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

    Chicago 2003 Annual Meeting: The Schism

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

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

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

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

    * * *


    An early flyer promoting the Montreal Gay Games for 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Gay Games Chicago logo

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

    The GLISA logo

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

    Gay Games VI - Part A

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

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

    Post 14a of 40 - 10 August Gay Games VI

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

    * * *

    Gay Games VI Opening Ceremony and local banners

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

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

    — Melbourne,Australia

    Event: field hockey (goalie) Silver Medal

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

    — Mumbai, India

    Event: Performed Classical Indian dances in the Open Stage series

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

    — Manila, Philippines

    Events: Art exhibition and Badminton

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    Gay Games VI Aquatics Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    South African soccer player at Gay Games VI

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

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

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

    * * *

    Stuart Borrie at Gay Games VI 2002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sports Programme

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

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

    Partnerships were essential and this included four main groups:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Sports People and Sports Partnerships

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

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

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

    Organisational Structure / Sports Department

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

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

    Venue Plan

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

    On the Field of Play

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

    * * *

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

  • 08 Aug 2022 23:55 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

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

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

    Post 13 of 40 - 9 August Johannesburg Annual Meeting and USOC Injunction

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

    * * *

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    Anthony Alston at Gay Games VIII 2010 Cologne

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

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

    .    * * *

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

    1982 - USOC injunction upheld

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Colonel Don Miller

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    Mark Brown in Gay Games I office

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    - Permission to share these excerpts provided by Publisher Tracy Baim

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    Gay Games V

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

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

    Post 12 of 40 - 8 August Gay Games V

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

    * * *

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    * * *   

    Figure Skating at Gay Games V, 1998 Amsterdam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    The Big Event, Games Change The World, Scholarships

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    FGG website home page, February 2000

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

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

    * * *

    Gay Games VI banners in Sydney, 2002

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

    * * *

    Scholarship recipients at Gay Games VII, Chicago in 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Gay Games IV

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

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

    Post 10 of 40 - 6 August Gay Games IV

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

    * * *


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

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

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

    * * *

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

    JAMES T. BALLARD: Positive Swimming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

    * * *

    Australians at Gay Games IV Opening Ceremony, NYC 1994

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

  • 05 Aug 2022 09:44 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Mending Fences, Global Expansion, and the HIV Waiver

    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 9 of 40 - 5 August Mending Fences, Global Expansion, and the HIV Waiver

    “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 FGG logo, subject of the 1992 meeting with the US Olympic Committee

    SUSAN KENNEDY: In 1992, the FGG Executive Committee went to Colorado Springs and met with then Executive Director Harvey Schiller, and staff members, regarding some lingering issues related to the logo. At that time, it was agreed that the “three interlocking circles' were acceptable to use. Another outcome at that time, was the USOC's willingness to list the Federation and host committee in their directory, which happened for a couple of years. Within a couple of years, Dr. Schiller departed the USOC to take a job with Turner Sports. After his departure, it appears that some of the logo problems reared their head again which led to work by Toby Butterfield and the 2000 agreement and IOC letter that FGG Co-Presidents Bill Wassmer and Susan Emerson unveiled in Sydney. 

    * * *

    Richard Hogan at 2016 AGA in Sydney

    RICHARD HOGAN: Over the years, I have served the Federation of Gay Games as Team Sydney’s voting delegate, an FGG Individual Director, FGG Site Selection Co-Chair and FGG Male Vice President. While I am honoured to be a ‘Life Member’ of both Team Sydney and the Federation of Gay Games, I am most proud of having received an ‘Order of Australia Medal’ for service to Sport Administration. 

    I first became involved in the Gay Games movement as a way to grieve the loss of my first partner, Phil who had recently died of AIDS. I moved from the USA to join him in Sydney and we had lived there together for nine years. I received my Australian permanent residency and later Australian citizenship on the basis of our relationship. Homosexuality had only just been legalised in Australia but the community was in a very sad, angry and distressed place. Like so many others, I was losing close friends at an alarming rate and needed something to improve my emotional state of mind. 

    I had read about the Gay Games in the local gay newspaper and was aware of a strong gay and lesbian sporting community but I had never participated in any of their events. I had recently become a volunteer with the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras which by that time had become the largest night time parade in the world. At a community fair I was made aware that they were partnering with Team Sydney in a bid to host Gay Games V. I immediately joined that effort and eventually became one of the Sydney bid presenters at the Federation of Gay Games’ Annual Meeting in Washington, DC in 1993. It was one of the best decisions in my life. 

    * * *

    Anthony Alston at Gay Games VIII 2014 in Cologne

    ANTHONY ALSTON: As I write this essay on my Federation of Gay Games (FGG) experience, I smile reflecting on the accomplishments that CHEER has made over the years and my contribution to these intertwined movements. “CHEER” refers to the cheerleaders that participate, fundraise and now compete at the Gay Games. CHEER San Francisco is the organization that I fondly call “the mothership” and has been thrilling crowds with their own unique brand of high energy performances around the world since 1980.

    Hayward Raw Rahs, predecessor to CHEER SF, at Gay Games I in 1982

    CHEER SF is the world’s first LGBTQ+ identified cheerleading team. Founded by Guy Andrade, the team was originally named the Hayward Raw Rahs. In 1990, the name was changed to the Bay Area Raw Rahs then in 1996 they became known as CHEER San Francisco. In 2004, CHEER SF established the CHEER For Life Foundation, an entity designed to enable and promote CHEER SF’s intent on giving back to its communities.

    CHEER SF today, on steps of San Francisco City Hall

    CHEER SF is an all volunteer based 501(c)3 organization with a philanthropic mission: “[To] inspire, entertain, and amaze audiences through powerful performance[s] while challenging others to be their best and supporting organizations that strengthen our communities.” CHEER SF’s beneficiaries support those living with life challenging conditions including HIV/AIDS and breast cancer.

    * * *

    Laura Moore (left) skating with her same-sex partner,, Gay Games IV, NYC 1994

    LAURA MOORE: I first heard of the Gay Games in 1991. I had recently left my husband, bought a pair of figure skates and come out. It was all part of my grand plan to accept myself for who I was and to begin to get healthy, both physically and mentally. At the first NYC Pride March that I attended as an out lesbian and beginning figure skater, I was thrilled to see a few members of NY in ’94 sharing information about the Gay Games coming to NY.

    The next week I visited a tiny volunteer office and tried to register for figure skating. I had a crazy fantasy about skating pairs with another women. A volunteer politely cut me off, explaining that the event would be in the summer. She also let me know that softball was popular with lesbians. I had avoided gym class as a child, not realizing until decades later that I might have actually met another lesbian if I had been interested in playing outside.

    My interests in vintage dresses, antiques, and hosting dinner parties turned out to be more aligned with those of the gay male friends I was beginning to make in skating classes. I made a coffee date with Arthur Luiz. We decided to try to convince the organizers that people would pay money to see gay men in sparkles and spandex partnering each other on the ice. I only knew one other out lesbian figure skater at the time. That day, Arthur and I founded the International Gay Figure Skating Union and reached out to every skater we knew, looking to find a few out skaters.

    Activist Ann Northrop, was on the NY in ’94 board and lived in my Chelsea apartment building. She loved the idea when I pitched it to her, and challenged me to prove it.

    So, Arthur and I put on the first ever queer figure skating show (Pride Skate) in 1991. I financed it. We flew in a few skaters, sold tickets and invited Ann in her rental skates to join us on the ice for the big announcement.

    Figure Skaters Trevor Kruse and Darren Singbiel of Toronto at Games IV figure skaters protesting "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding gays in the U.S. military

    The next thing we knew, Arthur and I were put in charge of running figure skating for Gay Games IV. It was a simpler time in the figure skating world. We wrote our own rules for the competition and easily received permission from the US and Canadian governing bodies for their skaters and judges to participate.

    * * *

    Susan Kennedy (second from right), FGG Co-President, Gay Games IV, NYC 1994

    SUSAN KENNEDY: Gay Games IV: New York City 1994 raised the profile of the Games significantly, and as home to some of the leading AIDS activists and organizations, there was significant interest in mounting an effort to obtain what was known as a “10-day blanket waiver” that would allow individuals who were HIV positive / living with AIDS to enter the United States to participate in the Games. Under normal circumstances at that time, the United States barred nonresidents with HIV from entering the country.

    Entry forms asked pointed questions about one’s HIV status, which would be used to deny entry. While many individuals chose to simply lie on their forms, there was concern that those traveling with medications, etc. would be subjected to discrimination and denied entry. The blanket waiver made it possible for participants to not declare their HIV status if they were entering the U.S. as a participant in Gay Games IV.

    The Federation took the lead role with the U.S Government in this process. Co-President Rick Peterson and I began researching and reaching out to individuals within the various departments that would be involved in the decision making. Over time, we had established contact with representatives in the State Department, Health and Human Services, and Immigration and Naturalization Services. Fortunately, we were in the early years of the Clinton administration and while many staff members were federal employees who simply worked within a department through numerous administrations, we were fortunate to have high-ranking officials who were more receptive to our request than others might have been.

    At the time, a “blanket waiver” had only been issued once and that was for the 1990 International AIDS Conference in San Francisco. Our job was to make the case that the Gay Games was an event that empowered people and provided the opportunity to participate in a positive event. We also discussed the fact that the Gay Games provided an opportunity to educate people about those living with HIV.

    In the fall of 1993, when the Federation held its annual meeting in Washington D.C., Rick and I had the opportunity to meet with members of various departments face to face to make the case for the Gay Games. While those meetings were very positive, we still needed to continue our efforts. Finally, in March of 1994, the announcement was made by Attorney General, Janet Reno that the waiver and been granted.

    I happened to be in D.C. at the time, having been invited to speak at a briefing of Regional INS Directors about the Gay Games. Since 1994 was also a World Cup year, INS realized that they were going to have thousands of people entering the country for both events. This briefing not only covered preparations for the World Cup; it also provided an opportunity for the directors to learn about the Gay Games and its. Also included in their two-day conference was INS Waiver Procedures and Sensitivity issues as well as cultural sensitivity overall.

    The blanket waiver drew considerable attention, not all of it positive, but a TV appearance on the Larry King Live TV show, by Brent Nicholson Earle and I provided an opportunity to discuss the waiver and the positive aspects of the Gay Games.

    Obtaining the waiver for Gay Games IV likely made the process to obtain the waiver for Gay Games VII in Chicago a much easier task and from my personal perspective continues to reinforce the fact that “Gay Games Change the World.” There’s no doubt it has made a difference.

    * * *

  • 04 Aug 2022 11:52 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games III

    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 8 of 40 - 4 August - Gay Games III

    4 - 11 August, 1990; 8,800 participants; Vancouver, BC Canada

    “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.

    * * *

    Doug Litwin and the Festival Band on stage at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver

    DOUG LITWIN: Gay Games III was the most amazing week of my life. We OWNED that city. Everywhere you went in town there was visible evidence of the Gay Games. I was happily super busy that week, participating in multiple band events, the bowling tournament, and the racquetball tournament where I won my first medals (a gold and a silver). I enjoyed all of this with my loving partner and the week was pure magic. I also attended the annual meetings of the Lesbian and Gay Bands of America, representing my Band and getting elected to their Board for the first time (I served 20 years on that Board, including 4 years as President).

    * * *

    Gay Games III Opening Ceremony, BC Place, Vancouver. Photo: Erik Graff

    JESSICA WADDELL-LEWINSTEIN: My first memory of the Games was in Vancouver, on stage as a child with my mom before I ran off for hugs from people I recognized in the front row.

    * * *

    JAMES HAHN: Gay Games III in Vancouver was the toughest bowling competition, before or since. This was the first games held outside the United States. It was also the first games to use a five-game set instead of the usual three, and scores were cumulative. The qualifying rounds consisted of 15 games instead of the usual 9. It was very tough and not only did you have to be good, you had to be consistently good The gold medal in men's singles went to good friend Kevin Schwabe from San Francisco who averaged better than 215 over what seemed like a zillion games.

    That Gay Games the Canadian Comedienne, Robin Tyler, who told two jokes during the Closing Ceremony that I remember to this day., one being “Do you know what drag is? It's when a gay man wears everything a lesbian won’t.”

    * * *

    Brent Nicholson Earle at Gay Games III Opening Ceremony

    BRENT NICHOLSON EARLE: Gay Games III : Vancouver 1990 was the first time the Gay Games were going to be taking place outside of San Francisco. I thought we should have our own torch run, but a torch wasn’t the right symbol, because we had been sued by the United States Olympic Committee over our original name: The Gay Olympic Games. The idea came to me to create a relay in which we would pass the rainbow flag. It was six months out to the games: not enough time to organize a flag relay, so I decided to just do it myself.

    The plan was to do it like we had done the run around America. This was only a 1,000 mile chunk. I remember calling my Mom and asking if she would you like to go out again. Her answer was, “Of course.” We gave ourselves eight weeks to carry it into the Opening Ceremony.

    The morning I ran into Vancouver, a couple hundred runners from the Gay Games from all over the world joined me. We finished at the BC Place Stadium. I ran by myself with the flag into the stadium. My Mom and my two Road Managers, Terrah Keene and Skylar Fein were on the stage waiting for me.

    * * *

    Wrestlers WithOut Borders logo

    GENE DERMODY: Another milestone was achieved in Vancouver 1990 Gay Games when the wrestlers met to create what would become Wrestlers WithOut Borders (WWB) to be international, facilitate the creation of LGBTQ+ clubs, and operate within the FGG as the wrestling representative. WWB was then positioned to push strongly for the "Red Book" project within the FGG directly.  

    * * *

    RICK PETERSON: Near the conclusion of Gay Games III, Rick Peterson and Peg Gray had the exciting duty to announce the news about where Gay Games IV would be taking place. HERE is an article about that event. To see an even more exciting video of the announcement of the host for Gay Games IV in 1994, click HERE.

    * * *

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

  • 03 Aug 2022 09:27 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Building Blocks, Origin Stories, and Growing Pains

    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 7 of 40 - 3 August - Building Blocks, Origin Stories, and Growing Pains

    “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.

    * * *

    Following Gay Games II, more of the teams in the various sport disciplines began to create their own networks as more and more sports teams took the courage to be out and proud. It was also a time to transition from having the original host organization produce the event, to figuring out a way to select the next host city through an open bid process. But in order to do so, an international governing body would need to be created to steward the quadrennial event.

    * * *


    BRENT NICHOLSON EARLE: I was not in on the ground floor of the Gay Games movement. In 1985, I decided to run around the entire US to bring attention to the AIDS crisis, a project that became the American Run for the End of AIDS. I had no track record as a marathon runner and needed some prominent people in the LGBT movement and AIDS organizations behind me. I reached out to GMHC (Gay Men’s Health Crisis) but they were too busy trying to keep people alive. Everywhere I tried, I came up dry.

    I asked other runners how I could possibly train for a 9,000 mile plus run. The advice I got was to train to run marathons and just keep doing them. That year I did five marathons, one of which was the San Francisco marathon. I had a 30-day Greyhound bus pass, which got me to the west coast. I knew I needed Tom Waddell’s endorsement but hadn’t met him yet.

    Tom agreed to meet at his office at San Francisco General Hospital. I had prepared a packet of information but he didn’t look at anything. He didn’t even question me. He just said, “This is fantastic!” and invited me to a kickoff party for Gay Games II in his home that weekend. That afternoon I met a lot of the people who would become beloved friends and colleagues on the Federation of Gay Games.

    Brent Nicholson Earle and the American Run for the end of AIDS

    The American Run for the End of AIDS went from March 1,1986 to October 31,1987 with Gay Games II in the middle of August 1986. I took a detour out of Billings, Montana to run the marathon in the Gay Games in San Francisco.

    Tom had been very sick. He came down with pneumocystis right before the Opening Ceremony and got out of the hospital just in time to throw the javelin and win the gold medal. He was still really shaky as he spoke at Closing Ceremony and urged everyone to come out.

    * * *

    * * *

    Article about Joanie Evans; Joanie's winning Hackney FC team (Joanie in back row at left): Joanie's medal winning team at GGVI, Sydney 2002

    JOANIE EVANS: I was lucky enough to join Hackney Women’s FC, at the same time I came out in 1987. They were already an established team that was predominantly lesbian, they weren’t playing as an ‘out’ team. Due to loads of discrimination around our sexuality from our opposition, their fans and the league, the team held a meeting which subsequently led to us being the 1st ‘Out’ team in Europe… we were pipped to title of the first team in the world, by a few months, by the Flying Bats in Australia.

    Playing with this bunch of diverse women, made me feel part of a wider community. In the beginning the team had no real skill, but as a unit we felt we could conquer anything. We played in the third tier of the Greater London League and before we came out we found it difficult to find players, but after me and the team were featured on national TV, our membership grew beyond proportion, with the amount of lesbians that wanted to play for us. Today the team has been going strong for more than 30 yrs and they have 3 teams playing regularly.

    * * *

    The first Pink Flamingo show - Gay Games III, Vancouver 1990

    CHARLIE CARSON: Pink Flamingo

    The Pink Flamingo aquatics show – it’s a Gay Games event never envisioned by the 1982 founders, that’s for sure! But now, after three decades, it is a solid tradition – not to mention hilariously fun and hotly contested. In the latest edition, a packed house at Gay Games 10: Paris 2018 saw London’s Out to Swim team take first place.

    During the Gay Games’ early years, cross-dressing was enough to be a star on a pool deck in keeping with the LGBTQ+ community’s long history of gender bending transgression. And at the first two Gay Games that’s all it was – a man in a woman’s swimsuit at the swimmer’s party in 1982; a male relay team similarly attired upstaging the other medalists on the awards stand in 1986.

    Also in 1986, Vancouver’s English Bay Swim Team added a pink flamingo element at a meet with their Seattle Orca friends. Organizers were inspired to create an exhibition relay race by a Vancouver TV commercial for a home insulation company showing a yard full of pink lawn flamingos. In a 1994 interview before Gay Games IV, English Bay’s John Whistler said, “We wanted to have a fun event to take a little of the competitive edge off.” The only rule was that the swimmers hd to carry the flamingo and hand it off to the next member of the relay team. How each team carried the bird was up to them.

    At the first International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) Championships in early 1987, New York swimmers came out before a relay dressed as Lady Liberty – and this time swimming in their lycra gowns in the race itself (never mind that they weren’t even competitive; the fun was the point).

    The pink flamingo batons next became a tradition at Seattle’s Northwest Gay & Lesbian Sports Festival beginning that July 1987. Picking up a cue from New York a few months earlier, the teams came out from the locker rooms in various costumes, not all cross-dressed. By this point, the event was called the Pink Flamingo Relay.

    When Vancouver hosted IGLA’s 1989 Championships, the hosts made the lawn flamingos into hats with pink ribbons to tie them onto the swimmers’ heads. Costumes were now entrenched as part of the program.

    For Vancouver’s Gay Games III, the parade of costumed relay teams was the longest yet, with superheroes, fish and lobsters, mermen, Madonna look-alikes, Carmen Mirandas, and more. But New York upped the ante dramatically, with 40 – not four – 40 identical outfits based on Marlo Thomas’ character in the 1960s sitcom, “That Girl.” Marlos came out not only on the pool deck but down through the spectator stands, and before long some were going off the 10-meter diving tower.

    Before the relay race itself, 20 Marlos lined up on each pool end to support their swimming relay teammates and, without advance planning, suddenly hopped into the water, bopping up and down to meet in the middle (and… never mind that they weren’t competitive; the fun was the point). At other sports venues all over town the next day, people asked, “Did you hear what happened at the pool last night?!”

    Various Pink Flamingo events at the Gay Games

    By 1994 at New York’s Gay Games IV, the costumes weren’t enough – the teams began creating three-to-four-minute skits. And Team New York Aquatics established the rule that the host team would not compete because home advantage meant far more participants would be possible than likely for the traveling teams.

    The relay portion – exchanging pink flamingo hats or water bottles or something else – was dropped over the next several years, with the event settling into its current state of skits only. Sydney’s 2002 Gay Games VI had the largest number of teams ever participate – sixteen.

    Pink Flamingo, Gay Games VI, Sydney 2002

    Local host capacity sometimes limits the number of non-aquatics Gay Games or IGLA participants to the Pink Flamingo, so reserve your place early when tickets are available at future Games.

    * * *

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

  • 02 Aug 2022 10:29 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Gay Games II

    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 6 of 40 - 2 August - Gay Games II

    9 - 17 August, 1986; 3,500 participants; San Francisco, CA USA

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception. The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 05 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *

    Opening Ceremony, Gay Games II, 1986

    To see video of Executive Director Shawn Kelly speaking at the Closing Ceremony, click HERE

    * * *

    Australian bowlers at Gay Games II, 1986

    DOUG LITWIN: In the lead up to GGII, there was huge excitement in the bowling leagues. At the time, only one team could represent each city. We had a very spirited local tournament to determine which team would officially represent San Francisco. My team lost, so our team entered Gay Games II as representing McKees Rocks, PA, the hometown of my teammate, the late Bill Gaul. We didn’t win a medal but the experience was amazing.


    Left: Bands ready to perform at Opening Ceremony. Right: Trapeze performing above the Band at the "Greatest of Ease" concert

    I also performed with more than 150 band mates at the Opening Ceremony, a mid-week parade, a sold-out circus-themed concert at elegant Davies Symphony Hall, one or two sporting events, and the Closing Ceremony. An indelible memory was being on stage dressed as a circus clown while a hunky man performed on a trapeze overhead… with no net!

    * * *


    Photo 1: Jeffry Pike swimming at Gay Games II. Photo: Roy Coe, taken just before Jeffry's bronze medal swim
    Photo 2: Jeffry Pike and Patrick Kelly performing "Marsupials" (choreographed by Alvin Mayes) at the Gay Games II - Festival of the Arts, August 1986.). Photo; Roy Coe
    Photo 3: Gay Games II Closing ceremony with Team Boston pal, Amanda

    JEFFRY PIKE: When I opened my front door in Somerville, Massachusetts, US, in June 1986, I immediately felt that I had met a kindred spirit. Roy Muir Coe had travelled from San Francisco to interview me for his book, A Sense of Pride: The Story of Gay Games II.

    Roy Coe in 1988

    In the six years that I knew Roy, before his death in 1992, and the thirty years since, I have confirmed that what drew Roy and me together was our shared search to understand ourselves and our belief in the life changing power of the Gay Games. By inviting each person to tell their story, we all find camaraderie within LGBTQ+ athletics and arts communities, and beyond. In the spirit of A Sense of Pride, for which Roy invited me to tell a bit of my story, in this essay, I will tell a small bit of Roy’s story and introduce some of the people touched by his generosity.

    Roy Coe's book (available on

    “In the fall of 1984, I walked into San Francisco Arts and Athletics’ dusty office located in the Pride Center, a former convent which had been converted by the city into offices for Gay Community groups,” wrote Roy in A Sense of Pride. He volunteered to be Communications Director for GGII.

    At the same time that Roy worked as Communications Director, he began interviewing athletes and an artist intending to participate in Gay Games II - San Francisco for a book to illuminate their goals and aspirations. In the book, Roy also chronicled, from start to finish, Gay Games II and included a history of Gay Games I - San Francisco (1982). In order to do all this, Roy took a two-year sabbatical from his day job as a computer systems manager. He devoted everything to the Games.

    Roy Coe at Gay Games II, 1986

    In the introduction to A Sense of Pride, Roy’s motivation for both volunteering for the Gay Games II organization and seeking out other participants’ stories becomes clear. Roy “drew personal inspiration and clarity of purpose” from one particular interviewee’s observations of his own community in Atlanta, Georgia, US.

    Roy elaborated, “Simply stated, athletics in the gay community offer hope, spirit, and camaraderie to all who participate. And all are welcome. ... This spirited week (of Gay Games II) represents the culmination of my own desire for community involvement and more positive self-image. I have met hundreds of athletes with similar dreams.”

    In Roy’s documenting various details that the organizers faced leading up to the GGII, he reveals that he also became part of a vital close-knit, dedicated team that found solutions as each challenge appeared.

    Seemingly tireless, Roy also found time to compete in Track and Field events at the Games and be part of a silver medal winning 4x100 relay team.

    After Gay Games II and the publishing of A Sense of Pride, Roy’s involvement in the Gay Games changed to being a supporter of participants and patron of the Cultural Festival of the Games.

    When I was invited to be a charter member of the Federation of Gay Games in 1989, Roy, with his experience from GG II, happily became my sounding board and source for perspective on the politics around and historical details related to various Gay Games topics.

    When Roy died in 1992, it was revealed that he intended to continue supporting the Games through the endowment of the Roy M. Coe Scholarship Fund. His goal was to ensure that others would be able to attend the Games. He specifically wanted funds to cover travel expenses to bring first-time participants from continents other than the host city’s continent.

    * * *

    JACK GONZALEZ: Four years later, San Francisco is again the host for Gay Games II. So much seems to have happened in those four years. The mood, while still one of excitement and high energy, is somewhat muted, because no matter how joyous an event we are there for – one cannot forget the epidemic, which in those four years took so many of our friends and loved ones. The Castro District, which is the heart of the Gay community, was still buzzing with multitudes of people (tons of restaurants & bars there). Still buzzing with activity - but not like it was four years prior. It felt like some of the puzzle pieces were missing. 

    But as they say: the show must go on. This time around, the Los Angeles contingent was better prepared. We were (almost) all wearing an actual team uniform for Opening Ceremony. I requested housing and was set up to stay in the Twin Peaks area. My host, who lived alone, was a very nice and handsome man. He was sick with AIDS. A few years earlier, I may have felt unsafe, but by then, most of us were aware of how the disease spreads, and conducted ourselves accordingly. One evening after tournament play, while sitting around chatting with my host, he asked me if I would object to ‘holding him’. I was a bit taken aback. It did not take me long to understand that he had no human contact with anyone and was very lonely. I did not mind at all - hugging him tight and letting him feel my warmth and humanity.

    Volleyball at Gay Games II, 1986

    For these Games, I did not put together my own team (volleyball). I played on a friend’s team. I was familiar and friendly with all of my new teammates. By this time, most of the other cities (states) had formed more competitive teams, so we were not favored to win as we were previously. Again, San Francisco did not disappoint with their excellent organizing skills. The facilities, although not located in the Gay Ghetto, were excellent. The tournament itself was well run. I have very little memories of the competition itself. This is most likely due to not winning. My brain has its own agenda as to what it sees as worth remembering. Or so it seems.

    I wish I had better memories of these Games. I do recall that although a joyous event for many, there was also the underlying fact that many of us had lost friends... and it wasn’t over. The disease continued to take more of us.

    * * *

    Jim Hahn (at right in blue shirt) at Gay Games II bowling venue 1986

    JAMES HAHN: In Gay Games II, I came as close to winning a team medal as I’d ever come. Our team from San Jose, California made it to the second round of competition and did well coming in 5th. We won the first game of the stepladder finals leaving us just one game to win in order to qualify for a medal. Unfortunately, our best bowler, bowled nearly 80 pins under his average and we missed out. He was so broken-hearted, he went back to his hotel room and cried. He passed away from AIDS about a year later. This proved to be the best competition in bowling, before or since.

    * * *


    Swimming for Our Lives -
    Gay Games Changed My Life and the Life of our Global Gay Community Forever

    Rick Peterson at open water swimming event, 2022

    I first heard about Gay Games after Dana Cox, a good friend in my hometown of Seattle, enthused at a dinner party that he’d just returned from the first Gay Games in San Francisco with two gold medals for swimming the 50-yard and 100-yard breaststroke. I was impressed and surprised! I didn’t know that side of Dana! I didn’t realize he swam. I didn’t know about Gay Games, had never heard of it.

    Actually, at that time in 1982, I had no perception of any opportunity to participate in Seattle’s emerging gay community as a swimmer or athlete (other than bowling and softball at the time, plus a little volleyball), let alone anything as fantastic-sounding as what Dana described— entering Kezar Stadium along with about 1,500 other LGBTQ+ athletes and artists at the Opening Ceremonies of Gay Games and being serenaded by Tina Turner! I think Dana was the only swimmer from Seattle. I was fascinated.

    Rick Peterson, Washington State University swimmer

    In my “past life” from the time I was ten years old until May 1973 when I graduated from university, I’d been a swimmer. Big time. I was a champion high school swimmer, followed by four varsity years as a NCAA division one athlete on scholarship at Washington State University. But after I graduated, I thought I would never seriously swim again and I was okay with that.

    And that’s pretty much what happened. Instead of continuing to “be a swimmer,” I drove to San Francisco cold-turkey from Bellingham, a small town near the Canadian border where I’d grown up as kid, with everything I owned crammed in the car. As I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, I had no idea I’d landed in an epicenter of emerging Gay Liberation. That was September 1973, just after I’d turned 22.

    I kissed swimming goodbye, diving full speed into a blistering decade of coming out, being in a relationship, dancing and having fun at discos, working for the Sierra Club national headquarters, enjoying the unique bliss of being young, healthy and gay in and around the San Francisco mecca. I continued to think of myself as “an athlete” in some sense, at least inwardly. My world view continued to be heavily influenced by years of training as a swimmer, being a part of a team, putting in the effort, honing, self-discipline, being brave enough to put yourself out there to participate and compete at your best, being coachable, being persistent, discovering you can be really good at something if you apply yourself.

    Nearly a decade later, after Dana surprised me with his story about participating in the first Gay Games, I started to think about dipping my toe in a pool for the first time since hanging up my suit in 1973, this time at a weekly lap swim at Queen Anne pool in Seattle known unofficially as “gay swim night.” Nothing organized. No-one really competing, mostly just guys and a few gals enjoying staying in shape and getting the “swimmer’s high” of a good self-imposed hour-long workout in a lane you shared with other gay people you did not know until then. New acquaintances! New friends! Swimming feels great! It was so fun to be back in the water—especially in a way that felt safe and welcoming, sharing the magic of gliding through water with kindred spirits.

    Orca Swim Club logo

    I and a few others, including Dana and John Horman, another friend I’d made through “gay swim night,” decided to form a “gay swim team” for Seattle. This was in 1984. We called ourselves the Emerald Orca Swim Club (Seattle is nicknamed the “Emerald City” for being surrounded by evergreen forests and mountains). I became co-captain and shortly thereafter Allison Beezer joined me as co-captain—a wonderful woman involved with guiding clients on socially-responsible investing and financial planning. One of our biggest first goals was to organize swimmers and divers from Seattle to participate in Gay Games II in San Francisco in 1986. Dana would no longer be the only Gay Games swimmer from Seattle!

    To get ready, we needed to not only practice swimming, we needed coaching, we needed pool access, we needed to practice actually swimming in competitions, diving off the starter blocks, having legal turns at the end of each pool length, not getting disqualified for touching the pool end with one hand versus two hands simultaneously as required by USMS rules for breaststroke, etc.

    As our Orca Swim Club began to grow, it became clear that we were definitely going to send a dozen or more swimmers to Gay Games II. It also became clear that other sporting interests in Seattle’s growing LGBTQ+ community were emerging and coming into existence—spurred on by the excitement of being able to participate at Gay Games II. A real movement was beginning—a whole new form of “gay liberation” centered on the health, fitness and camaraderie unique to participatory sport. What a thrill and wonder! Given the level playing field unique to sport, we gay men, women and the full spectrum of gender identities could not only hold our own, we could compete with the best.

    Rick Peterson at Gay Games II in 1986

    Picking up on this burgeoning sport scene, as co-captain of the Orca Swim Club, I began talking with other emerging sport leaders of other gay teams in Seattle including Frontrunners, the volleyball team, soccer team, softball and bowling leagues and more. I and a few others recognized the value of forming some kind of umbrella LGBTQ+ sport organization in Seattle that could help support new and emerging sport teams, and band together to promote the opportunity and excitement of fielding a big multisport team to Gay Games II. So, I helped co-found Team Seattle in 1985 and became co-chair along with women’s soccer player Danette Leonardi.

    After Gay Games II, to keep the ball rolling, the Orca Swim Club organized what we continue to believe was the first USMS-sanctioned LGBTQ+ swim meet possibly in the world, or at least up to that point in the United States. We hosted a USMS-sanctioned dual swim meet with our wonderful neighbor LGBTQ+ swim team 2-hours north in Vancouver, British Columbia, the English Bay Swim Club.

    It was at this first dual meet in 1987 that the Orca Swim Club introduced the “Pink Flamingo Relay,” a fun way to cap off the swim meet and “make it gay.” Since then, the Pink Flamingo Relay has continued to grow and become a true highlight of every Gay Games aquatics competition—and at annual International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA) championships.

    Up until this point, swimming at Gay Games I and II was not USMS-sanctioned. No USMS swimming records could be set, nor World Masters records. For that to be possible, swim competitions in the United States had to be sanctioned by USMS, the governing body of masters swimming in the U.S. (with similar country-specific masters organizations globally, comprising World Masters Swimming).

    To obtain USMS sanctioning for our first swim meet, we had to overcome unexpected objections from the regional USMS sanctioning body in our area. Usually, getting a swim meet sanctioned was a rubber-stamp kind of thing. But here we were, in a fight with misinformed people prejudiced against gay people, even people who feared we’d spread AIDS in the pool. This was all happening as the enormous and terribly frightening AIDS pandemic was accelerating. Misinformation was rampant. Fear was gripping.

    Long story short—with the help of Cal Anderson, the first and only openly gay elected member of the Washington State Legislature at that time—we cried foul, and got our sanctioning. And the rest is history because after that, the Orca Swim Team became one of the most popular USMS swim meet hosts in Western Washington. Stroke by stroke, we began changing the swimming world in our little neck of the woods.

    Meanwhile, Team Seattle focused on gathering a huge team to participate in Gay Games III in 1990 not far away in Vancouver, Canada—the first Gay Games outside San Francisco. To build momentum and interest, we organized our first multisport festival in the summer of 1987—dubbed the Northwest Gay/Lesbian Sports Festival. Coordinating with local LGBTQ+ sport teams and leagues, we offered about 15 sports including the first-ever LGBTQ water polo tournament as part of our aquatics line-up, spearheaded by Mark Schoofs from San Francisco. Which then spurred the birth of our first LGBTQ+ water polo team in Seattle so we could participate in our own tournament!

    Everything just kept building—now I was a swimmer, a water polo player, co-caption of the Orca Swim Club, and co-chair of Team Seattle spearheading a 15-sport festival on the way to attracting more participants than the first Gay Games in San Francisco (all while holding down a full-time job in the creative department of an ad agency)!

    Lots of fitful nights waking up in a panic. The combined experience had a huge impact on my personal and professional life, helped me find inner courage, work with diverse groups of people, find common cause, and discover I had more leadership skills than I’d given myself credit for. The confidence I was able to develop in the LGBTQ+ sports community ended up having a huge impact on my advertising career, as well. Thank you Gay Games.

    As our first Northwest Gay/Lesbian Sports Festival was approaching, I learned Dr. Tom Waddell, U.S. Olympic decathlete and Gay Games founder, was set to visit to Seattle for a television interview about the Gay Games and about him having HIV and AIDS. Somehow I was able to make contact with Dr. Waddell and he graciously invited me to meet and have lunch at his hotel prior to his interview.

    Tom Waddell was, and remains today, someone I strongly revered and almost idolized. I was greatly humbled to meet him. Really, I was thunderstruck and hardly knew what to say. Tom was such a supremely well-spoken and soft-spoken man, beyond inspirational. He was so enthused and encouraging about our upcoming LGBTQ+ sports festival in Seattle slated for July 1987, totally inspired by Gay Games.

    Dr. Waddell and I had our lunch on Feb. 26, 1987. He was already clearly suffering and frail at the time. I wondered how long Tom would live. People were beginning to die left and right as the AIDS pandemic asserted itself strongly, a very frightening time. Without knowing if it could ever happen, I invited Dr. Waddell to come to our first sports festival as a special guest of honor and speaker. But less than five months later on July 11, 1987, Dr. Waddell passed away at age 49, with his last words being, “Well, this ought to be interesting,” according to his wife and fellow Gay Games leader Sara Waddell Lewinstein.

    It was terrible to lose the visionary and inspiring founder of Gay Games. But Tom and his fellow members of San Francisco Arts and Athletics had permanently set in motion a movement destined to sweep the global LGBTQ+ world, and really transform what it could mean to live as an empowered member of one of the world’s most historically marginalized groups.

    Gay Games founder Paul Mart receiving the Tom Waddell Award at Gay Games III in 1990

    Instead of Dr. Tom Waddell showing up at our first Northwest Gay/Lesbian Sports Festival in 1987, another legendary board member of San Francisco Arts and Athletics arrived as our guest of honor instead, the irascible, cowboy-hat wearing Paul Mart. At the conclusion of our 3-day sports festival, we hosted a big closing ceremonies dinner with about 700 athletes attending, and I’ll never forget when Paul Mart presented us with a beautiful, original “Gay Olympic Games” poster, banned by the U.S. Olympic Committee (in fact all such posters were ordered destroyed, but just a few somehow managed to survive, and now, Paul Mart had just presented us with one, with the blessings of by-then-deceased Tom Waddell).

    Swimming had again become the deep keel that was keeping my ship upright in a heavy seas. And I wasn’t the only one—by now I knew that many in our LGBTQ+ community were joining swim teams, and all kinds of other new teams all over the world partly in response to the inspiration of Gay Games. As the crushing weight of the AIDS pandemic continued to build, we were all trying to survive and thrive in a scary time. In a sense, we were all “swimming for our lives,” connecting to community, support and strength through sport (and culture, too).

    The following summer, Team Seattle hosted the 2nd edition of the Northwest Gay/Lesbian Sports festival, and introduced such sports as fencing and croquet (the latter making it into the roster of Gay Games III sports in Vancouver 1990). Participation grew to more than 1,700 athletes from all over the U.S., Canada, and further afield.

    Wisely, in about 1987, Vancouver Arts and Athletics, the organizers of Gay Games III, started inviting known LGBTQ+ sport and cultural leaders from all over North America including some from Europe, to visit Vancouver for intensive 3-day planning conferences to help Vancouver plan the best possible Gay Games III. I was among the delegation from Seattle, joined by fellow Team Seattle board members Margaret Hedgecock and Betty Whitaker.

    At these Gay Games III planning conferences I met other like-minded LGBTQ+ sport leaders including some very talented and strong women: Peg Grey from Team Chicago, and Susan Kennedy from Team San Francisco. I was really enjoying getting to know women—women I grew to admire and like very much. This was all fostered by my involvement with Gay Games and our nascent international LGBTQ+ sport and cultural movement. For the sake of continuity and “lessons learned,” key members of the San Francisco Arts and Athletics board also attended these Vancouver planning sessions including Sara Waddell Lewinstein, Paul Mart, attorney Larry Sheehan, and Gay Games II executive director Shawn Kelly.

    To see video of Executive Director Shawn Kelly speaking at the Closing Ceremony, click HERE

    One day in early 1989 I got an unexpected phone call from Larry Sheehan, co-president of San Francisco Arts and Athletics, the organization Dr. Waddell had founded to produce Gay Games I and II. SFAA was about to rename itself the Federation of Gay Games to make it clear Gay Games didn’t belong to San Francisco, but rather to the world. SFAA planned to expand its board of directors beyond just San Francisco and Bay Area members. These actions would occur at a special SFAA board meeting which Larry proposed to hold in Seattle in early July, 1989.

    Rick Peterson, FGG Co-President

    He told me that he and other members of the continuing SFAA board of directors would attend  including SFAA co-president Rikki Streicher, along with key leaders from Vancouver 1990 including Richard Dopson, and a small group of LGBTQ+ sport leaders involved in Vancouver’s Gay Games III planning sessions. Larry told me I was invited, along with fellow Team Seattle leaders Betty Whitaker and Margaret Hedgecock. He asked if I’d help find a good venue for the meeting (I said “yes”), and then he dropped the bombshell:

    “We want to nominate you to be co-president of the Federation of Gay Games."

    FGG leadership at Gay Games IV. L to R: Brent Nicholson Earle, Rikki Streicher, Sara Waddell Lewinstein, Susan Kennedy, Rick Peterson

    That began a dramatic new chapter in my Gay Games adventures. Including, during the five years I served as FGG co-president, the thrill of seeing Gay Games grow from 3,500 participants at Gay Games II in San Francisco in 1986, to 7,500 participants at Gay Games III in Vancouver in 1990, to 11,500 participants in 1994 at Gay Games IV in New York City. And along the way, breaking barriers and celebrating the development of sport and culture groups— creating exciting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ athletes and artists worldwide to participate, be included, and reach for personal bests.

    * * *

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

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