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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.

  • 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.

  • 08 Aug 2022 23:55 | 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 13 of 40 - 9 August Johannesburg Annual Meeting and USOC Injunction

    “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.

    * * *

    RICHARD HOGAN: As part of my responsibilities as FGG Vice President, I acted as liaison between the FGG and the local communities hosting our Annual Meetings. I had the pleasure of working with many dedicated people from around the world as they did their best to promote the Gay Games movement. Much of our time and energy was spent on logistics for a successful meeting but also everyone wanted to present their city to the visiting delegates as a worthwhile destination. I have always been (and continue to be) an advocate for the FGG General Assembly to meet face-to-face. There is much to gain from spending time together, building relationships as we strive to produce the best Gay Games possible.

    One special moment which comes to mind was in Johannesburg, South Africa during the FGG 2001 Annual Meeting. It was only a few months after the 9/11 attack on New York City. Many of us, myself included, were anxious about flying such a distance for the meeting. It was a site selection meeting for Gay Games VII so the final bid teams from Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and Montreal added to the numbers. At the end of the week everyone attended a reception at one of the most famed cricket grounds in the world, The Wanderers Stadium. Not only were there rainbow colours on the solo artist singing the South African national anthem on the centre of the cricket ground, we were viewing her from the Member’s Club Room. It was amusing to see framed photographs of so many white men on the walls. We were entertained by two Johannesburg LGBT choirs, one all white and the other all black. After each group sang they joined together for what I believe was the first time. It was such a joyous occasion!

    * * *

    GGVI: Sydney 2002 Registration Party hosted by LA 2006, Inc. (Gay Games VII bid finalist),David Bohnett CyberCenterEd Gould Plaza, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Centermid-2001L-R: Board members Barbara, Karl Lott, Honourary Co-Chairs Morris Kight (the Father of the Los Angeles queer community) and Author-Athlete-Activist Patricia Nell Warren; and Board members Shamey Cramer, Christine Nelson and Denise Seifried.

    SHAMEY CRAMER: When I contacted the FGG in April 2000 to see about submitting a bid to have Gay Games VII in Los Angeles, I had no idea what a wild ride it would be. The two individuals I had contacted to do public relations and fundraising for us decided to do their own bid. Given how poorly structured the bid documents and rules were at that time, they threatened the FGG with a lawsuit if they weren’t allowed to submit a second bid from the same city. Our bid prevailed and made it to the final round. Then, citing philosophical differences, four of our five Executive Board members resigned en masse in September 2001. One week later, the events of September 11, 2001 unfolded, shutting down all air travel, just weeks before the meeting in Johannesburg.

    I remember flying into Cape Town, and looking out the window, seeing the southern coast of the African continent. In that moment, I was able to truly pinpoint my place on the planet. Regardless of the outcome of the bid, life would go on.

    During the final question and answer session with all four bid finalists represented, much was made about the $100,000 check Montreal flashed as a way to say they were financially solvent. As crass as some people saw that move, it succeeded in them being selected to enter negotiations with the FGG.

    I returned to Los Angeles and after a sixteen year hiatus, I once again stepped into the role of Team Los Angeles Co-chair, this time preparing nearly 700 registrants to participate in Gay Games VI: Sydney 2002.

    * * *

    Anthony Alston at Gay Games VIII 2010 Cologne

    ANTHONY ALSTON: My thread in the CHEER SF legacy fabric begins in 2001. I was a recent transplant from my hometown Seattle, WA to Los Gatos, CA, a suburb of San Jose. In the name of love, I quit my city job as an event manager at the KeyArena and relocated with my “not long after” ex-partner to the South Bay Area. I had no friends, no job and my ex worked away from home frequently. I saw CHEER SF at San Jose Pride and was instantly wowed! I’ll never forget hearing Sanford Smith announcing that they were recruiting “bases” for their 2001-2002 season. I always wanted to be a cheerleader but I was a “band geek” and never thought of myself as “athletic”. My commute to weekly practices was brutal; up to two and half hours on the way up and an easy hour on the way back. After my first performance on the San Francisco Pride stage I was hooked! I had accomplished something greater than myself. Raising money for our community and giving it my all in the hardest two and a half minutes of my life.

    Unfortunately, due to my rocky relationship with my former partner, I missed CHEER SF’s trip to GGVI: Sydney 2002. Although my relationship did not endure, I am very grateful for the Divine’s alignment to ensure my path to charitable cheerleading and ultimately to the Gay Games. The team came back energized like I had never seen before. My teammates were already planning to save for the next Gay Games which was still four years away. We stepped up our game in both performance and fundraising. It was during this time that twin teams CHEER Los Angeles and CHEER New York began to flourish. CHEER LA would join us each year for SF Pride but CHEER NY’s Pride weekend was the same as San Francisco's so we always sent them well wishes from afar. Meanwhile, new teams in Chicago, Sacramento, Edmonton (Canada) and Atlanta began forming. These were the early conversation years of forming PCA - the Pride Cheerleading Association.

    .    * * *

    Attorney Mary Dunlap and Tom Waddell holding a press briefing regarding the USOC injunction

    1982 - USOC injunction upheld

    When Tom Waddell competed in the 1968 Olympics, he spoke out in support of his Team USA teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos for their silent Black Power demonstration on the medals stand, Colonel Don Miller, the military liaison for the US Olympic team, threatened Tom Waddell, an active member of the U.S. Army, with court-martial. Five years later, Miller became Executive Director for the U.S. Olympic Committee.

    In 1978, after more than a decade of lobbying by IOC President Avery Brundage, Congress passed the Amateur Sports Act. In doing so, the US Congress gave exclusive rights, including copyright, trademark and branding rights.

    When Waddell, Mark Brown, attorney Mike Evans, and the others created San Francisco Arts & Athletics in 1981, they originally attempted to file their incorporation papers with the State of California under the name “The Golden Gate Olympic Association.” However, California corporate regulators disallowed it, citing the 1978 Amateur Sports Act. Thus, on 4 November, their documents were certified with the name “San Francisco Arts & Athletics.”

    Unbeknownst to the SFAA Board, Tom wrote to Colonel Miller informing him of their intent to call their event the Gay Olympics. In the letter, Waddell stated:

    “When we originally filed our articles of incorporation in Sacramento, California, we were told we could not use the name “Olympic” in our corporate name or logo. We thus became “San Francisco Arts & Athletics…”

    We recently heard indirectly that we could not even call our athletic contests the “Gay Olympic Games,” at least not without permission from the United States Olympic Committee… were only aware of the word “Olympic” as a generic term, referring to an event that predated Christ… were also aware that there were “Armchair Olympics,” “Special Olympics,” “Handicapped Olympics,” “Police Olympics,” even “Dog Olympics.”  There are also 33 listings in the San Francisco phone book using the term “Olympic.”

    Colonel Miller, these games are very specialized indeed. Our outreach and emphasis differ widely from the traditional Olympic Games in that we, openly gay people around the world, are struggling to produce an image that more closely resembles the facts rather than some libidinous stereotype generated over decades of misunderstanding and intolerance…

    Some things are changing. Homosexuality is not something that needs to be “understood,” any more than one’s taste in food can be understood; it is simply something that needs to be accepted.

    We feel strongly that the term “Olympic” is integral to what we intend to achieve. Our eight days of cultural events and sport will be a testament to our character and wholesomeness; arts and athletics within the ancient Olympic format.

    If permission, according to law, is a necessity, then we hereby apply for such, and assume that you will be fair in view of the precedents already set. We, in turn, will demonstrate our gratitude in ample ways as the 1984 Olympic Games of Los Angeles draw closer.”

    Although Tom didn’t inform the SFAA Board of Directors that he had sent the letter, he did send copies to California Senator Alan Cranston, Governor Jerry Brown, San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein, and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

    Colonel Don Miller

    Colonel Miller issued two written requests and spoke with Waddell on the phone, insisting SFAA remove the word "Olympic" from all Gay Games promotional material, citing the 1978 Amateur Sports Act.

    Tom then began reaching out to various legal entities that would be sympathetic to his cause. In February 1982, he reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union where his fellow Olympian Susan McGreivy (Swimming, Melbourne 1956) served as their sole litigant. She referred Tom to Mary Dunlap, a San Francisco based attorney who would go on to represent the case when it went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Waddell and SFAA also decided to continue using the word "Olympic" against Miller’s objections, citing that SFAA had the same rights as all others invoking Olympic terminology without permission.

    Tom Waddell protesting the USOC's actions against the Gay Olympic Games

    On 9 August 1982, the USOC was granted a writ for a temporary restraining order under the Amateur Sports Act, with USOC attorney Vaughan Walker, replying, "They are not a suitable group." Interestingly, Walker, himself a gay man, would later serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California where he presided over the original trial in Hollingsworth v. Perry, where he found California’s 2008 Proposition 8 to be unconstitutional.

    * * *

    Mark Brown in Gay Games I office

    MARK BROWN: The Board didn’t know about Tom sending the letter to the USOC informing them of our use of the word "Olympic" until we received the response from the USOC forbidding us to do so. That wasn’t the first time Tom had done something without informing the committee first.

    But he and Miller had a history, so I really do think sending that letter was another way for Tom to rub their noses in it. Tom couldn’t compete as an openly gay Olympian in 1968 because he was a member of the U.S. Army, but he sure was out not long afterwards. He was in the media enough times using his Olympic status as an out gay man in the 1970s, it definitely would have been noticed by Miller and the other Olympic executives. And they would not have been very happy about it, to say the least.

    * * *

    Mary Dunlap, speaking at Gay Games I and in front of the US Supreme Court

    Heroic attorney Mary Dunlap, who fought the US Olympic Committee alongside Tom Waddell all the way to the US Supreme Committee passed away in 2003.

    To read an excellent obituary of Mary Dunlap from the 5 February 2003 issue of Windy City Times, click HERE.

    Below are a few excerpts from this obituary which recounts Mary's efforts versus the USOC:

    The confident woman in a navy blue Pendleton skirted suit and heels would not back down. The date was March 24, 1987, the place was the nation's highest court, and the woman was Mary Dunlap, a 39-year-old attorney who lived by Eleanor Roosevelt's motto, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

    The first open lesbian to argue a gay case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Dunlap told the justices that the U.S. Olympic Committee was violating the Constitution by stopping a gay group from calling itself "the Gay Olympic Games."

    In small and big ways, Mary demonstrated the difference that one person can make. But she saw herself not as star, but as a relay runner, one of countless caring people fighting to make the world better. When few gay people had the courage to be out, Mary was already battling for gay equality—in courtrooms, in the streets, in her neighborhood. Her message to each of us is to stop being a spectator, to live each day eager to run with the symbolic baton that will let us advance toward equality.

    While few of us will ever argue before the Supreme Court, we are offered precious opportunities each day to demonstrate that gay people should be treated with respect and fairness. Even the seemingly smallest act— putting a picture up of our partner at work, for example—can have wonderful ripple effects.

    - Permission to share these excerpts provided by Publisher Tracy Baim

    (Top)  Susan McGreivy, US Olympian, Gay Games I participant, and ACLU attorney, helped defend the Games against USOC. Photo: Aquarius Media.
    (Bottom) Susan McGreivy with Shamey Cramer, 2013 FGG annual meeting in Cleveland 

    To see an excellent interview with 1956 Olympic Swimmer and attorney Susan McGreivy regarding the USOC lawsuit, click HERE

    An award-winning 2009 documentary called "Claiming the Title: Gay Olympics on Trial" was made about this case. See the trailer for this film HERE.

    * * *

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

  • 08 Aug 2022 11:31 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games V

    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 12 of 40 - 8 August Gay Games V

    “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.

    * * *

    (L) Jessica (left) and mom (Sara Waddell Lewinstein) in Amsterdam; (R) Sara and her softball teammates receiving their Gold Medals

    JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: In Amsterdam, I remember hanging out at the softball fields cheering on my mom’s team as they went for the gold. I remember standing on stage in front of thousands of people with my mom. I was only 13, but I remember basking in the energy of the crowd. It was beautiful. There were so many people, so many faces, so many cultures, so many cities and countries represented. I felt like I was swimming in love.

    * * *

    Festive flags appeared across Amsterdam in a spirit of "Friendship." Photo: Paul Finneseth; Panteres Grogues banner

    JOAN MIRÓ: I’m Joan Miró, founder and first president of the LGTBIQ+ sport club in Barcelona, Panteres Grogues.

    Gay Games V: Amsterdam 1998 was my first experience in a large scale tournament and it was definitely a life-changing experience at all levels, personally, and as an activist for LGTBIQ+ rights. At that time, our club had already started some sporting activities, but it was not officially founded. Nevertheless 3 members of our soccer team were able to attend the event.

    The whole city of Amsterdam showed a passion for what was going on during those magical days in August. All main squares in downtown had a stage where locals and Gay Games participants got together every night to celebrate diversity, inclusion, culture and sports.

    Being at Gay Games V in Amsterdam allowed us to make contacts with people; share experiences, learn and network with more experienced people. It empowered our small group to go further, and we officially founded the club just 2 years later.

    But it was not just that, since it has impacted the future of the club in so many ways that no one could have expected then.

    Living the amazing atmosphere that we all felt during those days made us think that we wanted to host an LGTBIQ+ sports festival in Barcelona. That was the reason why in 2005 we bid for EuroGames Barcelona 2008, the first time that a large scale LGTBIQ+ sporting event took place in Southern Europe and in a spanish speaking country.

    * * *

    Richard Hogan (left of center in sunglasses) aboard the FGG boat in the Canal Pride Parade preceding the Opening Ceremony in Amsterdam

    RICHARD HOGAN: The Amsterdam Gay Games were my first to attend as Team Sydney’s delegate to the FGG. Having participated in a few FGG Annual Meetings prior to Amsterdam, including one held in Sydney (which was part of our strategy to win the bid to host the 2002 Gay Games), I experienced the week in many new ways. Of course it is always nice to leave behind an Australian winter for a Gay Games during a northern hemisphere summer. The Dutch welcomed us with an enjoyable Canal Parade which I believe was the first of the now annual event. It was a lovely afternoon with many people waving from the shore as the FGG’s boat passed by. I was especially proud when we saw a plane fly overhead with a banner promoting the Sydney Gay Games set for 2002.

    At the Gay Games V Opening Ceremony I was impressed by the performance of the transgender Israeli pop singer, Dana International who had earlier that year won the 1998 Eurovision Song Contest. She set the tone for what would be an interesting week.

    I participated in Volleyball and while we didn’t win any games, our team had a great time. Each morning before going to the Volleyball tournament I had breakfast at my hotel. The local Amsterdam newspaper was delivered under my door but unfortunately I couldn’t read it so I just enjoyed looking at the photos. First the story was about Amsterdam welcoming the world during the Opening Ceremony, all happy, happy. Then as the week went on, the headlines started looking a bit more serious so I asked the breakfast waitress to translate. Her English was not very good; all she could say was “it’s not very good.” It wasn’t long before we all knew there were serious financial issues threatening the event. Thankfully the local business leaders and others (both straight and gay) put their resources together to ensure the Amsterdam Gay Games were an enjoyable, successful, and memorable event.

    During the week, I spent much time with a Dutch friend, then living in New York but who lived in Amsterdam when he was younger. After dinner one evening, Johannas and I passed by the gay bar which he frequented when he was coming out some twenty years earlier. He was surprised to see people there because the bar had been closed for many years. As we entered, we found out that the bar had reopened only for this one night to celebrate the Gay Games. It was such a special occasion as he joined a few old friends, all with stories to tell about their younger days. The bar was very small and as it was open for only one night, patrons were only allowed one drink so others could enter. As we left there was a long queue of locals excited about revisiting their old pub. For me, I will always remember that night when I see the Gay Games V motto, “Friendship.”

    * * *

    Opening Ceremony Gay Games V, 1998 Amsterdam. Photo: Tom Bianchi

    DEREK LIECTY: At Gay Games V: Amsterdam 1998, over seventy-five countries were represented. The Scholarship Program of which I was a Co-Chair for several years allowed individuals from under-represented countries to attend the Games and walk into a stadium with thousands gays and lesbians and finally say to themselves, “At last I know I am not alone.”

    * * *

    Jim Hahn and bowling teammates in Amsterdam (center in left photo; second from right in right photo). Photos: Jim Hahn

    JAMES HAHN: Gay Games V brought us out of North America for the first time. It was also my first time in Europe as well. Amsterdam certainly brought out the red carpet for thousands of participants. The opening and dosing ceremonies were masterfully produced, including a live performance by The Weather Girls!

    This Games required the most travel of any Games thus far since very few venues were in Amsterdam proper. One of the bowling centers, about 45 minutes out of town, actually had a 1957 Buick Special in it. The bowling organizers got a lesson in flexibility. At the first bowling venue (of three), due to “proper attire” standards at the time, we were told that if you were wearing short pants, you would not be permitted to bowl. About 40% of us were wearing shorts. They, and nearly everyone else, threatened to walk out unless the unannounced dress code was not enforced.

    Thankfully, the venue organizers had a thoughtful change of heart, and the event went on as scheduled. At the Closing Ceremony, I met a couple from Portland, Oregon. I ran into them about a week later when I traveled to Salzburg, Austria to take in the Maria Von Trapp Memorial Tour. This is where I learned an important lesson in proper attire for evenings out in Europe.

    * * *

    Kate Rowe (at right) at cycling venue, Gay Games VI, 2002 Sydney

    KATE ROWE: By the time of Gay Games V: Amsterdam 98, I had taken up cycle racing back in Australia and had improved. It was a wonderful Games because Amsterdam was small enough to feel we had taken over the city. Also, being in Europe gave the Games an added flavour and I won three medals. I met up with friends from previous games and made new ones.

    * * *   

    Figure Skating at Gay Games V, 1998 Amsterdam

    LAURA MOORE: I had looked forward to skating in Amsterdam without having to do all the work. Local organizers didn’t want my input and assured me that they had a sanction from the Dutch Governing body of Figure Skating. It was the eve of my departure when I learned that the sanction only covered Dutch skaters. Skaters from anywhere else in the world could lose their ability to ever compete again if they participated.

    The flight from NY to Amsterdam was full of stress. I had recently married MaryAnn Bellomo in an “illegal ceremony” presided over by Brent Nicholson Earle. I had told her that she would have an amazing time. As I checked email before leaving our apartment there were already misleading posts about what was happening. I was crying and she was extremely upset.

    Our flight got us to the skaters’ welcome party just as it started. In disbelief over the rosy picture being painted of the event to come, I realized that I had to do one of the most difficult things I had ever done. I literally shouted over the organizers and broke the news to the skaters, many of them friends who had come at my urging. I told them there was no sanctioning in place that would allow them to skate without sacrificing their future competitive careers.

    In 1994, I brought my sport into the Gay Games. In 1998, I shut it down. The competition was canceled and a decision made to hold “public practices” instead. Refunds were offered to all spectators even as they were encouraged to “donate” the cost of their tickets.

    Rumors blaming the International Skating Union (ISU) for homophobia were rampant. While I knew that the ISU was homophobic, the basic truth was that they had not been asked for a sanction and no fees had been paid to them. No one wanted to listen to my defense of ISU.

    Some of the skaters left Amsterdam immediately, travelling in Europe Instead. Those of us who stayed, practiced, and performed multiple times for as many audiences as possible. The week was a blur.

    I cried a lot in Amsterdam. I ran into Kathleen Webster and Teresa Galetti in a restroom in the Friendship Village. They were on the FGG board. They listened to me sob and told me that IGFSU (International Gay Figure Skating Union) should apply for membership in the FGG, so nothing like this would ever happen again.

    IGFSU became a member organization of The FGG in 1999 at the annual meeting in Berlin.

    One of the skaters in Amsterdam was fellow New Yorker, Bradley Erickson. He had seen the competition in 1994 and began taking skating lessons from one of the Gay Games skaters. In our first meeting, Bradley and I discussed how things had changed in figure skating in 4 short years. The ISU had stepped in to require fees and sanctions for skating events, including made for TV ones that were new on the scene. We had no interest in working with them since same gender partnering and freedom from gender proscriptions in costuming were paramount for us.

    We knew that Ice Skating Institute of America would be a perfect partner for us. As the governing body of recreational figure skating, ISIA had founding principles in line with the Gay Games, Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best. They had categories for everyone from beginners to world class skaters. They even allowed same gender partners to skate together! This rule was designed to accommodate little girls in a sport where little boys were few and far between, but Linda and I had tried out both our programs at ISIA competitions.

    Bradley picked up the phone and reached out to ISIA, cutting right to the chase: We were gay and wanted to hold ISIA events with same gender partners of all ages. I sat petting his dog in his office listening to him thank them for recognizing that who we were didn’t matter!

    IGFSU became an ISIA Administrative Member and worked with what is now ISI on a series of amazing Gay Games events. IGFSU/ISI were written into the FGG Sports “Red Book” as the official governing bodies for figure skating at the Gay Games.

    * * *

    (L) Friendship Village; (R) GGV Mascot Maxine, Gay Games V, 1998 Amsterdam

    EMY RITT: As many have written and stated, attending the Amsterdam Gay Games was a magical experience. Like most participants, especially first-timers, we were swept away by the spirit of friendship and liberty as the event took over the entire city with its more than 14,000 participants.

    Of course, we, the Participants, were not aware in any way that behind the scenes, the City of Amsterdam had magnificently stepped up to provide financing and resources for GGV after it had become evident that adequate funds had not been secured by members of the organizing team, some of whom had abruptly and prematurely departed. I mention this only to stress how well GGV was executed and how supportive the City of Amsterdam was during the entire week, despite the unexpected challenges. Also, the outstanding work of the remaining members of the Amsterdam Organizing Team are to be recognized and applauded. In 2007, I had the great privilege of meeting the GGV Director of Sports.

    * * *

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

  • 07 Aug 2022 14:09 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    The Big Event, Games Change The World, Scholarships

    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 11 of 40 - 7 August The Big Event, Games Change The World, Scholarships

    “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 website home page, February 2000

    GENE DERMODY: The decade 1992 through 2002 was the most productive for the FGG because of the accomplishments of the Sports Committee under the direction Of Teresa Galetti. It was an honor to serve with her for a time on that committee as her co-chair, with members Rick Van Tassell, Allen Wood, Laura Moore, et al. Armed with the “Red Book,” this Sports Committee team could efficiently modify Sport Rules, add a sport, monitor a host’s progress, do research on sensitive topics, and make recommendations to the FGG Board.

    One of the key factors that contributed to this explosion of FGG productivity was Technology. Most FGG people were either computer illiterates or using incompatible software that did not support SHARING of documents very well. Email was not readily available, and the FGG operated with Snail Mail and paper. Even teleconference calls were a financial and technical barrier. As the de-facto Officer of Technology, I pushed through IT standards for documents and communication. Just before NYC 1994, I brought on wrestler Erich Richter, an award-winning web professional, to build out the FGG’s first website and internal communications. It included one of the first interactive on-line Discussion Boards, “The IntraNets” for fostering real time discussions by topic. It was wild and unmoderated, but it allowed for the searchable documentation legally required for what led to FGG Policy changes.

    * * *

    Gay Games VI banners in Sydney, 2002

    RICHARD HOGAN: After our unsuccessful bid to host Gay Games V in Sydney, a few of us on the bid team set out a strategy to win the right to host Gay Games VI. As many people reading this would know, it is a long journey from considering a bid to host a Gay Games to successfully delivering the event. Sydney’s 2002 Gay Games, while not without difficult issues, will remain in my mind as the most special Gay Games.

    * * *

    Scholarship recipients at Gay Games VII, Chicago in 2006

    JEFFRY PIKE: In 1995, when Roy M. Coe’s family and the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) reached an agreement about the transfer of the Coe Scholarship funds, I learned that Roy identified me, to be the Federation of Gay Games Director of the fund, and his brother, Jerome Coe, to represent the Coe family. This honor soothed my feelings of loss for my friend; it also pushed me to truly see the world beyond my local community and to grasp the complexities of comparing needs across different countries, continents, genders, cultures, and underrepresented demographics (Roy always had a knack for pushing me out of my comfort zone).

    The first distribution from the Coe Scholarship Fund went to Leonie van Bommel, who had been the administrator of the Outreach Program for Gay Games V - Amsterdam (1998). The scholarship made it possible for van Bommel to travel to an FGG annual meeting to talk about Amsterdam’s process for awarding scholarships.

    In the spirit of Roy’s interviewing participants for his book, I began the practice of interviewing as many recipients of the Scholarship as possible, and attending their Gay Games event. Coincidently to Roy, Leonie started her connection with the Gay Games when she “walked into the Gay Games office to volunteer.” She was asked to be the administrator for the Outreach Program. Her response was “Yes, I’d love to.”

    In addition to talking about the challenges of establishing criteria for making tough decisions, Leonie noted that some of her greatest memories of the Games occurred when outreach recipients came to the Friendship Village to check in.

    “Having done so much work communicating with outreach participants, seeing names go by on a [computer] screen, on applications, on letters, after the intense work to make all the arrangements, to [then] put a face to the name gave me warm feelings – and to feel in return the warmth, happy faces, enthusiasm, they were glad to be at the [Games].”

    — Leonie van Bommell, Outreach Program, Gay Games V - Amsterdam (1998)

    To see a 2017 promotional video about the FGG Scholarship Program, click HERE.

    To see a 2006 video about the Scholarship Program at Gay Games VII, click HERE.

    * * *

    Memorial Moment, 2016 Annual Meeting, Sydney AU
    To see a video of the 2016 Memorial Moment, click HERE

    BRENT NICHOLSON EARLE: At GGIV: New York 1994, I remember getting my participant’s packet and being horrified by the lack of AIDS information in it. Not even a condom. I realized it was up to the Federation to take the mantle on AIDS information. At the next FGG annual meeting we created a Wellness Task Force. By 1996 we had lost a lot of people to AIDS and to breast cancer. The task force focused not just on spreading information, but also about paying tribute to those we’ve lost.

    We began holding a Memorial Moment at each FGG annual meeting, beginning in 1997 in Denver. Initially it was a simple quilt unfolding with a reading of the names of people we had lost. People could leave written memorials on the quilt.

    The Memorial Moments are now treasured parts of the Gay Games as well as FGG meetings. They have beautifully incorporated music and local customs.

    See a video of the 2020 virtual Memorial Moment by clicking HERE.

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

  • 06 Aug 2022 10:37 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games IV

    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 10 of 40 - 6 August Gay Games IV

    “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.

    * * *


    Joanie Evans with her teammates, GGIV Opening Ceremony, NYC 1994. Photo: Sara Feinsmith (L); Bill Strubbe (R)

    JOANIE EVANS: When Hackney Women’s Football Club participated in Gay Games IV: New York 1994 that’s when I saw how global and diverse sport was and it felt like heaven. We had participated thinking we were the only team representing the UK, only to find other likeminded people who have now become good friends.  Four of us from the team participated in the Gay Games Choir, which is an experience I will never forget.  It was hard getting to rehearsals with our football schedule, but it was worth it to be included in this part of the opening ceremony and getting our picture in the Unity ’94 book, page 4!

    This first Gay Games for me ignited something that wanted me to want to share my experiences to inspire others to take up a sport and connect them with the Gay Games and other LGBTQ+ events happening locally and globally.

    * * *

    (L) Jim Ballard poolside 1980s; (R) today from Light In The Water, courtesy Lis Bartlett

    JAMES T. BALLARD: Positive Swimming

    In 1994, the one thing I knew was, if I was swimming, I was still in the race.  The virus hadn’t won yet.  That was my mantra.  Swimming was living.

    The hardest part of that reality was looking forward.  I was a sprinter, and I was facing the long haul of pills, blood pulls, reactions, and opportunistic infections.  I wondered how long I had.  The question then was when?  How much time did I have before I hit the hard decline?

    I was built to go fast for short periods of time, not battle distance.  I learned that every time I stepped on the blocks.  I was inconsistent on anything over a 100.  I would occasionally keep it together for a 200, but that was it.  I couldn’t see into the endless miles with the horizon constantly moving away like the setting sun.  That was another mindset, a different skill set, and that was what I desperately needed.  I didn’t know the way forward and I was always asking myself, what if I am making the wrong choice?  That was the fog as the words of a friend had come to haunt me, “I thought I would have more time.”

    I had found over the prior year that the medications were incompatible with the practice of law and my new career was survival.  That meant staying in the water.  I was still equal there.  All I had to do was stay healthy enough to respond to the next set of meds and the next to stay in the race.  No one believed a cure was in site. 

    I had to cut to the chase and compress.  I developed a three-year plan to make my world more manageable.  If it couldn’t happen in three years, it didn’t exist.  My life was now fully measured by what the virus could do with my numbers in that time, and I was just coming through a case of hepatitis as I entered 1994. 

    Jim Ballard in the starting blocks, Gay Games IV, NYC 1994, from Light In The Water, courtesy Lis Bartlett

    I wasn’t thinking about how fast I would go in New York.  I simply wanted to feel the love and joy of Gay Games IV and I started to train.  It started ugly and my body responded slowly, but I still loved to swim.  I was going to swim and celebrate being alive.  The time on the scoreboard didn’t matter.  I would be alive, and I would share all that joy with a community alive.  I would be there.  That I could see.

    Jim Ballard as featured in Sports Illustrated "Faces In The Crowd" 12 September 1994
    To see a very cool video of this magazine feature, click HERE

    Months after the New York Gay Games and my Masters world record in the 100-meter backstroke was in the books, Sports Illustrated reported on my achievement in a short paragraph in Faces in the Crowd.  I was the Gay Games mention.  That was a step forward, but it did not include the most distinguishing factor with this swim, the reason I was profiled.  It did not mention I was HIV positive.  That was too much for the editorial board, but it was the start of a conversation, another beginning. 

    Now, I still love to swim, and I am still having that conversation.

    * * *

    DOUG LITWIN: 1994 was another amazing experience in the Big Apple of NYC. I’ll never forget the afternoon I arrived in town. In addition to all the midtown madness of Manhattan, that was also the day when O. J. Simpson led the police on a freeway chase in Los Angeles. Watching that drama unfold on live TV as the Gay Games were getting set to begin was surreal!

    The giant marquee at Madison Square Garden advertises the Massed Band performance

    Gay Games IV was another busy week for me. I performed in numerous band events, highlighted by a huge concert at Madison Square Garden (elsewhere in the building, Barbra Streisand was performing the same night!) and the Closing Ceremony in historic Yankee Stadium. As a lifelong baseball fan, being on the field where Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and other hall of famers played baseball was an experience only exceeded in 2006 when I played with the band at Wrigley Field, an equally historic baseball palace in my hometown of Chicago.

    * * *

    Australians at Gay Games IV Opening Ceremony, NYC 1994

    RICHARD HOGAN: My first Gay Games was in New York City in 1994 and it was a wonderful experience. Remembering the thrill of marching into the Opening Ceremony still gives me goosebumps! I coordinated the Australian uniforms and was extremely satisfied the next day when a large photo of Team Sydney athletes appeared on the front page of the New York Times - Metro Section. Another highlight of the week was a reception for lesbian and gay Aussie athletes held by the Australian Consulate General. Since New York in 1994, government receptions have become a tradition for Aussie athletes and artists travelling overseas for Gay Games.

    Gay Games IV was also very special because my new partner, Grant and I participated in the Flag Football competition. We didn’t win a game but we could not have been more excited than when Grant caught the only successful pass during all of our games. 

    The Gay Games were held in New York City during the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riot and on the last day thousands of us marched past the United Nations building. The sight of a mile long rainbow flag going through midtown Manhattan, surrounded by NYC skyscrapers was breathtaking! One amazing moment I captured on video was when a solo protester stood on the sidewalk holding a sign which said “God hates fags”. One guy ahead of me pointed to the protester and shouted “SHAME".  Before long thousands of us were pointing and shouting “shame” until the police escorted the protester away, followed by huge cheers! It was magical. The Gay Games IV motto, ‘Unity’ was fulfilled. 

    Attending Gay Games events, as well as general site-seeing made our week in NYC go far too quickly. Fortunately, Grant and I continued to travel around the USA and he met my family in Louisiana for the first time. By the way, Grant and I just celebrated our 29th anniversary. 

    * * *

    (L) Gay Games IV, NYC 1994; (R) Jessica (center) with Brent Nicholson Earle and mom Sara. Photo: Ann Meredith

    JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: In New York, I remember rollerblading with the rainbow run; watching a video of my dad at the Opening Ceremony; speaking in front of 10,000 people; and meeting Cindy Lauper in the bathroom at Yankee Stadium before she performed “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”

    * * *

    Brent Nicholson Earle at Gay Games IV, NYC 1994. Photo: Ann Meredith

    BRENT NICHOLSON EARLE: With GG IV coming to NY, my friend Roddy Shaul (who I had worked together with at the Federation ever since I met him when he was the president of the Los Angeles Sports Alliance), asked me if I was going to run again with the flag from San Francisco to New York.

    By then, I had serious spinal problems and happened to meet the actor Anthony Rapp who I wanted to get involved in the fight against AIDS. We met at the Paramount Hotel; he walked in with a pair of rollerblades over his shoulder and asked about creating a blading event in Central Park. I called Roddy right away and told him we were not going to run across the country. We were going to create a rainbow team of rollerbladers, and I asked Roddy to join us, even though neither he nor I had any experience at rollerblading. Tom and Sarah’s daughter, Jessica was then 11 and a rollerblader. She did the kickoff with us. We had a team of 7. Only three were serious rollerbladers. Two others were pretty good. Then there was Roddy and me. We were black, white and Asian; male and female.

    There has been a rainbow flag carried into the Opening Ceremony for every Games since. Each host decides how it will enter the ceremony. Leading up to each Games there is a symbolic run in each of the prior host cities. This series of events is known as the International Rainbow Memorial Run.

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    Gay Games IV Figure Skaters (left photo); Laura Moore at left in right photo (photo: Ann Meredith)

    JAMES HAHN: In 1994, the Gay Games headed to New York and to a new level of organization. The two things I remember about that were that this was the first games to have professional figure skating judges and also the first games to offer that sport. The figure skating competition was phenomenal. The first performance I saw was a gentleman who came out and skated the first part of his routine dressed in a yellow rain slicker with matching hat and an umbrella. The music was “Singing in the Rain.” It was a nice, low speed routine. Suddenly he stops, loses the umbrella, sheds the slicker, and tosses off the hat to reveal a bright electric blue jumpsuit as the music changes to “It’s Raining Men” as he gave a very energetic second half of his performance.

    The “Night of Champions” figure skating exhibition featured a number of surprises. First, the emcee, Olympic figure skater Randy Gardner, enthusiastically announced that she was pregnant.

    The next was a couple of skaters who had never met before the games. An ice dancer from Canada, whose partner had fallen ill, had come to New York at the insistence of his partner who asked him to find someone to skate with. Some other skater's coach said that he would skate with him. They borrowed some outfits from a lesbian pair (the only matching ones they could find that fit). The Canadian taught the coach the routine and the pair went on to win the gold medal. When the story was told as the couple were skating, you could feel the emotion in the building reminding everyone what the Gay Games were all about.

    The last surprise was one Laura Moore, the organizer of the skating events, feared. She knew that the woman who won her division in singles came out on the ice wearing a skirt and a scarf and nothing else (yes, no top!). She came out and did her routine and near the end of it, she intentionally did a face plant on the ice and slid for about 20 feet or so. You could hear every woman in the building gasp for air and clutch their chest.

    New York's Gay Games held the best Closing Ceremony of the Gay Games before or since. As the athletes marched into (now) “old” Yankee Stadium, we were greeted by Harvey Fierstein, who repeatedly asked the participants “Where you from?” in his distinctive gravelly voice. The female comedienne who was with him took the response from there. A moment or two later, we heard “Where you from?” again. Later in the evening, Jay Hill, the NY Games president, the first paid position ever for the Gay Games, announced the feedback he had heard from the paid judges. They were so amazed by the camaraderie and caring by the participants for the other participants, they offered to come back to the next Games and judge them for free. Again, the principle of the Gay Games, to do your personal best, shone through. Any and all encouragement welcome! He also announced that there was a possibility of a special guest later on, but did not elaborate.

    Near the end of the evening, which included Cindy Lauper doing a version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” with 20+ drag queens backing her up, I noticed the wall in right field open up and a golf cart come through. A very astute technician ran a microphone over to the cart and our special guest introduced herself. She got to the main stage and Patti LaBelle treated us to the most beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” I've ever heard.

    * * *

    Laura Moore (left), skating at Gay Games IV, NYC 1994. Photo: Chuck Smith

    LAURA MOORE: Nine months before Gay Games IV: New York 1994, I had two very bad weeks. My skating partner let me know that she wanted to focus on her solo skating and wouldn’t skate with me in the games. My girlfriend of the previous 2 ½ years dumped me and I had abdominal surgery. Gingerly back on the ice weeks before my doctor OK’d me to skate. I placed an ad in a skating magazine for a partner.

    I auditioned Linda Carney at 5 am at the old SkyRink on the 16th floor of a midtown NYC office building. She was not much more than a beginner but she was enthusiastic and my coach took us on as a pair team.

    Everything about figure skating’s debut in the Gay Games was beyond my wildest dreams. I was thrilled to be impacting a sport that I never thought I could even be a part of. Never before had there been a figure skating competition that welcomed men skating with men and women with women. The creativity in costuming was phenomenal. Skaters and spectators alike braved the long subway ride to Coney Island to be a part of history.

    There are iconic images from that week, as well as stories that have been largely untold.

    One of the most glorious ice dance performances in GG IV was completely unplanned. Stephane Vachon of Edmonton, Alberta arrived in NY without his partner, who was unwell. He was a very accomplished ice dancer. I was in the arena for ice dance practice and grabbed the mic to ask if there was anyone who could fill in. Charles Sinek was there as the coach of two women who were beginning ice dancers. He was qualified but hadn’t brought his skates. My second ask on the mic resulted in Wade Corbett loaning his freestyle skates (different than ice dance skates) to Charlie. The men did an amazing practice and competed in black tights with the women’s black and gold blouses, looking positively Olympic.

    Trevor Kruse and Darren Singbiel of Toronto in skating protest against “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell."

    Trevor Kruse and Darren Singbiel of Toronto brought down the house with their beautifully skated emotional response to Bill Clinton’s disappointing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy about gays in the military.

    Mark Hurd and J P Martin of Montreal stunned with overhead lifts in costumes that looked like they had tattooed their entire bodies. They had been thrown out of their rink for practicing together.

    Lisa Clinton performed topless in the Exhibition. I still laugh at people’s reactions. Many men in the audience were stunned. I knew Lisa and was actually not surprised. It was a time when the only advertisers in gay magazines and cable tv shows were men’s underwear and men’s phone sex lines, Lesbians had to be subjected to men’s bodies all the time if we wanted to be up on the news. Gay men didn’t seem to think of women as sexual beings. Many of the same men who delighted in former US National competitor, Wynn Miller, skating to “Spartacus” in a bit of leather with obvious piercings, reacted quite differently to Lisa baring her breasts.

    My solo program in a rainbow unitard glittering with crystal was skated to Barbra Streisand singing “I Can Do It”. It reflected everything about my life at that moment. The costume was a labor of love that took over 6 months of hand beading. Years later I presented it to Rose Mary Mitchell for the Gay Games Archives in the San Francisco Library.

    The pairs number I skated with Linda to Doris Day’s “Secret Love” had exactly the impact that I intended when I proposed the music, However, the magnitude of that impact exceeded my wildest expectations. A photo of the choreographed kiss at the end of our program was blasted by the AP to newspapers all over the world.

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© 2020 The Federation of Gay Games

The Newsletter of the FGG



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