which made it all the more fun.

    Leading Team Los Angeles into the Gay Games I Closing Ceremony and Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony were awfully special. But I gotta tell ya: walking onto Soldier Field for the Gay Games VII Opening Ceremony as a rank and file member in the middle of the sea of Australian athletes and artists was definitely a huge rush of adrenaline as we were awash in massive amounts of unconditional love from the spectators. Everyone loves the Aussies, no matter where they go!

    In the end, my two days of being the sole goalkeeper for the Sydney Stingers – mediocre as I was - turned out to be my favourite Gay Games competition of the three I played. Given that we won two of our three matches, I ended with a .667 record at Gay Games VII. I had over a dozen family members and friends come to see the three matches we played in those two days. My niece Jenna showed up wearing Australian green and gold colours – face paint and all – and my Uncle Frank, with his booming Merchant Marine voice bellowing throughout the natatorium, led the stands in a rousing rendition of “Waltzing Mathilda.”

    Of course, my Aussie teammates thought we were absolutely crazy, but it was nice to continue with our family tradition of doing everything we can to make sure visitors feel welcomed and loved in our home, the “City of Big Shoulders.”

    My West Hollywood teammates went home with the Gold Medal, but the friendships I gained playing for Sydney are everlasting, and remain strong to this day. A part of me will always remain true to my Sydney Stingers.

    * * *

    RICHARD HOGAN: The team in Chicago did an amazing job in such a short amount of time while setting a new benchmark for the Gay Games! Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Gay Games in Chicago but I did get to know many of those who helped produce the event. During the 2005 FGG Annual Meeting in Chicago I met with the Australian Consul General to prepare plans for an Aussie reception during GGVII. It was then that a consulate staff member told me there was a friendly rivalry between Australian Consulates as to who put on the best reception for Gay Games participants.

    There was a big push to promote Chicago’s Gay Games in Sydney, the previous host city, and many Australians attended their second Gay Games in Chicago. The 2006 “International Rainbow Memorial Run” went down Oxford Street just prior to the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade to thunderous applause.

    * * *

    Gay Games VII Cheerleading Demonstration Event in Millennium Park, Chicago. Photos: Betty Lark Ross

    ANTHONY ALSTON: My first Gay Games was GGVII: Chicago 2006. CHEER SF managed to fundraise enough money to subsidize expenses for those traveling to the Midwest. We brought roughly 30 cheerleaders along with our sister teams: CHEER LA, CHEER NY, Chicago Spirit Brigade, Edmonton, and CHEER Atlanta. Thanks to CHEER SF’s leadership (Sanford Smith, Morgan Craig, and Steve “Mama Burke”) these were the Games that CHEER had a more visible role by participating in Opening Ceremony and hosting our own exhibition in Millennium Park.

    Talking about that experience still gives me chills. I recall tears of joy coming down my face in the middle of Soldier Field during the Opening Ceremony. I was so happy to be there with my team, my people. Gay people! We dropped two teammates due to heat exhaustion moments before taking the stage. I’ll never forget the 100 degree temperature with 100% humidity during our flawless exhibition performance. I felt like I found something truly special in my life. Thousands of participants from around the world engaged in a movement that was transformative to one’s own being. It was the Olympic experience. Thrilling and fulfilling. I can say that because I worked in Centennial Park during the XXVI Olympiad in Atlanta 1996.

    The Gay Games delivered an experience that extends far beyond any Pride ever could; even the likes of San Francisco or New York. The Games offer more than just “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll.” People had been training, rehearsing, and saving money for this particular moment. A moment of accomplishment. A moment advocating for our rights, as members of the LGBTQ+ community, as global citizens. Towards the end of the week, I recall being sad during the GGVII Closing Ceremony because my exciting week was coming to a close. Cindy Lauper sang “True Colors” at Wrigley Field and that was a wrap. However, when the next host city for GGVIII: Cologne, Germany 2010 was announced, I was galvanized in the movement and wanted others to experience something similar at future Gay Games. It was the perfect blend of large-scale events, charitable cheerleading, and community engagement.

    * * *

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

  • 11 Aug 2022 10:06 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Chicago 2003 Annual Meeting: The Schism

    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 15 of 40 - 11 August Chicago 2003 Annual Meeting: The Schism

    “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.

    * * *


    An early flyer promoting the Montreal Gay Games for 2006

    KATHLEEN WEBSTER: There were hugs and tears of joy in November 2003 when the negotiating teams for the Federation of Gay Games and Montréal 2006 successfully reached a final contract agreement in Chicago after two years of intense negotiations.

    The Federation’s joy of selecting Montréal as the presumptive host for the 2006 Gay Games VII in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2001 and that final success many months later, however, turned to incredulity and disbelief within hours. The Federation board awoke on 9 November 2003 to find that the Montréal team had changed their position and terminated all dialogue. They had left the meeting venue during the night and, at a press conference in Montréal later that day, announced their decision to hold a separate event in 2006.

    The Federation board was shocked. On our part, there always had been the desire to find a solution and to establish a partnership to serve our international LGBT sport and cultural community. The Federation had listened to its constituents and taken steps in its 2006 contract to address financial deficits from the four straight hosts of Gay Games III through VI. Yet Montréal 2006 declared that they no longer wanted to work with the Federation – their local business acumen would guarantee their success.

    As the board finally accepted the reality of Montréal’s decision not to be our partner, we realized our responsibility remained to work for unity to best serve our global Gay Games community. It was time to acknowledge that our two organizations could co-exist and move forward. It was time to rebuild the Gay Games brand and continue our mission to serve our Gay Games participants and stakeholders by focusing on our statement of purpose: to put on a Gay Games every four years.

    As part of rebuilding our brand, we committed to work for understanding and resolution when Montréal’s decision to hold a rival event, after more than 20 years of unity for LGBT athletes and artists, resulted in anger and calls for a solution from our stakeholders. In January 2004, Comité Organisateur-Montréal 2006 issued an invitation for “leaders from various fields related to GLBT sport… to participate” in “Think Tank” meetings in Montréal from 16-18 January to discuss the future of LGBT sports and to “look seriously at some of the issues facing the GLBT sport community in order to ensure everything possible is being done to support its growth.”

    The Federation was not invited. Nevertheless, we sent a letter to the organizers requesting that “in the spirit of cooperation, we would like to take this opportunity to participate and work with the meeting attendees toward building a better future for the global LGBT sport community and our supporters from around the world.” The Federation sent two Federation Board officers. The organizers refused to include and permit our representatives to participate.

    The Federation continued dialogue with the global sport and arts community and, following the FGG’s open community meeting at its 2004 Annual Meeting in Cologne, Germany agreed to build upon a proposal by Games Berlin and sponsor “an open and inclusive conference aimed toward building bridges within the international LGBT Sport community.” The Federation voted to partner with Out for Sport London as a neutral city with no bid intentions at that time and an accessible location for the majority of our stakeholders. The Federation’s purpose was to be an equal participant at the conference.

    After submissions from all attending parties, the Out for Sport organizers hired an independent facilitator to set the agenda and run the meeting. The “Building Bridges for the Future of LGBT Sport” conference took place in London from 12-13 February 2005 and included many LGBT sport organizations and individuals with long histories of service to the international LGBT stakeholders. The new iteration of Montréal 2006, Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (GLISA), was included and participated.

    While the conference did not result in the return to one global event as many had hoped, it did bring about community acceptance that there would be two large events in 2006 and that GLISA intended to continue to promote separate events after their 2006 event, by now called OutGames.

    The Federation acknowledged the significant impact this would have on our limited economic, sponsorship, personnel, and venue resources. We also recognized the right of every organization to define and evolve its own mission and our decision was to continue with respectful public statements and our commitment to the Federation’s high standards of professional leadership among our board and strategic partners. The Federation additionally agreed to continue conversations with GLISA to work toward future unity for our community.*

    During all this time, with the help of our many supporters, the Federation board continued our work to protect and strengthen our legacy and mission. Two of the Gay Games’ strongest supporters during these times were the cities of Chicago and Los Angeles (both participants in the 2001 bidding process). Each organization worked diligently, gathered tremendous community support, and submitted their bids to step up and host the 2006 Gay Games. After a shortened, thorough and thoughtful bidding process, the board elected Chicago to host Gay Games VII.

    Gay Games Chicago logo

    The Federation and Chicago’s organizing committee worked assiduously over the following months, each organization committed to continuing the Gay Games legacy. Participants recognized the importance of that legacy and history and over 11,700 athletes and artists and thousands of spectators flocked to Chicago for the week of 16-22 July. The Chicago Gay Games were a resounding triumph.

    Critically important, even with significantly less time to prepare than prior hosts, Chicago was the first host since 1986 to end financially solvent, setting the stage for future Gay Games success. Surprising the Federation and the LGBT community everywhere, GLISA’s legacy did not have an auspicious start, as Montréal’s 2006 OutGames resulted in an approximate $5.7 CAD ($4.3 million USD) deficit.

    Despite the challenges, the Gay Games happened in 2006 as they have every four years since Gay Games I in 1982. The Federation board is the custodian of the vision and ideals of the founders of this celebration of participation, inclusion and attainment of personal best through sport and culture. The legacy of the Gay Games movement continues and, with the dedication of future Federation boards and the continued support of our community and stakeholders, will prevail for future generations.

    *Meetings between the Federation and GLISA continued for the following decade in an attempt to join together for a “One World Event.” I retired from the Federation in 2007 so was not part of these negotiations. I had the honor of serving as a consultant to the Federation Working Group toward the end of their discussions and prior to the Federation’s decision to end further negotiations in March 2016 as no agreement had been reached. GLISA dissolved shortly thereafter.

    * * *

    EMY RITT: [FULL DISCLOSURE: The Author joined the FGG Board in December 2002.]

    Although Montreal had been announced in 2001 as the Host of the 2006 Gay Games, ongoing contractual issues had still not been resolved after several years of negotiations and were heading towards a very serious and troubling situation. As the weeks and months of negotiations dragged on, the discussions became increasingly acrimonious and destructive, tearing apart the LGBT+ sports community.

    Several lessons were learned from this experience, one being the necessity of establishing a time limit for signing the contract and to have an official “runner-up” organization that would be offered the role of Host in the event of any issues with the initial presumptive Host.

    When the schism finally occurred in 2004, FGG re-opened the bidding for the 2006 Gay Games with the three runner-up bidders from the first 2006 Site Selection process: Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Atlanta had finished second in the first Site Selection vote, but at that time, the number of votes cast were not taken into consideration in the event of any issues with the presumptive host. Otherwise, Atlanta might have been automatically invited to become the 2006 Presumptive Host.

    When the FGG decided, instead, to have a ‘fast-tracked’ Site Selection schedule that included having FGG members vote again, Atlanta, unfortunately, decided to withdraw from the process, leaving Chicago and Los Angeles to go head-to-head. Chicago and Los Angeles saved the Gay Games by agreeing to participate in the second 2006 Site Selection process. In the end, Chicago was selected to be the Host of GGVII, and the rest, as they say, was history. Thankfully, Team Los Angeles has remained very committed and engaged with the Gay Games.

    * * *

    LAURA MOORE: I had been very excited when Montreal won the bid. We had a number of Canadian figure skaters and had had gay skating events there already. What the press called a “Schism” was, to many of us, an attempted hostile takeover. When Montreal walked away from the contract negotiations and announced plans to hold a competing event, I was shocked. Even more dismaying was the fact that some of my friends and colleagues were abandoning the Gay Games and jumping on board.

    I am still grateful that Chicago came to the rescue and put on a hugely successful Gay Games with only two years lead time, but the confusion among our constituents and the temporary damage to the Gay Games brand were significant. The Gay Games and The OutGames were held only days apart. Some chose the Gay Games out of loyalty, but where Montreal offered sports not available in Chicago, participants had their choice made for them.

    IGFSU ran the figure skating competition at the first OutGames, not out of support for GLISA but to insure that figure skaters were protected with appropriate ISI endorsements.

    The GLISA logo

    That GLISA and the OutGames came to an end after a few tumultuous years is testament to the long-term viability of the FGG and the Gay Games.

    * * *

    SHAMEY CRAMER: Following Gay Games VI: Sydney 2002, Los Angeles decided to put together an exploratory committee to see about bidding for Gay Games VIII in 2010. However, things did not seem to be going well with the FGG and their negotiations with Montreal.

    In March 2003, the Gay and Lesbian Athletic Foundation hosted a conference at MIT in Boston. Six FGG Board members hosted a panel discussion, and I was on the panel for HIV & Athletics. Representatives from the Montreal bid team were there as well.

    Following the FGG presentation, the two Montreal representatives took me aside and complained about the negotiations with the FGG. At one point, they said: “the FGG needs to go; would you be willing to work with us to replace them with a better organization?” I informed them that although I had my own differences with the FGG, I was someone who always felt it best to try and create change by working within the organization.

    Fast forward eight months to the FGG’s Annual Meeting, which was held in Chicago. The meetings began on 10 November. During the third day, we were informed that Montreal had pulled out of negotiations and had already left town. Given their comments in March, and their actions in Chicago, it seemed that they were also trying to do to the Gay Games what the USOC attempted to do – cripple them financially to the point of extinction.

    The next morning, the FGG Site Selection Committee met with representatives from Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Chicago – the three finalists in Johannesburg two years earlier. Since Atlanta had the most votes of the other three finalists, they felt they should be given the right to enter negotiations with the FGG. But the FGG didn’t see it that way, and decided to have a second, abbreviated bid process. Atlanta chose not to rebid, and Chicago wasn’t so sure. As one of the Chicago bid members said to me during Site Selection meeting break: “Los Angeles may get these by default.” The FGG gave us until 15 December to submit a Letter of Intent.

    As soon as I got back to Los Angeles, we got Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn to submit the letter, and the City Council once again voted to create a Gay Games Task Force, appointing me as its Chair, with representatives from more than a dozen city departments and agencies, as well as representatives from each of the fifteen council districts.

    The morning of December 15, I got a call from the FGG. They asked if we would mind if they extended the submission date for another week, since Chicago was still undecided. Although our Task Force was a bit put off by the FGG asking a bidder how they should run their process, we agreed to the extension, not wanting to seem difficult.

    A week later, the FGG called again, asking if it was OK to once again extend the submission deadline another week, in order to appease Chicago. At this point, many on our committee were irate that the FGG would put our committee into the position of doing their work for them, but we again agreed to give them an extension.

    When Chicago was selected two months later, our Task Force representative from the City Attorney’s office explored the option of suing the FGG for their poor handling of the process, but decided against it. To add insult to injury, FGG Co-President Roberto Mantaci called me after the vote, saying they had to give the two extensions because it wouldn’t have looked right to have a bid process with only one bidder.

    Although I still loved the concept of the Gay Games, and what they stood for, I was not at all happy with how the event was being managed, and vowed to join the FGG at some point to make sure no other bidders had to go through the hell we were put through as a result of their lack of professionalism.

    In April 2004, one of the Montreal representatives with whom I had interacted in Boston was in Los Angeles seeking media sponsorships. When we met, he asked if I would be willing to work with them to “destroy the FGG” (his actual words) and replace them with their new organization and event. They even offered to let Los Angeles host OutGames II, three years after the inaugural Montreal OutGames in 2006.

    I told them that as unhappy as I was with the FGG for how they conducted their business, I would have to think about their offer. But there was no way I would ever be interested in dismantling the Gay Games.

    * * *

  • 10 Aug 2022 10:22 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games VI - 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 14a of 40 - 10 August Gay Games VI

    “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.

    * * *

    Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony and local banners

    JEFFRY PIKE: The first distribution of Coe Scholarship Funds to participants occurred for Gay Games VI - Sydney (2002), which had a scholarships coordinator, Jorge Alvarez, and a set of criteria similar to Amsterdam’s. Nineteen recipients received Coe Scholarship funds and traveled to Sydney; in total, Sydney awarded 515 scholarships.

    “... I am walking around like wow all these people are here to play sport, and all these people are gay and wow they are all proud of themselves, and I think that is really great for me, and I think that for somebody who wasn’t sure of themselves, it would be so much more helpful.”

    — Melbourne,Australia

    Event: field hockey (goalie) Silver Medal

    “... This was my first time overseas, I didn’t know anything about the world, but still I came. I came here. ... The sense of community, the sense of unity is just great, it’s amazing. ... I consider this to be my once in a lifetime dream which was realized after coming to Sydney. I am happy; I am content.”

    — Mumbai, India

    Event: Performed Classical Indian dances in the Open Stage series

    “This has been a wonderful experience on the primary level of not feeling alone in the Philippines. To meet other lesbian artists and other gay artists, and to know that there are a lot of lesbian and gay artists all around the world, and that we experience the same problems, I think is has been a great boost for me as a person.

    — Manila, Philippines

    Events: Art exhibition and Badminton

    * * *

    Justice Kirby at 2002 Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony with FGG Co-Presidents Roberto Mantaci and Kathleen Webster behind him

    KATHLEEN WEBSTER: The excitement built as the athletes and artists began to fill the Sydney Football Stadium for the Opening Ceremony of the 2002 Gay Games VI in Sydney, Australia. There was also just a hint of nervousness. The horrific events of September 11 had happened a short year before and the bombings in Bali less than a month prior to Opening Ceremony – and here we were beginning a joyous celebration of LGBT community, inclusion and empowerment through sport and culture. Despite these tragedies and a global economic downturn, thousands of participants from more than 70 countries filled the stadium.

    The night marked a new chapter in Gay Games history as this was the first held in the Southern Hemisphere.  Indeed, the Gay Games VI slogan was “Under New Skies.” The joy on the faces of the participants and their families and friends was beautiful to behold.

    While I had the honor of serving then as the female Co-President for the Federation board, it was the first time I had the challenge of speaking in front of a stadium with more than 10,000 people. As I stood behind the stage nervously looking out over the crowds, Dame Marie Bashir, the governor of New South Wales, the Queen’s Representative who was to open the 2002 Gay Games, so graciously linked her arm in mine and assured me I would be just fine. As I began to speak, the first sounds of applause showed me she was right.

    One of my most powerful memories was when Justice Michael Kirby, Justice of the High Court of Australia, addressed the crowd. Here are excerpts from his speech:

    "At a time when there is so much fear and danger, anger and destruction, this event represents an alternative vision for humanity. Acceptance. Diversity. Inclusiveness. Participation. Tolerance and joy. Ours is the world of love, questing to find the common links that bind all people. We are here because, whatever our sexuality, we believe that the days of exclusion are numbered. In our world, everyone can find their place, where their human rights and human dignity will be upheld.

    We have not corrected all these wrongs. But we are surely on the road to enlightenment. Tonight, we are part of it. There will be no U-turns.

    Little did my partner Johan and I think, thirty years ago, as we danced the night away at the Purple Onion, less than a mile from this place, that we would be at the opening of the Gay Games with the Queen's Representative and all of you to bear witness to such a social revolution. Never did we think we would be dancing together in a football stadium. And with the Governor. And that the Governor would be a woman!"

    The mood of celebration and triumph only continued to grow as local, first-nation and guest artists entertained the crowd through music, dance and spoken word – all emphasizing openness, inclusion and love despite our struggles. The evening featured a moving tribute to indigenous cultures, recognition of the jailed immigrants in Australia’s history, various entertainers including Jimmy Sommerville, and a joyous, festive athletes parade to fill the stadium. k.d. lang was a highlight of the evening to close out the ceremony as, with candles lit across the stadium, she came onstage barefoot and filled all our hearts with hope as she sang Rogers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” with the Gay & Lesbian Choirs of the World. She followed up with Garson & Hilliard’s “Our Day Will Come” as the crowd danced and rejoiced. And then she lay onstage while the entire stadium serenaded her in return with “Happy Birthday.” It was truly a night to remember under new skies.

    With each Gay Games we demonstrate to the world that we are committed to joy, action and the limitless possibilities that transformation can bring. The Gay Games change lives. They are one step in the progression to full and complete recognition in all of our endeavors that are an integral part of human and civil rights.

    To see the video of Justice Kirby’s full speech at the opening of Gay Games VI, click HERE

    * * *

    Gay Games VI Aquatics Center

    KATE ROWE: I became part of the Sydney bid for cycling and we won, and became an observer to what did and didn’t work.

    For the next four years, my life WAS the Gay Games. Incredibly stressful at times. Inclusion of women and transgender was policy of Sydney, with specific strategies to include more women in sports and on the administrative side.

    Sydney increased women's participation to 42% - still a record. Sadly, that was the last time that efforts to target women was made. Something that the current and future boards still need to address.

    Call me biased, but i still think that the actual standard of organisation of the sports was the best in Sydney, and continues to have that status. This was thanks to the incredible sports director Stuart Borrie. It was his passion, communication and professional skills that inspired so many of us take the Gay Games to a new level.

    The Opening Ceremony was awesome and creative, with the speech by the Hon. Justice Michael Kirby not only a highlight, but still remembered.

    Sydney had the second highest number of participants at 12,500. Never surpassed even 20 years later.

    * * *

    South African soccer player at Gay Games VI

    HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: This was my very first experience to be within an openly gay community in one venue who were free to be themselves.  It was such an overwhelming experience; and I remember the South African team talking about it to say “if only we could live such a life back home.” In South Africa, we were still in the infancy of our democracy after apartheid segregations, so it was even intriguing to be amongst so many white communities but didn’t feel any rejection. Instead, we were warmly welcomed.

    The Opening Ceremony was overwhelming! Then we got down to running business and it turned out just fine: 7 medals (2 Gold, 3 Silver, 2 Bronze). Unfortunately, nothing for our Soccer team but they were super excited to be part of the whole experience.

    The main thing that came out of these games was the fact that we went back home and the Forum Empowerment for Women (FEW) which is LBT organisation was born which later on formally introduced the ladies’ soccer team, Chosen Few FC when I had relocated back to Durban. Well I got back in the country feeling good and confident about my sexuality even though I would still have had to mind many things while the homophobia was rife.

    * * *

    Stuart Borrie at Gay Games VI 2002

    STUART BORRIE: In Denver Colorado, on 13 November 1997, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) announced Sydney as the host city for Gay Games VI at the conclusion of a long bid process with five cities in the running - Dallas, Long Beach/Los Angeles, Montreal, Sydney, and Toronto.

    The welcome message in Sydney’s bid book focused on the unique aspects of Sydney’s bid - the first Gay Games in a new millennium and in a new region of the world:

    We invite the Federation to bring the Gay Games to a new hemisphere, with a fresh perspective, a different view and under new skies.

    In a land once linked with Africa and South America, and now a junction of Asian cultures, European influences, and our own unique lifestyles, we say G’day.

    Australia’s cultures come from near and far, migrants who left other shores in recent generations to establish communities here joining the Aboriginal tribes whose ancestors made their own journeys to this land tens of thousands of years before.

    The symbol of Gay Games VI reflects our theme, combining Australia's seven-pointed Federation Star and the rainbow colours of our evening lights. We warmly invite the world to the first Games of the new millennium… under new skies.

    The two-year journey to Denver and the successful bid was not an easy one and what followed would challenge the Sydney 2002 Organising Committee and the LGBT community in which the event would take place.

    The task was monumental – to bring together talented people (who were for the most part volunteers), governments, business and sports partners as well as the funding (both cash and value in-kind) – in order to further develop the bid plan into a realistic and achievable master plan that would deliver a successful Sydney 2002 Gay Games VI and Cultural Festival.

    Sports Programme

    As the Director of Sports for the bid company (a fully volunteer organisation), I was responsible for bringing together the partners to help plan the sports programme for the bid for Sydney 2002 Gay Games VI and eventually the Games itself.

    From the very start, we knew we had enormous experience and knowledge in our community and we had to tap into this and bring along with us, those who would help us plan and deliver their sport.

    Partnerships were essential and this included four main groups:

    • Team Sydney - as the umbrella organisation for gay and lesbian sport in Sydney.
    • Gay and Lesbian Sports Clubs – experienced in delivering annual sports events.
    • State and National Sports Governing Bodies – for technical support / sanctioning.
    • Venue owners and operators.

    We were fortunate to garner support from sports community leaders, both in our LGBT communities but also in the wider sports community in Sydney and beyond. But this did not come easily for the bid and for the planning team once Sydney was awarded the Gay Games.

    Brand and Credibility - What, Why, Who, and How?

    Brand development, communication and consistent messaging were essential throughout the bid and the lead up to the Games.

    The Gay Games brand was not well known in Sydney and Australia so much effort was put into explaining the concept of an inclusive sports event for all where participation and personal best were key.

    As an organisation, and as individuals, we were constantly answering questions about what? (are the Gay Games), why? (do you need a separate sports event when integration is your goal), who? (are the Games for – doesn’t it discriminate against straight people) and how? (are you going to organise it and pay for it!).

    This communication was as much about educating our own diverse LGBT community in Sydney and Australia as it was about educating the wider community including State and local governments, sponsors, business partners and supporters, State and national sports associations, and venue owners and operators.

    It was about building a shared understanding of the Gay Games values and the credibility of the host organisation and its capacity to plan and successfully deliver a mass participation multi-sport event.

    Sports People and Sports Partnerships

    Sydney’s well established gay and lesbian sports clubs were the starting point as they had significant experienced in running events every year, and established relationships with State governing bodies for sport.

    Initially we sought sport plans from as many of the clubs and associations as a starting point and then developed these into a programme of sports. There were core sports that were required to be delivered, and then some new sports that put a unique stamp to the Sydney Games.

    As an Organising Committee we needed to reach out to sports governing bodies – state, national and some international sports federations) to secure volunteers, technical expertise in logistics and operations and to help develop competition schedules, procure equipment and finalise a day by day programme of events for expected numbers of participants.

    Organisational Structure / Sports Department

    Developing a Sports Department within the Organisng Committee was an essential task. 12 months out from the Games this consisted of the Sports Director, six paid Sports Managers, who each managed a number of sports, and a total of 80 volunteer Competition Committee Managers.

    Each sport had a Competition Director and a Competition Committee as well as a team of volunteer managers and technical volunteers who would deliver the sports competition – often with volunteer support from State clubs and associations for each sport discipline.

    Venue Plan

    Sydney’s sports plan utilised sports venues in three main zones. These clusters of sports made logistics and planning easier, and provided opportunities at Games time for participants to easily become spectators of other events within a cluster of sports.

    Sydney Olympic Park for example hosted nine sports all within five to ten minutes walk of each other.

    • Sydney Olympic Park (48.3% of Games participants)
    • Near Sydney Olympic Park (19.9% of participants)
    • Sydney Harbour Zone (19.1% of participants)
    • Other locations (12.7% of participants)

    The legacy from the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games meant that the Gay Games in Sydney were able to use state of the art venues that were part of Sydney 2000. Sports Venues at Sydney Olympic Park were:

    • Sydney Aquatic Centre (Swimming, Water Polo, Diving & Aqua Mania / Pink Flamingo)
    • Sydney Athletic Centre (Track & Field)
    • State Sport Centre (Volleyball - A, AA, B, BB Grades and finals)
    • Sydney Indoor Sports Centre (Volleyball, Judo)
    • Sydney International Hockey Stadium (Field Hockey)
    • Sydney International Tennis Centre (Tennis)
    • Sydney Olympic / Millennium Park (Marathon)


    Hosted from 2 – 9 November, Sydney 2002 Gay Games VI had 10,651 registered athletes from 64 countries participating in the 31 sports across 36 venues in Sydney.

    It was truly an amazing spectacle to see at each venue LGBTQ+ athletes competing in a supportive sporting environment.

    Ballroom dancing was offered for the second time at the Gay Games after the successes of Amsterdam 1998 Gay Games V. Sydney Town Hall with its ornate ceilings was the perfect venue for glamorous couples: women / women and men / men.

    Sydney Aquatic Centre was alive on seven days of the Games with swimming, diving, and water polo finals. The competition pool witnessed numerous swimming masters records and hosted the fabulous Aqua mania / Pink Flamingo events.

    On the Field of Play

    • 31 sports across 36 venues
    • 10,651 athletes from 64 countries
    • 9 team sports - basketball, field hockey, ice hockey, netball, soccer, softball, touch rugby, volleyball, water polo
    • 24 sports are the same as Amsterdam ‘98 (Bridge and Chess were official sports in Amsterdam, but in Sydney were part of the Cultural Festival)
    • New sports for Sydney 2002 Gay Games - field hockey, netball, sailing, touch rugby
    • 200 + participants have a specific need or disability
    • 30 + participants who identified as transgender
    • 1,170 athletes participated in 2 sports, 99 in three sports, and 20 participating in 4 sports
    • 143 volleyball teams, 52 soccer teams, 41 softball teams
    • 1,400 swimmers, 1,207 volleyballers, 1,281 runners in the marathon, half marathon, and 10km road race
    • 1,087 track and field athletes, 1,049 tennis players, 727 triathletes, 622 bowlers
    • 2,357 gold, 2,240 silver, and 2,240 bronze medals awarded
    • Participation medals were given to all

    * * *

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

© 2020 The Federation of Gay Games

The Newsletter of the FGG



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