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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. 

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  • 20 Aug 2022 10:21 | 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 24 of 40 - 20 August - Gay Games 10

    “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.

    * * *

    * * *

    Noemi Arzate at Paris Gay Games in 2018

    NOEMI ARZATE: Hola mi nombre es Noemi Arzate Miranda de Mexico soy una Mujer Trans activista por los derechos de las personas de la diversidad sexual y de género, deportista, madre de 2 hijos y presidenta de A.C. Azkatl México Diversidad Deporte y Cultura.

    En lo personal a lo largo de mi vida de mi infancia, niñez, juventud y hasta la actualidad el sector trans ha sido el centro de discriminacion dentro de nuestra sociedad, se nos ha negado el derecho en todos los ámbitos en todos los espacios, profesiones y al deporte.

    El deporte en lo personal fue mi impulso para salir adelante, para luchar por mis sueños para disciplinarme para alejarme de las drogas y tener otra perspectiva de la vida como mujer trans,(no solo somos estilistas ni trabajadoras sxuales), no pense que el deporte fuera para mi, tenia mucho miedo ejercerlo por que son espacios eteronormales donde solo existe el machismo.

    Lo intente empese a jugar fútbol dentro de ligas eterosexuales me corrian o se burlaban de mí, pero seguí mi sueño hasta alcanzarlo con muchas resistencias pero muy satisfecha,

    Ahora ya tenemos espacios seguros sin discriminacion, una liga gay que es un recinto dentro de mi comunidad ya por más de 14 años, fui becada por la federación Gay Games donde me dieron la oportunidad de realizar el más grande de mi sueños unas olimpiadas a nivel mundial donde conocí más de 80 países,sus culturas y su pasión por el deporte y el poder representar a mi país fui la mujer más feliz, y para concretar mi felicidad mi sueño obtuve medalla de plata en fútbol soccer, gracias a ese viaje y medalla se me abrieron las puertas en lo personal, laboral y seguir impulsando al sector trans para que alcancen sus sueños.

    obtuve muchos reconocimientos muchas entrevistas, la medalla al mérito deportivo por el congreso de la ciudad de méxico(por primera se le otorga vez a una mujer trans) entre muchas cosas más, gracias a la experiencia  de los Gay Games.hemos llegado a colombia, los ángeles, las vegas etc.

    Ahora seguimos construyendo sueños, trabajando a favor del deporte e inclusión y derechos humanos para las personas LGBTQ+


    Hi my name is Noemí Arzate Miranda de Mexico,

    I am a trans woman, sexual and gender diversity activist, an athlete, mother of 2 sons, and President of the A.C Azkatl Mexico Diversidad Deporte y Cultura 

    Personally, throughout my life, from childhood and young adult life, and currently, the trans community has been at the center of discrimination within our society. We have been denied rights in all areas, spaces, professions, and even sports. However, sports have propelled me toward my dreams, and have given me motivation and discipline to stay away from drugs and a new perspective of life as a trans woman (not all of us are hairstylists or sex workers). I never thought sports were for me. I was afraid to play any sport because they are predominantly heteronormal spaces where machismo exists. 

    Yet, I tried. I started off with soccer, playing in heterosexual leagues, but I was kicked out and made fun of. As challenging as this was I did not let it bring me down because I was chasing my dreams so I kept playing until I was accepted.

    Today, we have safe spaces free of discrimination. We have a gay league and a venue within my community that is now 14 years old. I was since given a scholarship by the Federation of Gay Games where I was provided the opportunity to realize my biggest dream: to participate in the global Gay Games 10: Paris 2018. At the event, I met people from 80 different countries and learned about their respective cultures and passions for sports. It was an empowering experience to represent my country, I was the happiest woman, but more importantly, I earned a silver medal in soccer, which opened the doors to new opportunities to leverage my achievements to pave the way for other people like me in the trans community.

    For now, we keep making dreams a reality, and support sports as a vehicle for inclusion and human rights for the LGBTQ+ community. BECAUSE SPORT IS FOR EVERYONE - TRANS SPORT.

    * * *

    Ivan Yap at the Paris Gay Games in 2018.

    IVAN YAP: My first Gay Games was Paris 2018 thanks to the partial scholarship from FGG which enabled me to participate. I competed in Bowling and won 3 bronze medals. This doubled-up the sweet moment as a first timer. 2018 also coincidentally was the year where I got more involved with FGG. I was elected as the first Asian officer to the Board as Officer-at-Large. My journey with FGG continues today in my second term as the Officer of Membership.

    * * *

    The finish lines for Triathlon and Mountain Cycling. Photos: Franck Weens (L); R. Dugue (R)

    KATE ROWE: Came back again as a volunteer to help with the Paris 2018 triathlon and cycling. This proved to be a challenge. Also participated in both and captured more medals. Was also a Team Sydney rep at the AGA.

    This was to be my last involvement. At 68, it was time to let go and experience new passions. I now play the ukulele, performing when I can.

    * * *

    Hlengiwe and her medals from GG10 Track & Field

    HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: Great games with 7 medals (3 Golds, 3 Silvers & 1 Bronze). This is a year I left being an Assembly Member and was elected to FGG Board of Directors as an Officer at Large. When I returned home, I was honoured with the Feather Award of Sports Personality of the Year, a prestigious honour, because of the cumulative work I have done for the Queer community over the years, including the Gay Games achievements, and founding the AfroGames, which debuted in December 2018.

    * * *

    The houseboat on the Seine where Jim Hahn and others stayed during GG10

    JAMES HAHN: Gay Games 10 would return us to Europe in the City of Light, Paris. Doug Litwin and I and assorted band members stayed on a beautiful houseboat on the banks of the Seine. It had a 50-foot glass wall on the side of the river. I've never stayed in more beautiful housing. I will always remember this Games because of the venue downtown next to a museum as well as a very welcoming vibe. My favorite story from this Games was from when Doug and I were on a bus on our way back to the houseboat after bowling. After a couple of stops, a young lady and her two sons got on the bus and stood next to us. I noticed that the older of the two boys had a pin in his baseball cap. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the last Team San Francisco pin I had on me and presented it to him. His eyes just lit up! Then it hit me, I didn't have anything for his younger brother. Yikes! I dug into my backpack and thankfully, I had another pin that I could give to the younger boy. I scored twice!

    I spent a few minutes chatting with mom who spoke perfect English and she looked relieved that someone else was entertaining the boys for a few minutes. They got off the bus a little while later, the boys still glowing.

    * * *

    Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris at the GG10 Opening Ceremony. Photo: M. Faluomi

    EMY RITT: I live in Paris and served as an FGG Board Member and Co-President before resigning in December 2014 to serve as the Paris 2018 Director of International Relations.

    The selection of Paris in October, 2013, to host the tenth edition of the Gay Games was based on the long experience of team members in organizing sport events, as well as their in-depth knowledge of the Gay Games, and their ten-year history of organizing the International Tournament of Paris, also known as the TIP. Several Paris team members had previously served on the FGG Board and/or as FGG Delegates representing FSGL, the French umbrella club. Also, the Paris Team had strong relationships with the municipal and national government agencies, and with local businesses and civil society.

    The “City of Light” was easy to sell to potential participants, and for the first time in over ten years, there was no longer any competing global event to consider. However, there were a few glitches along the way, including during the Opening Ceremony. Apparently, the food and drink vendor did not believe that ten thousand people would attend the ceremony, which resulted in a severe shortage of personnel, food, and drink. With very hot temperatures that day, many participants left early. By the end of the ceremony, the stadium was practically empty, and many participants were not happy campers.

    The spectacular GG10 Closing Ceremony at l’Hôtel de Ville

    To see a video of the amazing Closing Ceremony, click HERE

    Fortunately, the rest of the week went very well, and the “saving grace,” so to speak, was the ground-breaking Closing Ceremony, which took place in the center of Paris in front of the historic City Hall (l’Hôtel de Ville) featuring a series of beautifully choreographed sketches performed by many of the local sports clubs. The fabulous costumes, music, and storyline were a huge hit!

    Support from the City of Paris, including the national Department of the Interieur and its Security team, as well as the local police, fire protection, and first responders, was excellent.

    All in all, the week of Paris 2018, the tenth edition of the Gay Games, was a resounding success (un succès retentissant)!

    * * *

    Gay Games 10 Tennis players. Photo: C. Giros

    SHIV PAUL: When I attended my first Gay Games in Cologne in 2010 at the age of 39, I was blown away by how much it moved me, mostly because it was an entirely unexpected feeling. I had moved from London to New York in 2005 with my then boyfriend from whom I split up after 6 months of being in Manhattan. In a new place with a new life before me, I turned to what had given me solace in my youth but which I had neglected for some time because I couldn’t quite find my place in it all – sport. Tennis has always been my first love of sport and I threw myself back into it with a vengeance by joining the gay tennis league in Manhattan.

    My first doubles partner became one of my best friends and we travelled with other friends to compete regularly on the Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance tour. When he suggested we attend Gay Games VIII in Cologne, I thought it was simply another tennis tournament we’d be playing in. Arriving in Cologne to the throngs of participants, spectators, and supporters of the Games, the colour, the spectacle, the pure adrenalin was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It rapidly occurred to me that I had had no idea what to expect.

    Like the parade of nations, for example. Seeing representatives - sometimes a sole one - from countries that had severe penalties for being LGBTQ+, both broke my heart and steeled my resolve to do and be something more for my fellow community members. It is easy to feel disconnected from your own community in the LGBTQ+ universe, and disenfranchised too but in that space at that moment – and to this day – I recall feeling that "No, I am not disconnected. I am part of something meaningful and powerful and brave. And there is work still to be done." I am part of a community, a fight, a mission, to support, protect and champion those who are made to feel less than merely because they want to live and be who they authentically are.

    * * *

    Figure Skating in Paris. Laura Moore in the left photo

    LAURA MOORE: The Paris figure skating event was the first one to be recognized by the ISU, at least a portion of it. One day of the competition was judged by ISU judges. Skaters in those events had to skate to ISU rules, with men in skirts and same gender partnering forbidden. Georg Kling is now IGFSU co-delegate to the FGG. He skated a protest performance on the ISU day. It was brilliant and hysterical. He was disqualified and given no score. One judge walked out. One positive highlight of the men’s competition in the ISU portion was an on-ice marriage proposal to a skater’s boyfriend.

    Ice Dance, Pairs, and entertainment categories were run by IGFSU /ISI. ISI officials who had come from the US were very happy to have been a part of such an amazing event, Lisa Fedick of ISI has described our work with the Gay Games as “life changing”. She proudly ordered Gay Games figure skating jackets for all the officials.

    By the time I was training for Paris, I had become an ice dancer. After some partner drama in NY, I arrived in Paris partnerless, but with the costume I had made for the woman I had planned to skate with. I hoped for a Cinderella miracle. I had given her dress and the tuxedo I wore for a solo performance to fellow NY skater Chris Lipari.

    I spread the word that anyone who could skate the American Waltz should contact Chris. My partner for the event was posted as “Mme Mystere.”

    I took the ice for warmup alone. Near the end of the warmup Joel Dear skated up to me wearing my tuxedo. I was in tears as he joined me for the last minute before the dance started.

    My gay prince had arrived. After part of the dance pattern, I was stunned to realize we were not alone on the ice. I saw a very tall muscular blond waiting to take me in his arms for the next part of the dance. It was Christian Erwin, Joel’s ice dance partner. in full drag wearing the dress that matched mine!

    Skating with my hand on his shoulder, trying not to displace his long blond wig, I didn’t notice Jill Ahlbrecht had come to take me through the end of the dance.

    I was awarded a gold medal but none of my “menage a trois” of partners had completed enough required steps to qualify. They sat at my feet on the podium. What a special moment!

    Joel and Christian’s powerful romantic duet skated “In Passing” was an instant Gay Games classic and has been performed in front of numerous Ice Theatre of NY audiences, Joel’s future husband Rishi was a new man in his life in 2018. He didn’t want to see Joel skate until the Gay Games. I laughed when Rishi showed up at an ice rink in shorts, but watched him fall deeper in love with Joel that day.

    Most of the skaters took part in the Exhibition, including a very special group number choreographed and learned in a couple of hours. It began with a waltz in an imaginary Parisian Park. I was thrilled that Mark Stanford was cast as the ingenue who would catch our collective gaze. He wore my lavender dress and was resplendent. I knew Mark when he was a teenager and I was a beginning skater in my 30s. We had not seen each other in decades.

    * * *

    Richard Hogan (R) with former FGG Co-Presidents Rick Peterson and Roberto Mantaci at Paris Opening Ceremony. Over Richard's left shoulder is Laura Moore

    RICHARD HOGAN: My memories of the Paris Gay Games start long before 2018. Many individuals from Paris have contributed to the Gay Games movement over the years and I was very glad the event was finally going to their city.

    The Consul General of France held two receptions in Sydney to promote Gay Games 10. The first was when the FGG held its 2016 Annual Meeting in Sydney. At that gathering, the former High Court Justice Kirby referenced the speech he gave during the Sydney Gay Games opening ceremony. He reminded us of the equality issues we faced in 2002 and compared them to the current state of affairs. While we all agreed there was still much to fight for, our situation had greatly improved, especially with the recent marriage equality decisions in Australia and around the world. 

    The other French reception was for Team Sydney athletes going to Paris. I had the honour of being MC for the night. I rarely get nervous speaking to a group and the night was going well until I had to introduce the VIP guests. I got emotionally choked up when I introduced a local government politician, Christine Forster. Half way through the introduction, I realised it was the first time I ever said, “and her wife.” Perhaps it was the glass of French champagne but that was one moment I will never forget. I realised then that the world was definitely becoming a better place.

    The week in Paris was wonderful. I participated in Track & Field so my days were spent at the stadium renewing friendships made in Cleveland. It was difficult but I found time to play tourist. Of course, there was a reception at the Australian Embassy. The Games Village had a great atmosphere, so I spent quite some time there. During the week I met many of the Hong Kong representatives, and am now looking forward to attending the first Gay Games in Asia in 2023… or maybe I’ll go to Mexico, I’m not sure yet.

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

  • 19 Aug 2022 10:46 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    The End of 1WE: Focus Forward

    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 23 of 40 - 19 August - The End of 1WE: Focus Forward

    “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.

    * * *

    SHAMEY CRAMER: Three months after the Montreal Summit between the FGG and GLISA, the FGG held its Annual General Assembly in Sofia Bulgaria, hosted by Tangra SC; the first time a queer sports-related event occurred east of the Balkans. The Assembly members were very irate that we hadn’t reached a successful conclusion. I remember pointing out to them that the only deal GLISA was willing to consider required the Host Organization to pay nearly US$500,000 License Fee, which was exorbitant and unrealistic. The Assembly representatives insisted we re-engage, so I was once again put on the team, with newly-elected Board member Armin Lohrmann also assigned to the task.

    Koln working group: Martin,  ChristensenArmin Lohrmann, Greg Larocque, Joanie Evans, Barry Taylor, Shamey Cramer

    In October 2013, The FGG and GLISA began communications once again to see about repairing the damage that had been caused ten years earlier by Montreal’s decision to launch the OutGames. During that time, OutGames I in Montreal, OutGames II in Copenhagen and OutGames III in Antwerp all suffered multi-million dollar losses.

    When Joanie Evans joined the Board in early 2014, she replaced Kurt Dahl as the FGG Team Leader for what would become known as One World Event/1WE. Armin, Joanie, and I developed a strong bond and good working relationship. We also worked well with GLISA representatives Gregg Larocque from Canada and Martin Christensen from Denmark. Soon after, Barry Taylor from Australia joined their team.

    L-R: Joanie Evans, Martin Christensen, Barry Taylor, Armin Lohrmann, Shamey Cramer and Greg Larocque

    FGG representatives, including Emy Ritt, had met at the annual meeting for the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation in Lubljana where they outlined and agreed to a revised plan for negotiations.

    It was also around this time I reached out to attorney David Huebner, the former U.S. Ambassador to Aotearoa/New Zealand, who agreed to represent the FGG in our ongoing negotiations. He would later serve as an observer to the legal proceedings involving the detainees held in Guantanamo Bay by the U. S. Government for their involvement with the attacks that occurred on 11 September, 2001.

    In December 2014, SC Janus, the queer sports organization in Cologne Germany, hosted the 1WE Working Group. Although the discussions between the six representatives were mostly smooth, there were several sticking points, including GLISA once again refusing to have a third-party audit of our two organizations.

    During the next thirty days, the Working Group drafted the Cologne Report, which outlined several ways we could move forward. Due to health matters, Barry Taylor stepped down from the group, and was replaced by Victor Elkins, the new GLISA Co-President. Gregg Larocque and I represented the Working Group at a Town Hall in San Francisco in April 2015.

    In May, a Memo of Understanding was drafted and approved between the two groups, which caused quite a bit of animosity from the FGG “Old Guard” based in San Francisco, directing their anger toward the 1WE Working Group, especially the three FGG members. We were subjected to unnecessary vitriol on social media and in the Bay Area Reporter’s Jock Talk opinion column. This, in turn, caused increased obstinance from GLISA during the negotiations, further delaying resolution and putting the FGG team between a rock and a hard place.

    Stockholm meeting, L-R: Armin Lohrmann, Shamey Cramer, Martin Christensen, Joanie Evans, Victor Elkins

    Since GLISA still refused to an external audit, the FGG Board voted unanimously to support a Risk Analysis summary as the Working Group hosted another forum during the Stockholm 2015 EuroGames. Also in attendance was Ivan Cano, the main organizer for the Miami 2017 OutGames.

    On September 26, in a show of solidarity, a Site Selection meeting was scheduled. Unfortunately, GLISA representatives did not attend. A week later during the monthly 1WE Working Group call, I once again pressed to have an outside audit, with GLISA representative Gregg Larocque claiming it was “not worth the expense.”

    During its 2015 Annual General Assembly in Limerick Ireland, the FGG voted to support the Memo of Understanding, but chose not to accept the first two of the four options presented in the Cologne Report. Thus, the FGG Board continued focusing on the other two options as it moved forward with its Risk Analysis.

    It was also determined that the next step would be for each organization to have seven representatives on a Transition Commission. The FGG team was pleased to have former FGG Co-Presidents Kathleen Webster and Rick Peterson join the FGG Board members who had been part of this operation the past three years.

    In order to activate the Risk Analysis, the FGG created a list of 48 questions - 31 which were submitted to GLISA for a response. Unfortunately, GLISA continued to stall, refusing to respond to the questions.

    Despite continued letters back and forth between the two sets of Co-Presidents, GLISA continued to refuse to respond to the FGG requests, or appoint members to the Transition Commission. On 29 January 2016, The FGG submitted its third request for a response to our 31 questions, with a 5 February response deadline, letting GLISA know that not responding to the questions made it too high risk a venture to create a combined quadrennial event.

    When GLISA chose not to respond, the FGG Board voted at its February meeting to cease all discussions and activities with GLISA. A letter was sent to the GLISA Co-Presidents on 2 March informing them of our decision, and published a Letter to the Global LGBTIQ+ Sports Community citing our reasons for doing so.

    It had been more than a dozen years since Montreal had walked away from hosting Gay Games VII, and seven since the FGG did everything it could to create a unified event. The following year, on what was supposed to be the Opening Day for OutGames IV: Miami 2017, with thousands of athletes and artists already assembled, Ivan Cano and the other organizers issued a statement informing the participants that they had not secured the venues and were cancelling the OutGames.

    Needless to say, since most of the athletes and artists were already in Miami or literally in flight, there was a lot of anger. Following an investigation by the state of Florida’s Attorney General, it was deemed that although the Miami organizers had mismanaged their event, they could not be held liable for the financial burden by those who had trained, registered, and attended the anticipated event.

    Although the organizers shirked their responsibilities, many of the local sports organizations, as well as those with previous experience producing their sport competitions, worked fervently to present opportunities for the athletes and artists to engage. It was nice to see that even in the most difficult of circumstances, the athletes and artists rose to the occasion.

    GLISA soon folded, and the following year, Gay Games 10: Paris 2018 proved to be the most financially successful Gay Games to date.

    * * *

    Ad for the ill-fated 2017 Miami OutGames Opening Ceremony, cancelled one day before it was scheduled to take place

    TONY SMITH: Along with promoting Gay Games 10 Paris and the bid process for Gay Games 11, the road to Paris also entailed the arduous communications necessary during the negotiations with the World OutGames organization. OutGames ended up closing operations in that timeframe due to corporate mismanagement. With regards to communications efforts, I was adamant that the FGG would always take the higher ground and empathy for all during those tough times. The FGG’s success has continued due to its commitment to athletes, supporters, and the mission of the organization.

    * * *

    The rainy 2014 International Rainbow Memorial Run, held just outside historic Kezar Stadium, the site of GGI and GGII. Reggie Snowden holds the green flag. The center photo shows Gene Dermody holding the microphone for Brent Nicholson Earle, who is wearing Tom Waddell's 1968 Olympic warm-up jacket.

    REGGIE SNOWDEN: Living in San Francisco, we are lucky to have so many historic events right here in our backyard. From the inception of the Gay Olympics that became Gay Games to the creation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, I don’t need to walk far to find inspiration.

    In 2014, I attended the International Rainbow Memorial Run with a small handful of members from the San Francisco Track & Field Club and San Francisco FrontRunners. It was another foggy, rainy morning in San Francisco and the incomparable warrior Brent Nicholson Earle shared his words of wisdom and emotional story about running across the United States for Breast Cancer awareness and for those he had lost to AIDS. Each section we stopped along the run, Brent would share more stories and it ended at the United Nations Plaza at Civic Center, downtown San Francisco when they did the quilt ceremony and read names we can never forget. We had about 15 people towards the end of the event. I promised Brent I would organize the next International Rainbow Memorial Run that would take place in 2018, prior to Gay Games, Paris.

    To follow up with my promise to Brent, I started to reach out to various clubs. Being an active member of San Francisco FrontRunners, it was easy to get the runners involved along with San Francisco Track & Field. Cheer San Francisco lead us with a roar as wrestlers, basketball players, volleyball players, soccer players, tennis players and other organizations were in attendance.

    The President of SF FrontRunners welcomed us as we had one of the largest circles to welcome guests and supporters. Honorary Lifetime Members of the Federation of Gay Games Brent Nicholson Earle and Gino Carmody, both recipients of the prestigious Tom Waddell Award, addressed the participants as we proceeded from Stow Lake to the AIDS Memorial Grove where more stories were shared. From there, we ran to where it all began in 1982: Kezar Stadium. We did a roll call of each city Gay Games were hosted by and recognized a couple members who have attended all Gay Games since 1982. From there we completed the run and we’re welcomed by CHEER San Francisco and sister clubs as we completed the run.

    We were honored to have Gino Carmody sing and speakers included Sara Lewinstein Waddell and State Senator Scott Wiener. As the names were announced and the quilt ceremony took place, CHEER San Francisco created an impromptu magical moment as they embraced hands to form a large circle of around 80 participants. As so many names were announced, there were tears of sorrow as we reflected on how far we have come but also as a reminder that our fight isn’t over yet for participation, inclusion and personal best around the world.

    * * *

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

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

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

    Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
    with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

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

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

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


    Letter from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to President Barack Obama

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

    Now all we had to do was wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

    Event / Year





    Gay Games I 1982

    San Francisco

    Acting Mayor Doris Ward, Congressman Phil Burton

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

    former U.S. Olympians George Frenn and Susan McGrievy

    Gay Games II 1986

    San Francisco

    Mayor Dianne Feinstein

    Jennifer Holliday, Jae Ross

    Gay Games III 1990


    Comedienne Robin Tyler

    Gay Games IV 1994

    New York City

    Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Governor Mario Cuomo (Basketball)

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

    Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova,

    Gay Games V 1998


    The Weather Girls, Dana International

    Gay Games VI 2002


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

    k.d. lang, Kath & Kim,

    Gay Games VII 2006


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

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

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

    Gay Games VIII 2010


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

    Taylor Dayne

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

    Gay Games IX 2014

    Cleveland + Akron

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

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

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

    Gay Games X 2018


    Mayor Honorable Anne Hidalgo, Laura Flessel

    Jean-Paul Gaultier, Offer Nissim


    See photos of the individuals listed above in Post 22b


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

  • 17 Aug 2022 12:08 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games 9: CLE + AKR 2014

    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 21b of 40 - 17 August - Gay Games 9: CLE + AKR 2014

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

    Laura Moore (left) skating with Rosalia Palumbo

    LAURA MOORE: I met Rosalia Palumbo at a competition in NJ not long after I returned to the ice. She was planning to go to Cleveland to skate with Bradley Erickson and asked if I would be interested in skating with her, too. Would I ever!!!

    We did a sexy “morning after” skate to “She Was my Baby Last Night” in lingerie. The look on my face when she lifted me captured my excitement perfectly.

    Blind skater "Stash" with his sighted partner, a Gay Games first. Photo: Kelly Murphy-Stevens

    There were some incredible moments on the ice in Cleveland. We welcomed our first openly trans figure skaters and marveled at a completely blind skater ice dancing with a sighted partner.

    * * *

     (L) The South Africa delegation, minus Shamey but featuring Hlengiwe Buthelezi (white t-shirt). Photo: Michele Rodriguez
    (R) The Slovenia delegation and its only member Shamey Cramer. Photo: Matt Cordish

    SHAMEY CRAMER: Once the FGG Board of Directors and the scholarship recipients made our entrance into Quicken Loans Arena and were escorted to our seats, Hlengiwe Buthelezi, one of our scholarship recipients from South Africa, was distraught. She wanted to get back to where her fellow South Africans were in order to march in with them, but wasn’t sure how to get there; or if she had sufficient time to do so.

    Given the amount of time I had spent in “The Q” the past few days serving as Writer-Executive Producer for the Opening Ceremony, I was able to recall the quickest way to get from one level to the next, which involved two elevators and several staircases. I surprised myself at how well I did, because we got back to the line with plenty of time.

    When we joined her contingent, I asked “would you guys minds if I marched in with you? That would actually be the easiest way for me to get back to my seat.” They laughed, and said “Sure!”

    The person holding the banner in front of the South Africa banner turned around and said: “Too bad - my athlete isn’t arriving until tomorrow so I have no one to march behind the Slovenia banner.”

    With that, I turned to my new South African friends and said: “So long South Africa, hello Slovenia!” We all had a good laugh - but none more so than the Cleveland Games Board members and employees lining the entrance when we actually walked into the stadium. They all looked at me, puzzled, shaking their heads, and laughing. Who else did they expect to fill in for an absent participant, other than the Officer of Ceremonies?

    As exhausting as it all was, once I got back to my host’s late that night, I got on the phone with GG9 Director of Development Mary Zaller and chatted for a good two hours. When I told her how I ended up being the lone representative for Slovenia, she became very silent. “You know my Dad was Slovenian.” I joined her in silence for a few seconds before we agreed that it definitely was a sign letting her know how proud he was of her.

    * * *

    HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: Cleveland + Akron was an awesome Gay Games and I met wonderful people for life. Besides capturing 5 Gold medals, the whole experience was awesome because by then I had a good experience about the Gay Games with many friends that I’d I met during the previous games. I met a wonderful lesbian couple (Cathy & Peg) in Cleveland who hosted me before I moved to the Akron university hostels where Track & Field competitions were held. The closing ceremony was in Cleveland so they welcomed me back till I left Cleveland to California. I started in San Diego for the invitation to give a talk in 3 different organisations and a Rotary club, then I sealed it with Los Angeles to give a talk at the UCLA AIDS project.

    * * *

    Akron Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic (L) & Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson (R) at GGIX Opening Ceremony. Photo: Matt Cordish

    EMY RITT: The Cleveland-Akron Gay Games ultimately took place in the summer of 2014 with the full support of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson and Akron Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic. This was the first time that two cities teamed up to host the Gay Games. The local corporate and sporting communities also provided their full support and access to venues, such as the then-named Quicken Loans Arena (or “the Q”) for the Opening Ceremony, the Huntington Convention Center for Accreditation, and the University of Akron Athletic Center. The Cleveland GG9 Team, led by Tom Nobbe and Rob Smitherman, organized and executed an excellent Gay Games.

    For the first time ever, the Host Country’s Head of State addressed the Opening Ceremony via a pre-recorded video. How cool is that! President Barack Obama’s message promoted inclusion and diversity while welcoming Gay Games participants from all over the world and encouraging them to strive for their personal best. Other dignitaries included Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and his wife, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Connie Schultz. Their addresses to the packed stadium were heartfelt and very well received.

    During the entire week of GG9, the people of Cleveland and Akron displayed their support and friendship, volunteered by the dozens, and opened their hearts to the Gay Games and its participants.

    * * *

    Richard Hogan at Gay Games IX, 2014

    RICHARD HOGAN: Cleveland had an amazing atmosphere during the Gay Games! All week the tallest building in town had rainbow lights which were visible for miles. The locals were very welcoming and seemed very proud to have us visiting their city. Like so many others, I was very impressed to see USA President Barack Obama welcome us during the Opening Ceremony. What a great surprise!

    One evening I attended a concert by the Cleveland Orchestra at the beautiful Severance Hall. The concert was in association with the Gay Games but it looked like most of the audience were locals. After the concert my friends and I gathered outside for a drink before going to dinner. All of a sudden someone started to sing and before long there was a large “choral flash mob” singing fun gay themed songs. I was later told the singers were local Ohio residents who just wanted to join the fun… and it was really great fun!

    I participated in Track & Field and finally won a Gay Games medal, a bronze in the 100 metre sprint. Of course, I value my previous Participation Medals just as much!

    * * *

    CHEER SF check presentation to the FGG Scholarship Fund at Gay Games IX. Anthony Alston second from left.

    ANTHONY ALSTON: Little did I know that in April 2014 I would be called back to Seattle to become a full-time caregiver for my mom as she battled Alzheimer's disease. It broke my heart to leave the team that I deeply loved but going home was the right thing to do. I was needed here. As I write this essay, after eight incredible years, my mother is being transferred to an adult family home. I am no longer able to provide the same level of one-to-one care that she requires. I knew this day would come but it still hurts because adulting is hard.

    Now, CHEER was fully engaged and visible. Thanks to the stewardship of Sanford and Rob Smitherman, CHEER had a more active role at the Games. Not only did CHEER perform a collaborative routine with their sister squads, CHEER SF also performed in a tribute to the birthplace of “Superman” during the Opening Ceremony.

    CHEER was everywhere! We welcomed the participants onto the arena floor during the parade of athletes. We were “spirit jamming” at the venue exits of the Quicken Loans Arena following the Opening Ceremony. We hosted our CHEER competition and exhibition in the Cleveland Auditorium Music Hall. We cheered at Gay Games basketball games and dart throwing competitions. We performed at the Closing Ceremony. CHEER SF even hosted a fundraiser at a local bar. We were excited to raise $12k during our 10 day stay in Cleveland. Half of the raised funds went to a local nonprofit supporting the HIV/AIDS community and the other half went to the FGG’s scholarship fund. At that time, CHEER was the single largest donor to date for the scholarship program.

    CHEER New York took gold in “Sport Pom” and CHEER San Francisco collected the silver. Wow! Silver! At the Gay Games! What a feeling! CHEER NY brought hip hop fire to the competition. It was awesome! I understand that CHEER NY had “Broadway” level dancers on their team and I was totally cool taking second place to them. Mind you, I had been away from CHEER SF for several months and I was grateful to learn new choreography quickly enough so as to not bring my team’s performance down. I still had that “CHEER SF magic” as I’d like to call it. For those that don’t know this was the moment that “CHEER Seattle” was announced to the world. If you could only see my mouth drop to the floor when I heard the words come out of Sara Toogood’s mouth on what was to come. Toogood was relocating to Seattle with her husband.

    * * *

    (l to r) Sandra Ghiralducci, Jessica Waddell Lewinstein, Kyle Chang, Sara, Waddell Lewinstein, Hlengiwe Buthelezi. Photo: Kelly Murphy-Stevens

    Tom Waddell Award recipients Elvina Yuvakaeva and Gene Dermody. Photo: Kelly Murphy-Stevens 

    JESSICA WADDELL LEWINSTEIN: In Cleveland, I was back again, but now as part of the audience, and as a full-grown woman. This time, as someone who had a better understanding of the challenges people continue to face around the world. I remember being in awe of Elvina Yuvakaeva, the Russian LGBT Sports Federation Co-President and GG9 Waddell Award recipient, and everything she had to overcome to be there. And I remember feeling full of delight and excitement to see a message to the Gay Games from the President of the United States, Barack Obama.

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

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

    Gay Games 9: CLE + AKR 2014 - Part A

    Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
    with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

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

    Post 21a of 40 - 17 August - Gay Games9: CLE + AKR 2014

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

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

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

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

    Mary Zaller (left) with her wife Mary Prevel

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

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

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

    Gay Games 9 By The Numbers report

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

    We were a Gay Games of many firsts:

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    Gay Games IX Scholarship orientation session. Photo: Doug Litwin

    Gay Games IX Scholarship recipients in Cleveland

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

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

    — St. Petersburg, Russia Event: Badminton

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

    — Moscow, Russia Event: Badminton

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

    Read more about Gay Games IX in Post 21b

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

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

    FGG and IOC: Finding Common Ground

    Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
    with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

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

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

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

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

    By Emy Ritt, President Emeritus and FGG Honourary Life Member

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    Read more about this historic meeting at and on

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

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

    CLE Reorganization, 1QE / 1WE

    Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
    with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

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

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

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

    * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

  • 14 Aug 2022 09:43 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games VIII

    Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
    with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

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

    Post 18 of 40 - 14 August - Gay Games VIII

    31 July - 6 August 2010; 8,000 participants, Cologne, NRW Germany

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

    US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a video welcome to participants in Gay Games VIII in Cologne, highlighting the importance of the Gay Games, and welcoming the world to the US for Gay Games 9 in Cleveland + Akron in 2014. To see the video, click the photo above or click HERE

    Gay Games VIII Closing Ceremony. Photo: Peter Von Schemm

    * * *

    Emy Ritt at Gay Games VIII Opening Ceremony. Photo: Arndt Low

    EMY RITT: The Cologne Gay Games was a great success, and thanks to Germany’s Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Herr Guido Westerwelle, who served as the Official GGVIII Patron and spoke at the Opening Ceremony, many Ambassadors and Consulate Officers from around the world were present in Cologne during the week to show their support for the Gay Games and to their country’s participants.

    Despite the competing OutGames event having taken place the year before in Copenhagen, thousands of participants travelled to Cologne to enjoy a wonderful week of sport, culture, and ceremonies, with two Gay Games Villages! The Cologne Team outdid themselves and, like many previous Hosts, made great personal sacrifices to ensure a successful GGVIII.

    Unfortunately, the FGG-GLISA-1QE discussions proved to be futile and ended in 2012. Thankfully, time has helped to heal most of the wounds, and many GLISA supporters are active participants in the FGG and Gay Games. Catherine Meade, a Founding Member and Co-President of GLISA, after a long and stellar Gay Games participation, returned to the FGG to serve as the Delegate from the OutSport Toronto Club, of which she was also a founder and President. When I and other Paris 2018 representatives travelled to Toronto in November 2017, Catherine and OutSport Toronto graciously hosted a GG10 promotional event.

    * * *

    Anthony Alston at GGVIII. Photo: John Rocco

    ANTHONY ALSTON: In 2009, I tore my left bicep during CHEER practice. A debilitating experience to say the least. To add insult to injury, my employer laid me off the same day I was going into reconstructive surgery. I had a lot of work to do but one thing was for sure: I was still going to GGVIII the following year. In 2010, I tore my other bicep. This time, unable to perform the intense choreography Morgan had put together. Since I could not participate on “the floor” during practices I focused my efforts on leading fundraising efforts for the team.

    Through “Mama Burke’s” encouragement (CHEER SF founder Steve Burke), I developed a plan and motivated my team to raise money not only for our beneficiaries but also for those that wanted to participate at the next Gay Games. Our accomplishment was beyond my expectations! CHEER SF raised $70,000 to provide transportation and lodging for 40 cheerleaders to compete in Cologne. That’s right, compete! For the first time, cheerleading would be an adjudicated event at the Gay Games! Despite the heavy rainfall during competition, friends and fans endured the inclement weather with us, donated generously and CHEER SF brought home a gold medal! Further, the FGG recognized our efforts by awarding us a “Legacy Award for Excellence” in fundraising. Attending our awards ceremony was my first “inside” experience at the Gay Games.

    During the awards ceremony, GGIX Cleveland 2014 was announced as the next host city. We met local dignitaries and gold medalist Australian Olympian Matthew Mitcham. Wow! Upon our return home, I applied to be the first CHEER FGG delegate, representing CHEER SF (and our sister teams, of course) as an associate member. Sanford was still heavily involved with the Culture Committee at the time and I had joined CHEER SF’s Board of Directors.

    At this point, it was clear that CHEER needed to be more engaged with the Gay Games. Athletes and spectators alike loved “the cheerleaders.” Athletes appreciated our physicality and fearlessness; after all “athletes lift weights and cheerleaders lift athletes.” CHEER proved that we are a fundraising powerhouse for the FGG. In fact, at the conclusion of GGVIII, CHEER donated over a thousand dollars to a local nonprofit that supported those with HIV/AIDS. More importantly, CHEER also donated another thousand dollars to the FGG scholarship program. Cha-CHING!!

    * * *

    Bowlers at GGVIII Opening Ceremony. Jim Hahn front row, second from left.

    JAMES HAHN: Cologne, Germany upped the Gay Games professionalism yet again. Very well organized. Team San Francisco was more organized as well, fielding many more teams than either Chicago or Sydney. Doug Litwin and I won a silver medal in bowling doubles at the Games.

    * * *

    Hlengiwe Buthelezi receiving a medal at GGVIII. Photo: xiris pix

    HLENGIWE BUTHELEZI: Great to be back in Germany after I came in 2009 to fetch my Outstanding Volunteer award. By the time I came for Gay Games VIII, I already had local friends like Munja Brucher, who was my host; and met some other families too. My fitness level was not as excellent as it was in Chicago four years earlier, but not too bad either. I got to be a South African flag bearer again, as well as for the FGG.

    The mishap happened on the eve of the competitions when I developed a bad stomach bug. I had to stop at the pharmacy before I hit the track. Fortunately, my race was in the late afternoon. I kept on the medication and before 12pm I was a bit better. I ran my heat in that afternoon and made it to the finals for the next day. I went back to take a good rest while on medication, well the day I settled for silver.

    The following days I continued with races despite the episodes of the bug, I remember I had to go back straight to the room immediately after the Closing Ceremony because of the bug. On Monday I had to see a doctor who later sent me to the hospital for blood tests. I stayed one more week in Cologne after the games. At least all blood tests came out clear, so it was just some bacteria or suspected minor food poisoning.

    When I returned home, I was admitted to the hospital, then recovered at home, which took over a month.

    * * *

    Kate Rowe (right) receiving a cycling medal at GGVIII. Photo: Rendel Freude

    KATE ROWE: The Gay Games returned to Europe and I helped to organise the cycling and triathlon.

    Along with two Germans, we managed to secure Matt Mitcham - the first openly Gay Olympian to capture an individual gold medal (in diving), competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics - to come to Cologne to be part of the Games. He received a standing ovation as one of two athletes to read out the Athlete’s Oath at the Opening Ceremony. He also attended the Rainbow Run and did a meet and greet at the aquatics venue. I am still very proud of our contribution to Gay Games VII: Cologne 2010.

    Being a volunteer, participant, and a board member, meant sacrificing the ability to see other sports or cultural events. But I took part in the triathlon, cycling, and the 10K run (winning several medals).

    Kate Rowe and Hlengiwe Buthelezi crossing the 10K finish line in Cologne

    During the run, I caught up with Hlengiwe, who was having a rough time. I ran with her the last 5K, with us coming over the line together. A proud moment for me to symbolise the true meaning of the Gay Games. She was awarded a scholarship to attend, and coming from a South African township, it was a humbling experience.

    Totally exhausted, I returned to Sydney, got sick, and after 3 years on the board and organising two sports, decided my health and stress levels needed to take priority over being an FGG board member. Besides, I believe that change at the board and on committees is healthy for the movement and making space for fresh blood and ideas was a positive for the FGG.

    * * *

    (L) West Hollywood Team at GGVIII. Mauro Bordovsky, Mike Wallace, Jessica Seaton, Shamey Cramer, Jan Levinrad and Luis Bahamon. (R) Shamey Cramer (L) speaking with Philip Murphy, US Ambassador to Germany.

    SHAMEY CRAMER: My first Gay Games water polo match in Cologne was against Amsterdam at the Sydney Olympic Aquatic Centre in 2002, and eight years later, my final match as a member of WH2O Polo was against them at the Deutsche Sportschule in Cologne – 13,000 miles apart.

    During the Gay Games VIII tournament, I struck up a conversation with a player I recognized from eight years earlier. After we beat them for the bronze medal, he presented me with his bright orange blow-up crown the Dutch are famous for wearing at sporting events - including their entire contingent for the Gay Games Opening Ceremony in Cologne.

    My participation as a Gay Games athlete had come to an end, but my service to the Federation of Gay Games was just beginning. During the week, I was elected to be one of the two representatives for IGLA (International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics) to serve in the Federation of Gay Games Assembly.

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

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

    Gay Games VI - Part B

    Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
    with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

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

    Post 14b of 40 - 10 August Gay Games VI

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

    Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony and local banners

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    * * *

    Amhurst Aztecs soccer team at Gay Games VI

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    Gay Games VI figure skater. Photo: Rick Monk

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    Rebuilding the Brand

    Produced and curated by Federation of Gay Games Archivist Doug Litwin and FGG Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer
    with Ankush Gupta, FGG Officer of Communications

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

    Post 17 of 40 - 13 August - Rebuilding the Brand

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    * * *

    The FGG Assembly at the 2008 Cape Town AGA

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

© 2020 The Federation of Gay Games

The Newsletter of the FGG



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