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Federation of Gay Games News

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

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

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

  • 29 Jul 2022 23:12 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Creating San Francisco Arts & Athletics: Laying the Foundations

    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 3 of 40 - 30 July - Creating San Francisco Arts & Athletics: Laying the Foundations

    “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 05 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

    The initial concept to have a sports and cultural festival open to all was born when Dr. Thomas F. Waddell walked into the Stadium on 12 October for the Opening Ceremony of the Mexico City 1968 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. Decathlon team. As he would often state, he felt as if his heart was going to burst; and that it was something everyone should experience. In the end, it wasn’t about where he finished, but the fact he had participated and did his best.

    * * *

    Mark Brown, back row at right. Chris Puccinelli, front row second from right

    MARK BROWN: When Tom first approached me about a “Gay Olympics,” I said no. He approached me a year later, and given his ability to persuade and manipulate, I said yes – even though I wasn’t sure we could pull it off.

    The original San Francisco Arts & Athletics Board included Tom as President, myself as Secretary-Treasurer, Hydie Downard and Chris Puccinelli as Vice Presidents, and Mike Evans as our lawyer. Paul Mart didn’t want to be on the Board, but he did a lot of international travel and got the word out for us that way.

    Tom was often out of town on business, so the day-to-day operations fell to the others. We were the ones who had the connections in the community - Chris, through her Awards by Chris sports store; Hydie, through softball, the Imperial Court and her bartending job at Twin Peaks in the Castro; and I. By this time, I had also secured the offices, giving us a presence in the heart of the Castro.

    Zohn Artman on Castro Street

    Things changed once Zohn Arman got on the board. He was a promoter, so everything he did was from that point of view. He certainly knew how to promote Tom as the head of the Gay Games. I do think Tom had greater intentions beyond the Games, and Zohn was the type of person Tom needed to achieve those goals.

    When they scheduled the press conference about the Gay Games with Mayor Dianne Feinstein, they requested for it to take place outside, on the City Hall steps. Feinstein, probably seeing Tom as a potential rival in the next Mayor’s race, chose to have it take place inside, in the rotunda.

    * * *

    GENE DERMODY: The Gay Games entered into a social vacuum with a very attractive and inclusive registration menu of sports. There were no qualifying events, no seeding, no health restrictions, no drug testing, and more categories across age, gender, weight, and skill level. The events were open to EVERYONE, and organizers made sure you were accommodated. Typical medal competition took a back seat to connection and inclusion. Add to that San Francisco was an LGBTQ+ dream destination, and it was perfect. Given that there was no internet, no email, and no mainstream media advertisements, people still came from all over the world, thanks to the word-of-mouth travel promotion by Gay Games pioneers such as Paul Mart.

    * * *

    The Red Book

    Jean Nickolaus Tretter in 1983

    JEAN-NICKOLAUS TRETTER: Team Minnesota started organizing in the Fall of 1981. In the January 1982 newsletter published by San Francisco Arts & Athletics, there was a notice for those wishing to help organize an international governing body to perpetuate the Gay Olympic Games Movement, including selecting where the event would be held each quadrennial. I answered that notice and began a long-distance working relationship with Tom Waddell.

    Early in 1982, Tom asked me to contact all the various national sports governing bodies in order to develop rules and regulations for the Gay Olympics. With only a telephone and the U.S. postal service as my tools of access, I was able to secure the various rules from each sport’s governing body, as well as additional guidelines from the United States Olympic Committee.

    I took each set of rules and did as minor an adaptation as possible on each of them, in order to be more accommodating, particularly regarding gender identity. This initial collection of rules and regulations became known as the Gay Games Red Book, which has grown, expanded, and adapted over the years, when necessary.

    The same January 1982 news bulletin also mentioned a national torch relay. The only problem was, they only had relays scheduled on either coast, with nothing established across the Midwest or Rocky Mountain states. But that’s another story.

    * * *

    Left to right: Founders Mark Brown, Tom Waddell, Harriman Thatcher, Paul Mart

    GENE DERMODY: In 1988, about eighteen months prior to the Vancouver Gay Games III Opening Ceremony, in frustration with the total lack of confirmed information necessary for me to promote wrestling, I had written a scathing letter to the editor to the “Village Voice” in New York City. Specifically, Vancouver organizers had not applied for a Canadian Wrestling Event Sanction. Wrestling had to be sanctioned in order to get insurance and officials. Given the San Francisco history, it should have been an easy fix. But there was resistance with the Vancouver organizers. However, to not continue this sanctioning was financially, politically, and operationally unacceptable; the wrestlers would simply not register. Vancouver also had not reserved a gymnasium and had not acquired wrestling mats. This was resolved when we arrived after intense negotiations and resources to rent (and move) the mats from Simon Fraser University.

    Vancouver was operationally overwhelmed. Team NY’s FGG delegate, Physique champion Tom Cracovia, and I met during the week in Vancouver to discuss the complaints that were being directed at us as Gay Games sport organizers. What emerged was a plan to convince the FGG to codify and require the Sports Requirements for a Gay Games Host (the eventual “Red Book”). We would then lobby the LGBTQ+ sport governing bodies before the 1991 FGG Meeting, and at least make people aware of the need.

    There actually was FGG resistance to having the LGBTQ+ Sports Governing Bodies making demands of the Host without it being in the License Agreement. Gay Games pioneer and LGBTQ+ activist, Rikki Streicher, specifically objected to emulating the non-Inclusive Olympics Sport Policies of the USOC. In fact, there was even resistance to the FGG taking on more LGBTQ+ sports organizations as members for the same reason; the anti USOC furor was still that strong.

    At the 1992 FGG Meeting our efforts with getting the FGG to approve a Required Code of Gay Games Sport Rules (the “Red Book”) was beginning to gather steam. LGBTQ+ sport governing bodies for Aquatics, Tennis, Bowling, Martial Arts, Wrestling, et al just went ahead and published their own Championship Rules, and received good operational cooperation from the Gay Games IV organizing committee.

    However, it would take the strong leadership of two new FGG Delegates to manage the projects for a better ProForma License Agreement with an integrated Required Code of Athletic Rules (“Red Book”) to guide the Hosts.

    Teresa Galetti of Philadelphia brought an expertise to Sports Committee from Martial Arts for resolving so many issues where Gay Games values were in conflict with standard sports sanctioning requirements at that time. It was exactly what Rikki Streicher had recommended.

    Sydney Australia’s Richard Cobden brought an extraordinary international legal perspective to the License Agreement project from his intellectual property & copyright expertise before the Australian Supreme Court. He created the framework for legally integrating the “Red Books” into the ProForma License Agreement.

    Their joint efforts made this new “Red Book” contractually enforceable with the Host within the License Agreement. It was a monumental task that took over a year. It was overwhelmingly approved and ready for the 2002 Sydney cycle and the 2006 Gay Games cycle that saw the Montreal / GLISA / Chicago drama. The “Red Book” was designed to be a work in progress, and constantly enhanced as issues like gender identity, age, disability inclusion, drug testing, and overall mission adherence kept resurfacing.

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

  • 28 Jul 2022 23:15 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    The Back Story: Gays and Sports post-Stonewall; Tom’s Big Idea

    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 2 of 40 - 29 July - The Back Story: Gays and Sports post-Stonewall; Tom’s Big Idea

    “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 05 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

    The initial concept to have a sports and cultural festival open to all was born when Dr. Thomas F. Waddell walked into the Stadium on 12 October for the Opening Ceremony of the Mexico City 1968 Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. Decathlon team. As he would often state, he felt as if his heart was going to burst; and that it was something everyone should experience. In the end, it wasn’t about where he finished, but the fact he had participated and did his best.

    The following year, five women, including “The Frontrunner” author-athlete-activist Patricia Nell Warren, registered and 'crashed’ the Boston Marathon. It wasn't until 1972 that women were finally allowed to compete openly.

    Authors Patricia Nell Warren (L) and David Kopay (R)

    David Kopay and Patricia Nell Warren, panelists during Gay Games 30th Anniversary event, 2012 in West Hollywood, CA

    Patricia published “The Frontrunner” in 1974, which was followed in 1977 by the autobiography of retired NFL player Dave Kopay, who became the first professional athlete in the United States to come out.

    In 1978, California had a statewide ballot known as the Briggs Initiative. It would have banned LGBTQ+ individuals from becoming teachers and educators. In mid-October, as the race was heating up, it was discovered that even if a fellow teacher was heterosexual, and knew of a fellow educator being lesbian or gay and didn’t report it, could also be terminated. Once that became known, Governor Jerry Brown and President Carter both came out against the initiative. Even former Governor Ronald Reagan was against it. Fortunately, it failed, but the campaign had left many people angry on the right. Three weeks later, Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated.

    In 1979, the Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution failed to pass, just four states shy of the necessary thirty-eight to ratify. The deadline was extended to 1982, but no new states signed on.

    Tom Waddell was named the Outstanding Male Athlete at the annual San Francisco Cable Car Awards in 1981. In his acceptance speech, he stood up and stated: “Wouldn't it be great if San Francisco hosted a Gay Olympics and invited the rest of the world?” He naturally received a rousing cheer, which also meant he needed to put his money where his mouth was – and that he did!

    In 1981, the Family Protection Act was introduced in the U.S. Congress to strengthen “traditional family values.” It required the withdrawal of federal funds from any state program that provides contraceptive or abortion services or information to unwed minors without prior parental notification, or from any entity engaged in "advocating, promoting, or suggesting homosexuality, male or female, as a life style."' The bill also mandated the withdrawal of federal funds from any agency that excludes parents or unspecified "representatives of the community"' from participation in curriculum decisions relating to the study of religion; requires union membership of teachers; or prohibits "parental review of textbooks prior to their use in public school classrooms.”

    These were some of the key touch points that set the stage for the emerging LGBTQ+ community as a political movement. Thus, when Tom announced there would be a Gay Olympics Games, one can only imagine how much of an affront that must have been to the United States Olympic Committee.

    * * *

    Gay Games Co-Founder Mark Brown

    MARK BROWN: I got involved with sports in San Francisco after meeting my room-mate Paul Lynch in 1974. First, he introduced me to softball and I ended up becoming the league commissioner in 1978-79. I also served as co-chair for the first Gay Softball World Series.

    Paul also got me involved with the gay bowling league, and I ended up serving as President of the Tavern Guild Bowling League at the Park Bowl on Haight Street. I had also won several Cable Car Awards for my column On The Mark which was published in the Bay Area Reporter.

    Tom Waddell showed up one night at the Wednesday night bowling league during the 1979-80 season, wanting to join a team. Given all the administrative work I was handling for the league, I had Tom join our team, and I became the substitute bowler. We won a lot that year.

    * * *

    Gene Dermody on the wrestling mat at Gay Games I

    GENE DERMODY: I have invested forty years of my life into the Gay Games as a wrestler, volunteer, a Federation of Gay Games (FGG) delegate, Officer of Sport, Officer of Technology, and twice-appointed Co-President. I have competed in all 10 Gay Games, have created and organized teams to go to Gay Games, and in 2014, was awarded the Tom Waddell Award, the FGG’s highest recognition for service to the Gay Games.

    I had “come out” around the time of the Stonewall riots while at NYU. I lived in Manhattan, first in Greenwich Village, and then on the Upper West Side, where I was resigned to living in an LGBT culture I found devoid of good choices.

    I had been a wrestler at NYU in the ‘60s, and a high school Chemistry/Physics teacher and wrestling coach in northern New Jersey in the ’70s. There were very few adult post-collegiate amateur wrestling opportunities. There were the handful of YMCAs like my NYC Lincoln Center McBurney, and some university teams like Olympian Dave Schultz’s at Stanford University.

    LGBTQ+ athletes were routinely shadow banned for various reasons, depending upon where you lived. I was lucky to compete for an enlightened YMCA in the ‘70s. Unlike today where there are martial arts/grappling dojos on every corner, there were no opportunities for the vast majority of adult LGBTQ+ athletes. For the vast majority, not having a local practice option that in turn precluded competitions, was a vicious cycle, because it also impacted social connection opportunities.

    This pent-up athletic/social frustration was quite real, and for LGBTQ+ athletes who built their social circles around carefully trusted connections, it was especially not healthy: isolation breeds depression. It is why sports are still so important a socializing factor, regardless of age.

    * * *

    Charlie Carson at Gay Games I, 1982

    CHARLIE CARSON: Before Gay Games I, what we then called the gay and lesbian community had sports in larger cities like softball and bowling leagues.  Bar pastimes were activities where you could smoke and drink at the same time: darts; billiards.  There were a few volleyball groups in Europe and the U.S., and road running was taking off through the Front Runners.  But we had no Gay or Lesbian swim teams; no track meets; no wrestling; no cycling.  The Gay Games changed that, creating a network of an initial 1,300 participants who spurred the creation of hundreds of what are now the LGBTQ+ community’s long-established sports groups.  And lucky me – I was there!

    * * *

    Jack Gonzalez (center) and his Studio One volleyball team

    JACK GONZALEZ:  I started playing "Gay" volleyball sometime in 1978. I had been playing Club Volleyball in Long Beach when I heard there was a gym in West Hollywood where mostly Gay people played (West Hollywood Park). After work on Thursday nights, I would drive up to play with "my people." The level of play was very mixed. Without sounding vain, I would say I was probably one of the better players (I was playing 4-5 hours a night 4 nights a week with the Club). It was such a wondrous and joyful feeling to be playing my favorite sport with others like me. I was one happy camper, and I was also making new friends as well.

    After play in West Hollywood Rec Park, I would stay and "go dancing" at Studio One. Eventually the "good players" started to gravitate towards each other to play together. It was more fun (but not always fair) to have skilled players on your team. The following year a league was started. It was really a "Gay league," but we were trying to be inclusive, so all were invited. Teams were sponsored by local bars and businesses. A fan, Bob Jory, volunteered to be our manager. He went to see Scott Forbes from Studio One, which is how Studio One became our sponsor! Bob was not a player, but he enjoyed doing the legwork for the team. Studio One was our sponsor (great volleyball uniforms) until 1981. By then the Gay Games were scheduled to be in San Francisco the following year.

    By 1982, I ran the team that represented Los Angeles in tournaments (Chicago, San Diego, Seattle, etc.). Back then, these tournaments required that a player had to play for the city they lived in [historic note: West Hollywood wasn’t incorporated until 1984]. Our team was the team to beat. We took first or sometimes second place in these tournaments. At the beginning this Gay volleyball organization was known as NAVA (North American Volleyball Assoc.). The G (for Gay was added) after a couple of years.

    * * *


    Jim Hahn (L, on left) (R, second from left) receiving his doubles medal at GGVIII (with partner Doug Litwin) and team bowling medal at GGIX (with teammates Glenn Normandin, Andrew Meagher, and Doug Litwin)

    JAMES HAHN: My name is Jim Hahn and I live in San Mateo, California (about 35 km south of San Francisco). Doug Litwin and I have been bowling together for more than 20 years. I am one of the few people left who have participated in every Gay Games, beginning in 1982.

    My participation started because of a gay students’ conference at the California State University at San Francisco that was held in the Spring of 1981. One of the group events at the conference was a meeting with Dr. Tom Waddell. There were about 6 to 8 of us in the room and it was an opportunity for Tom to share his vision of the Gay Olympics and encourage participation.

    I was impressed with Tom's clarity of vision and doubtless enthusiasm that the Olympics were going to happen just as he had imagined them. I was listening closely and intently, because beyond the words that Tom shared with us, I could sense history in the making. By the time the meeting was over, I was certain that the Olympics were not going to be a “flash in the pan” where after one or perhaps two events, they would fade away.

    No, this was the beginning of something bigger. Bigger than Tom, certainly bigger than me; bigger even than San Francisco itself. I knew that this was something I needed to be a part of. Indeed, the Gay Olympics became part of me.

    As I left the meeting, my mind went into overdrive trying to figure out how a poor college student with no car was going to be able to make the leap into history. I had my bowling ball and access to mail and that was about it.

    Several months later, I received my Gay Olympics application which went from envelope to typewriter in the blink of an eye. I also studied the requirements for participation. A shirt, preferably with my city of representation on the back and a Gay Olympics patch on the sleeve was required. Thankfully, hosted housing (Thank you JJ!) was offered and I was accepted. The next step was to buy a shirt, have it embroidered and arrange a ride from Davis to San Francisco (about 100 miles or 180 Km). The cost of the shirt with the embroidery was $28 or a little less than a month’s spending money for me.

    Tom’s primary focus of the Gay Olympics was for participants to compete against other like-minded and like-talented individuals and teams and perform their personal best. The medals are certainly nice and worth striving for, but the fact that everyone receives a participation medal, made this very different from other sporting events. In fact, I have won several the years (five, I think), but I have a complete set of participation medals from Gay Games II (more on this name change later) through to Gay Games X. These mean more to me than the silvers and bronzes I have won.

    * * *

    The backyard party with members of the SF and LA Bands, June 1979

    KEN WARD: The San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps marched in the Great American Yankee Freedom Band of Los Angeles for their Pride Parade on June 30, 1979, one year after our founding. And the concert afterwards was at Hollywood High School auditorium at 8:00 that evening.

    The party afterwards was at a very small house with an also very small backyard. Everyone was very rowdy and having a great time until a Los Angeles Police Department helicopter arrived and hovered over the party site for quite some time. We were all getting nervous about what they would do, but the yard was very tiny and surrounded by a wooden fence, and packed full of queens and friends. We got quiet and worried when wondering what they were going to do. They certainly could not land in that postage stamp walled backyard without committing mass slaughter and very bad headlines the next day.

    After a while we were very pleasantly surprised when someone on a microphone on the helicopter welcomed the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Marching Band and Twirling Corps to Los Angeles. Then we erupted into cheers and toasts for the LAPD. That was a big change in police relations with the gay community from what most of us had heard about and/or experienced previously.

    * * *

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

  • 28 Jul 2022 00:16 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    40th Anniversary History Series

    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 1 of 40 - 28 July - Introduction

    “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.

    12 of the 36 individuals contributing editorial content participated in the inaugural Gay Games in 1982, with several participating in all ten Gay Games; eight have served as FGG Board Co-Presidents; plus sports administrators from around the world and world record holder sharing their stories and the impact the Gay Games have made on their lives and communities.

    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 inspiration for this project began over two years ago when planning for Gay Games 11: Hong Kong 2023 Cultural Festival got under way. Federation of Gay Games Officer of Culture Anthony Alston, in his work with Hong Kong 2023’s Director of Culture Shawn Griffin, put out a call to those who wished to help with the presentation of a photo exhibit using 40 iconic images from the first forty years of the Gay Games.

    Doug Litwin, the FGG Officer of Marketing at the time had long been the keeper of the FGG’s digital archives, and was immediately tapped to be involved. Honorary Life Member Shamey Cramer, co-founder of Team Los Angeles and former Officer of Ceremonies (2011-2016) and Officer of Development (2015-2017), whose professional career involved curating and publicizing photo exhibits quickly volunteered.

    Litwin and Cramer invested nearly 200 hours reviewing and curating the tens of thousands of images in the FGG digital archives. They met with the four volunteers from the Hong Kong Culture team to visualize and plan how the forty images and Gay Games history could be displayed in a gallery-type setting.

    Once that was established, Litwin and Cramer realized the potential for creating a more definitive collective history of the Gay Games. In October 2020, they began their outreach efforts to engage more than three dozen former and current executives whose lives were impacted by their participation as athletes, artists, and advocates, as well as handling the business affairs of the quadrennial event.

    We are grateful to the following individuals, whose memories and images will be shared over the next forty days:

    • Anthony Alston, Seattle USA, Officer of Culture
    • Noemi Arzate, Ciudad Mexico, MEX, Azkatl Mexico Diversidad AC 
    • James Ballard, Los Angeles USA, Gay Games IV World Record holder
    • Mauro Bordovsky, West Hollywood USA, Gay Games pioneer, Co-founder, West Hollywood Aquatics, Gay Games I - X participant
    • Stuart Borrie, Kuala Lumpur MAL, Exec. Director, Gay Games VI, Sydney 2002, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
    • Mark Brown, San Francisco USA, Gay Games pioneer, Co-founder, San Francisco Arts & Athletics
    • Hlengiwe Buthelezi, Durban RSA, Founder, The AfroGames, FGG Board member
    • Charlie Carson, New York USA, Gay Games I pioneer, former FGG Board member, Gay Games I - X participant
    • Shamey Cramer, Los Angeles USA Gay Games pioneer, Co-founder, Team Los Angeles, former FGG Board member
    • Kurt Dahl, Chicago USA, former Co-President
    • Gene Dermody, San Francisco USA, former Co-President, Tom Waddell Award recipient, Gay Games I - X participant
    • Joanie Evans, London UK, FGG Co-President
    • Jochen Färber, Gay Games VIII marketing volunteer
    • Sean Fitzgerald, Vancouver Canada, current FGG Co-President
    • Jack Gonzalez, West Hollywood USA, Co-founder of Los Angeles Volleyball Association
    • Kimberly Hadley, Edmonton Canada, current FGG Co-Officer of Sports
    • Jim Hahn, San Francisco USA, Gay Games pioneer, Gay Games I - X participant
    • Richard Hogan, Sydney AU, former FGG Board member, Order of Australia Award Recipient
    • Susan Kennedy, Antioch USA, former FGG Co-President, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
    • Derek Liecty, Walnut Creek USA, Gay Games I Official, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
    • Doug Litwin, Sausalito USA, FGG Archivist, former FGG Board member
    • Fred Martens, Cincinnati USA, graphic designer ( who developed the logo for this "Passing The Torch" series
    • Susan McGrievy, Los Angeles USA, co-founder, Team Los Angeles, GGI Torchbearer
    • Laura Moore, NYC USA, Co-founder, International Gay Figure Skating Union
    • Oliver Murphy, Cork IRL, Gay Games I and II Decathlon champion
    • Brent Nicholson Earle, NYC USA, founder, Rainbow Run, the Memorial Moment, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
    • Doug Orloff, Bend USA, Gay Games pioneer, West Hollywood Aquatics Co-founder, 1983 Festival Games Swim Meet Director
    • Shiv Paul, London UK, former FGG Board member
    • Rick Peterson, Seattle USA, Gay Games pioneer, former FGG Co-President
    • Jeffry Pike, Boston USA, former FGG Board member, executor, Roy Coe Scholarship Fund
    • Emy Ritt, Paris FR, former FGG Co-President
    • Kate Rowe, Sydney AU, former FGG Board member
    • Tony Smith, Denver USA, former FGG Board member
    • Reggie Snowden, San Francisco USA, FGG Officer of Sport
    • Jean-Nickolaus Tretter, Minneapolis USA, Gay Games pioneer, Co-founder, Team Minnesota
    • Thomas F. Waddell, MD, San Francisco USA, Gay Games founder
    • Jessica Waddell Lewinstein Kopp, North Carolina USA
    • Sara Waddell Lewinstein, Oakland USA, San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Tom Waddell Award Recipient
    • Ken Ward, Gay Games I musician with the SF Gay Freedom Day Marching Ban
    • Chris Van Scoyk, Los Angeles USA, Gay Games pioneer, West Hollywood Aquatics Co-founder
    • Kathleen Webster, Philadelphia USA, former Co-President
    • Ivan Yap, Kuala Lumpur MAL, FGG Officer of Membership, Director The Straits Games
    • Mary Zaller, Cleveland USA, Gay Games 9 Director of Development

    * * *

    Thomas F. Waddell, MD was born Thomas Flubacher in Paterson New Jersey on November 1, 1937. When his parents separated during his teen years, he went to live with his neighbors, Gene and Hazel Waddell, who would later adopt him.

    (L) Tom Waddell (second from left) and (R) throwing the javelin at Springfield College, Massachusetts

    Tom attended Springfield College in Massachusetts on a track scholarship, graduating with a degree in pre-medicine. His philosophical views were greatly influenced by his first lover-mentor, the avowed socialist, F. Engels Menaker, a man 30 years his senior. Tom and Enge, as he was known, met working at a children’s camp in western Massachusetts.

    Waddell attended New Jersey College of Medicine and did his internship at Beth El Hospital in Brooklyn in 1965. He also travelled to Selma Alabama to participate in the Civil Rights Movement following the events of “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965.

    He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 as a preventive-medicine officer and paratrooper. When he protested his orders to be sent to Viet Nam, rather than be court-martialed, he was sent to train in the Decathlon for the 1968 Olympics to be held in Mexico City.

    Tom Waddell at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics

    1968 was a tumultuous year. There were student and other protests against the Viet Nam War and the draft; the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, which led to massive riots and destruction in most major American cities; and additional riots and arrests during the National Democratic Convention in Chicago that August.

    In Mexico City, on October 2, just ten days before the start of the Olympic Games, Mexican troops opened fire on a student demonstration against the crime and poverty in their country at a time when massive funding was being channeled to produce the Olympic Games. 30 students died, with another 100 injured, and several hundred arrested.

    Adding to the tension, many of the Black American Olympians threatened to boycott the Games to protest racism in the United States. Tom was supportive, and did what he could to assist them in their efforts to bring attention to their cause.

    Tom would later state that when he walked into the Estadio Olímpico Universitario on October 12 for the Olympic Opening Ceremony , he was so overcome with emotion, that he wished everyone - not just elite athletes - could experience the rush of being cheered by thousands of people.

    Tommie Smith and John Carlos on the medals stand following the 200-meter race

    On Wednesday, October 16, 1968, Waddell’s U.S. Olympic teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos captured first and third in the 200-meter sprint. When it came time for the medals ceremony, both Smith and Carlos were shoeless, with long black socks, representing the poverty and oppression of the black community. As the national anthem played, each man raised a black-gloved fist as a sign of Black Power. In addition, Smith, Carlos and Australian silver medallist Peter Norman (who would also be ostracized upon his return to Australia) all wore badges representing the Olympic Project for Human Rights, to bring awareness to racism in sports.

    The United States Olympic Committee immediately issued an apology to the International Olympic Committee, and Smith and Carlos were promptly sent home.

    It was at this point that Tom Waddell spoke out in the press in support of Smith and Carlos, with his comments being printed in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and other key international media. As the media storm continued, Tom competed in the first day of the two-day Decathlon event on Friday, October 18, setting three personal best records (long jump, high jump, shot put).

    As he was preparing for the 110-meter hurdles, the first event the following morning, he was informed that Colonel F. Don Miller, the military liaison to the US Olympic Team, wanted Waddell to be court-martialed for his comments.

    Colonel F. Donald Miller

    Colonel Francis Donald Miller was born in Racine Wisconsin in 1920, a national collegiate boxing champion, and served 26 years in the U.S. Army, receiving the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts, among other honors, for his service.

    Although nothing ever came of that threat, it did establish animosity between Waddell and Miller, who would become the Executive Director of the US Olympic Committee from 1973-1985.

    Given that Tom was an active member of the U.S. military, he was unable to compete openly as a gay man at the 1968 Olympics. He was on course to participate in the 1972 U.S. Olympic trials when he blew out his knee doing the high jump at an event in Honolulu. Although his career as an elite athlete had come to an end, his work in the community was about to begin.

    Tom Waddell & Charles Deaton, as featured in PEOPLE Magazine, 1976

    Tom met and began a relationship with Charles Deaton in 1974. Two years later, they became the first gay couple featured in People magazine. The relationship lasted through 1981, when Tom took a job overseas in Dubai. But by 1980, despite his being out of the country on business much of the time, Waddell had already begun the process to launch the inaugural Gay Olympic Games.

    * * *

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

  • 27 Jul 2022 09:37 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    With the 40th anniversary of the first Gay Games fast approaching, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) is launching a 40-day series of online posts chronicling its history, told by those who have led the global LGBTQ+ sports and culture movement since its inception. Entitled “Passing The Torch,” this series of essays will be accompanied by iconic images from the FGG digital archives.

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

    “I was part of the first out lesbian football team in Europe in the mid-1980s, participated in several Gay Games beginning in 1994, and have served on the administrative side for nearly two decades” stated current FGG Co-President Joanie Evans of London UK. “It really is extraordinary to see how people’s contributions overlap and are interwoven into the fabric of the Gay Games, and how so much of that history is relevant to our goals and our future.”

    Evans is just one of nine current and former FGG Board Co-Presidents contributing editorial content to the project. Nearly half of the two dozen individuals contributing editorial content participated in the inaugural Gay Games in 1982, with several participating in all ten Gay Games. Also sharing their stories about the impact the Gay Games has made on their lives and communities are world record holders and sports administrators from around the world.

    “Best of all, we even have previously unpublished comments made by Gay Games founder Tom Waddell, as well as a special tribute by his daughter, Jessica Waddell-Lewinstein Kopp,” added FGG Archivist and former Officer of Marketing Doug Litwin (San Francisco, USA). Litwin has been curating this project for the past two years through the FGG Culture & Ceremonies Committee along with Honourary Life Member Shamey Cramer (Los Angeles, USA), a Gay Games pioneer and associate of Dr. Waddell; as well as representatives from the Gay Games 11 Host Organization.

    The series will run from 28 July – one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium – and run through 5 September, the anniversary of the Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at THIS LINK. Also at that website, you can participate in the celebration by purchasing some of the 40th Anniversary pins now on sale (visit

    The 40th Anniversary of the first Gay Games will also be celebrated during Gay Games 11, being co-hosted in November 2023 in Hong Kong and Guadalajara, the first time the Gay Games will be held in Asia and Latin America. Registration for both of those events will open in the next few months. Links to both host city websites will be available soon and found at

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

  • 15 Dec 2021 14:28 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Two 40th Anniversary Pins Now On Sale. Order Yours Today!

    Just in time for 2022 and the 40th Anniversary of the first Gay Games, two exciting new collectible pins are now available for sale. Help kickoff the 40th Anniversary celebrations; buy yours now at (or click on the “Store” link at the top of the home page).

    To preview these exciting collectible offerings, check out THIS VIDEO.


    This is 12 pins in one elegant gift box. These pins represent each of the editions of the Gay Games. They cleverly form a “Pin Puzzle” in the shape of the Federation of Gay Games logo. Inside the beautiful gold ribbon box, you’ll find a printed card telling the design story behind this limited edition offering.

    The individual pins can be removed and worn or displayed however you like. Or, you can showcase them as they come in the gold ribbon box. Each pin measures between 1-½” and 2”.

    Only 500 of these “Pin Puzzles” have been produced and each set is individually numbered. The price is USD 50 each plus shipping.


    This is a small version of the large “Pin Puzzle,” featuring all the historic Gay Games logos arranged in the shape of the FGG logo. This is a substantial pin, measuring 2”, in solid brass with gold trim, and two pin posts to support its weight. It truly is the perfect gift for any Gay Games participant, especially if they collect pins. Order a supply for trading while in Hong Kong at Gay Games 11.

    At the online store, you can purchase individual pins or bundles of 5 or 10 pins.

    • Single Pin = USD 10 plus shipping

    • Pack of 5 Pins = USD 45 plus shipping

    • Pack of 10 Pins = USD 90 plus shipping


    The net proceeds from all pin sales will be used to further the global mission of the Federation of Gay Games, in the spirit of founder Dr. Tom Waddell.


    Visit (or click on the “Store” link in the top menu on the home page).

  • 03 Dec 2021 09:30 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    HIV at 40 is an online news project dedicated to highlighting the untold stories of the HIV epidemic in the United States. It contains a series of articles written by students at the Columbia University Journalism School in New York City.

    On 1 December, this site published a very informative article about the Gay Games and its nearly 40 year history. The article, titled "Gay Games offers HIV positive athletes a stage," was written by Master's Degree student Marco Schaden. The FGG worked with the author to provide content and photographs.

    You can find the article HERE.

  • 31 Aug 2021 19:14 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    The following article appeared on on 27 August 2021. The text is being reprinted with permission below. To read the article online, including several historic photos from the Gay Games, click HERE.

    The organizers of the San Francisco event faced major challenges, including a lawsuit by the U.S. Olympic Committee.

    By Stephen Wood,

    Singer Tina Turner was the main draw at the opening ceremony in San Francisco for the first Gay Games in 1982, but city supervisor Doris Ward may have received the biggest reaction from the crowd. “She said, ‘I’d like to invite you all to the first-ever Gay Olympics,’” remembers Jim Hahn, one of roughly 1.300 competitors in the inaugural event. “And the place just went nuts.”

    But Gay Games I, which ran from August 28-September 5, 1982, faced many challenges, including the U.S. Olympic Committee's lawsuit barring the event from using the name "Gay Olympics." The legal action was a microcosm of the discrimination dealt with by the LGBT community, which still was carving out a place for openly queer people in American society.

    “There were Rat Olympics, there were Xerox Olympics, there were Police Olympics. You could have an Olympics for anything,” says Shamey Cramer, a swimmer who co-led Team Los Angeles in the first Games, “but heaven forbid you should be gay or lesbian.”

    The U.S.O.C. succeeded in blocking the official use of the term "Olympic," but the lawsuit galvanized support for the Games, especially among the gay community.

    Participants in the inaugural event today recall Gay Games I as a watershed moment for gay athletes around the world. "When I walk into the [Gay Games] opening ceremonies," says Hahn, "I always get that sense of history coming back.”

    Ex-U.S. Olympian Helps Organize Gay Games

    Dr. Tom Waddell, a former U.S. Olympian, was one of the lead organizers of the first Gay Games. A two-sport athlete in college, Waddell—who died from AIDS in 1987—was still closeted in 1968, when he placed sixth in the decathlon at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Waddell advised American sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith there on their public statements about their Black Power salute, one of the more notable protests in sports history.

    Like many other LGBT athletes, Waddell wanted to make a similar, powerful statement with an event for gay athletes.

    “You were either a drag queen or in the leather community—those were the stereotypes that were presented to the public at that time,” says Rick Thoman, a track and field athlete who competed in the first Gay Games. “They never thought that we were able to be athletic and be gay at the same time.”

    A number of gay and lesbian sports leagues emerged in the 1970s, as the LGBT community gradually announced itself to mainstream society. Still, many outlets for gay athletes, namely bowling and billiards leagues, were still tied to the bars that had served as safe harbors for decades.

    “The Games offer another place to ‘come out’ besides a dark bar,” Jill Ramsay, the chair of swimming and diving at the first Games, told the Bay Area Reporter, one of the nation's first gay newspapers, in 1982.Like the campaigns of gay politician Harvey Milk, a well-known community organizer, the first Gay Games were a grassroots project. Ahead of the Games, a volunteer group of lesbians fixed up Kezar Stadium, one of the chief venues and former home of the San Francisco 49ers. Waddell used an ironing board as a makeshift sign-up table for the Games on a street corner in the Castro, a hub of San Francisco's gay community. Waddell said the first Gay Games were put on with a modest budget: $220,000. 

    How the First Games Play Out

    At Gay Games I, teams were organized by city, each designing their own uniforms. Age groups were not standardized, and squads for relays and other team sports were often organized on an ad hoc basis.

    Future games would be more organized, but those competitions retained several crucial elements of the first Games: Athletes of all skill levels and orientations are welcome, and winning is not considered as important as setting a personal best. Participants ranged from elite athletes to novices. 

    Charlie Carson, a swimmer who traveled to from New York for Gay Games I in 1982, recalls meeting a young swimmer from Australia who had never competed against others. While warming up, Carson and others gave him tips on the finer points of each stroke to ensure he would not get disqualified. 

    In addition to boxing, basketball, swimming and a number of other traditional Olympic sports, the Gay Games featured billiards, bowling and a physique competition held at the historic Castro Theater. For more than a week, venues around San Francisco were hubs of activity, with restaurants, stores and nightclubs in the Castro district offering special deals for athletes.

    Attendance was mediocre at first, participants say, but rose as the Games went on. About 10,000 spectators attended the opening ceremony at Kezar Stadium. One participant estimates that between 6,000 and 7,000 fans attended the closing ceremony. Extensive coverage of the first Games was found only in the Bay Area Reporter.

    Pioneering a New Tradition

    Thanks to the efforts of Cramer, Hahn, Carson, Thoman, and many others, the Gay Games have taken place every four years since 1982, with recent editions drawing comparable numbers of athletes to the Olympics and Paralympics. Carson remains proud of the impact of the Gay Games on the Olympics and broader sporting world.

    “We weren't oblivious to the fact that what we were doing at the first Games was groundbreaking,” he says. 

    Six years after the first Gay Games, equestrian Robert Dover became the first openly gay athlete to compete in the modern Olympics. Olympic gold medalist Bruce Hayes came out publicly while competing at Gay Games III in 1990. Four years later, diver Greg Louganis came out as part of the opening ceremony of Gay Games IV. According to Outsports, there were at least 185 openly LGBT athletes at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

    The Games also led to a boom in the formation of gay sports clubs across America. “People went back to their communities, and gay sports just came out of the woodwork,” says Thoman, who is still a member of a track club that formed in the wake of the Games.

    “[The Games] gave me confidence to be who I really was,” he adds. “To be able to be an athlete and be gay, it was just a huge burst of pride.”

  • 27 Aug 2021 04:47 | Shiv Paul
    • Jim Hormel, noted philanthropist, medal-winning athlete, and the first US openly gay Ambassador, passed away on August 13 at age 88.

      James Hormel's passing had a special significance for the Federation of Gay Games. In 2002, when the Gay Games Ambassadors program was first unveiled, Mr. Hormel was in the first group of four people so honored. The other three were:

    • Judith Light, Actress and Activist.
    • Tom Bianchi, Artist, Author, Photographer.
    • Bruce Hayes, Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer.

    The FGG's press release of October 28, 2002 had this summary bio about Mr. Hormel:

    James C. Hormel, Former U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg. Mr. Hormel has devoted his life to the advocacy of basic human rights, social justice, and the well-being of all individuals. In the course of 30 years of working with top business, government, and academic leaders, he has sought to create, fund, and initiate major programs addressing these concerns and to involve others in public service. He is recognized nationally for his ability to bring together people of different backgrounds and perspectives to form bridge-building coalitions based upon shared values and mutual interests.

    During the last decade, Mr. Hormel has assisted in creating the structure and programs for several community service organizations. He has been instrumental in developing resources for direct service organizations such as the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Project Open Hand, AIDS Emergency Fund, and Shanti Project that serve the HIV and AIDS community in San Francisco. At the national level, Mr. Hormel is a member of the Board of Directors of American Foundations for AIDS Research and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. He is an honorary or advisory member of several other boards, both locally and nationally.

    On June 4, 1999, James C. Hormel was appointed to be Ambassador to Luxembourg. Mr. Hormel was originally nominated in October 1997, and re-nominated on January 6, 1999, and sworn in by the Secretary on June 29, 1999.

    In a fitting statement, Alphonso David, President of the Human Rights Campaign, had this statement about Ambassador Hormel:

    “Jim Hormel was a giant in the movement for LGBTQ+ equality. He was a history-making and barrier-breaking diplomat who showed future generations of LGBTQ+ young people that there is no limit to what they can achieve. Jim also understood the power of his platform and the importance of organizing to make change. His commitment in helping to found the Human Rights Campaign and his dedication to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic ensure that the contributions he made will ripple out for years and decades to come. He was a tremendously valued member of the Human Rights Campaign community and his memory will live on at this organization and others that have made up his life’s work. Our hearts are with Jim’s husband, family and friends as we collectively mourn the loss of such a profound advocate and celebrate his decorated and impactful life.” 

  • 09 Aug 2021 10:18 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    On 8 August 2021, the Boston Globe newspaper published an excellent article entitled "The Unpaid Debt to a Pioneering Olympian" authored by Sonia K. Katyal. Sonia is Associate Dean for Faculty Research at the University of California, Berkeley.

    This article is well-timed to coincide with the unprecedented levels of participation (and successes) of openly LGBTQ+ athletes at the just-completed Tokyo Olympics. The article contrasts this situation with the mean-spirited lawsuit filed by the United States Olympic Committee against Tom Waddell (and his co-founders) over the use of the term "Gay Olympics." This contrast is stark.

    This article is being shared with the permission of the Boston Globe.

    You may read the PDF below or read the article online HERE (requires an online subscription).

    Boston Globe Waddell Article 8-8-21.pdf

  • 02 Aug 2021 12:09 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Reprinted from

    By Scottie Andrew, CNN

    July 31, 2021

    (CNN) Tom Waddell knew what to expect from an Olympics opening ceremony. He'd experienced one before as a decathlete at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. He remembered the parade of athletes from around the world, proudly marching alongside their flags before an audience of thousands, cheering on their every move.

    Tom Waddell, an athlete in the 1968 Olympics, created the Gay Games first held in 1982 to celebrate LGBTQ inclusion. The next Gay Games are scheduled for 2022 in Hong Kong. Picture above is the 2018 Gay Games opening ceremony in Paris.

    Tom Waddell, an athlete in the 1968 Olympics, created the Gay Games first held in 1982 to celebrate LGBTQ inclusion. The next Gay Games are scheduled for 2022 in Hong Kong. Picture above is the 2018 Gay Games opening ceremony in Paris.

    His gay and lesbian friends in San Francisco, though, had never experienced an event as thrilling or moving as the opening ceremony. According to various archives, he wanted to share with them the awe and the connection he felt in that moment, and thought that maybe, while they basked in the glow of the applause, the rest of the country might recognize their humanity.

    And so Waddell created the Gay Games -- then called the Gay Olympics, until the International Olympic Committee sued over the name. He saw his games as a vessel for change, a venue for activism and a celebration of LGBTQ inclusion.

    "The formula for success was visibility and identity," Waddell said in an interview following the first Gay Games in 1982. "And both were right there on the field. We were visible, and we were identified. And what did people see? They saw healthy people, out there, doing something that everyone could understand. They were out there to compete and have fun -- success. That's what the first Gay Games were all about."

    Participants compete in the dancing event of the 2018 Gay Games in Paris.

    Participants compete in the dance sport event of the 2018 Gay Games in Paris.

    Waddell died in 1987, but the Gay Games continue to this day, growing into an international phenomenon since their first iteration. They draw over 10,000 athletes and sometimes seven or eight times as many spectators, said Shiv Paul, vice president of external relations for the Federation of Gay Games. They feature many of the same sports traditionally seen at the Summer and Winter Olympics - figure skating, track and field, diving - with additions like bowling, e-sports and dodgeball.

    To read the complete article, click HERE.

© 2020 The Federation of Gay Games

The Newsletter of the FGG



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