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Federation of Gay Games News

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

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

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

  • 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.  

  • 01 Aug 2022 10:30 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    The Pioneers

    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 5 of 40 - 1 August - The Pioneers

    “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.

    * * *

    Doug Litwin (left) with Racquetball doubles partner Scott Miller at Gay Games IV in 1994

    DOUG LITWIN: Despite my long history with the Gay Games, it still feels like I was a bit of a late arriver. I was living in San Francisco at the time of Gay Games I, having moved there in 1978, just a few months before the City Hall assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. At that point, I was not fully engaged in the local gay community, and as such, I honestly was not even aware that this event was happening. I know… this might be hard to believe, but Gay Games I was a relatively small event. I regret not participating in 1982, as I could have met Tom Waddell and some of the other founders of this life-changing event.

    * * *

    L to R: Rand Wiseman-Curtright, Shamey Cramer, Phil Manciero, Chair John Logan, Christopher Street West L.A. Pride Sports Committee, 1984

    SHAMEY CRAMER: The week of Gay Games I was the first time the various out-of-town team organizers had the chance to meet and interact. Beginning in October 1982, and continuing through 1985, ten co-chairs from across North America joined with Tom Waddell to engage in monthly conference calls. These individuals from Boston, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Vancouver created the International Gay Olympic Association (IGOA), an ad-hoc committee that Tom called for the creation of in the January 1982 Gay Olympic Games newsletter.

    Two newspaper articles regarding the formation of the IGOA

    The IGOA helped establish goals, philosophies, and benchmarks for the Gay Games; discussed how to go about creating a process to select future host cities; and developed and produced activities outside of the quadrennial event, which would once again be hosted by San Francisco for Gay Games II. With no precedent to guide them, Team Minnesota created a bid document to host a Lesbian and Gay Winter Olympic Games in January 1986, and published the quarterly Gay BLEEP Games newsletter; Team Los Angeles produced The Festival Games (1983-85), the first annual multi-sport festival hosted by the LGBTQ+ community; and representatives from Team Vancouver began separate discussions with Tom, which led to them hosting Gay Games III.

    At the same time, many of the participants began to incorporate their own sports teams; and athletes and musicians created communication networks for those within their discipline. The 32 swimmers from Team Los Angeles created the West Hollywood Swim Club in October 1982, becoming the first U.S. Masters swim club whose mission focused on the inclusion of LGBTQ+ athletes and their allies; and seven bands met in Chicago to create their consortium, originally called Lesbian & Gay Bands of America and now known as Pride Bands Alliance.

    San Francisco Arts & Athletics hosted the first Co-Chairs gathering in April 1983, which was attended by the IGOA representatives and other interested parties, including Peter Todd from Team Sydney. An update was given on the status of the lawsuit over the use of the word “Olympic,” with a robust discussion following as to what the name of the event should be called, and whether the word “Lesbian” should be added to the title. There was also a discussion on whether or not Gay Games II should even take place, given the growing AIDS crisis; and if so, whether or not a conference aspect should be added to discuss AIDS and other critical issues facing the community.

    It was also at this meeting where Team Minnesota presented their Winter Games bid proposal, which secured the support of SFAA; and was selected to host a second Co-Chairs conference in January 1984. That way, team organizers could experience Minnesota during their annual Winterfest, which would coincide with the presentation of the Lesbian & Gay Winter Olympic Games two years hence.

    Although more than a dozen representatives attended the 1984 co-chairs conference the following January in the Twin Cities, The Winter Games were not produced, given the struggle to secure resources while the community grappled with the darkest days of the AIDS crisis.

    In 1985, I was informed I tested positive to the AIDS virus (a year before it became known as HIV), and told I had six months to two years to live – the standard prognosis at that time. I subsequently dropped out of everything and moved back to Chicago to be closer to my family, while still keeping my diagnosis a secret from any and everyone, including my closest friends and family.

    * * *

    Stacy van Scoyk (daughter of WH2O co-founder Chris van Scoyk) in front of the swimmers competing at the June 1983 Festival Games swim tournament at Beverly Hills High School. Stacy loved going to swim meets, and was considered the team's #1 Fan. When Stacy died in a 1992 auto accident, WH2O planted 18 Chinese Flame trees, in remembrance of her 18 years of life.

    DOUG ORLOFF: After Gay Games I, a bunch of us wanted to keep that spirit going and we created the West Hollywood Masters Swim Team. The first few years, we had between 25-30 people on the team. Mark Chatfield was our coach. Some of the team had been on the LA team at GGI, and some were new. The first team had people who remained friends for years: Ron, Bill, Mike, Frank, Mark, Chris, Jim, Neal, Barry, Alan and many more. Raphael was the first president of the team and its prime mover. The first two years, I was the Vice President. We worked out together, had meals and social events, and looked after one another. There were tough times, too. When AIDS entered our lives, the pool we worked out in kicked us out because the neighborhood was sure we were going to give their kids AIDS. We eventually ended up at Beverly Hills High School.

    Another remarkable event was the first Festival Games sports festival in June 1983, an official LA Pride event that happened annually between Gay Games I and Gay Games II. Ron and I chaired the swim meet at Beverly Hills High School, working with Rand Wiseman-Curtright, Phil Manciero, and Shamey Cramer from the Christopher Street West Sports Committee. We had swimmers from all over the country show up, including Hal Herkenhoff, who served as the Tournament Director for all of Gay Games II Aquatics.

    * * *

    Following is a transcript of comments Dr. Waddell made at the April 1983 town hall meeting that gathered individuals from San Francisco Arts & Athletics, the International Gay Olympic Association, and other team co-chairs and community members to discuss the future of the Gay Games Movement.

    Tom Waddell in the Gay Games I office, 1982

    TOM WADDELL: The first Games were a surprise to everyone. In spite of a relatively poor turnout, they were still successful in many ways. They demonstrated that a large number of Gay men and women participated admirably in a variety of individual and organized athletics. The Games demonstrated also that competition need not be an aggressive or threatening activity, but that it can be friendly, cooperative, and self-fulfilling.

    The Games are successful in that they provided a great sense of unity and self-esteem. They were typified by serious but fun-loving men and women devoid all traditional stereotypes. For the week of the Games, we were who we said we were: athletes who happened to be Gay. The Games were successful in providing us with a sense of identity and a degree of visibility in a way which we've never experienced before.

    And finally, to the astonishment of some cynics, we finished in the black. I view the success mostly in a way I call internal. And for that I mean, the impact was predominately in our own communities. Because of the enormous prejudice against Gay people as being legitimated, productive members of society and fully capable of athletic endeavor the Games were virtually invisible to the external world.

    The only reaction to the Games outside of our communities came as a result of institutionalized homophobia brought to the event by the powerful and prestigious United States Olympic Committee. But, even in that instance their mockery of fair play and their Neanderthal attitude served us in no small way. While the general public may not have rallied to witness the Games they at least acknowledged the plight of the underdog.

    We feel strongly, our committee, that there should be a Gay Games II, but we feel just as strong]y that we maintain a sound philosophy, that we continue the Games as an event that gives something new and something valuable and something worth teaching.

    The first Games brought Gay athletes out of their closets, clearly an act of courage for the 1,300 men and women who participated in them. There have been Gay sports organizations for years and suddenly they are erupting into regional and national and even international competitions.

    Plans for a Pan American Games and a Winter Gay Games are in progress. It’s wonderful to see. But sooner, rather than later, many of these competitions will have as a goal the reward of winning for the sake of supremacy of one group over another. That seems to be an inherent aspect of western culture. But I would hope that the Gay Games would continue to be not an event of becoming the best but to provide equal opportunity for everyone to do their best, for the sheer joy and hell of it. That's what makes these Games different from any other.

    * * *

    Oliver Murphy, decathlete at Gay Games I in 1982

    OLIVER MURPHY:  Oliver Murphy from Cork, Ireland captured the Gold Medal at Gay Games I in the Decathlon. He also lost his job as a schoolteacher as a result of his decision to be an out, gay athlete.

    The following Letter to the Editor from Mr. Murphy in 1986 to OUT Magazine was in reference to the ban many South Africans faced in international competition at that time as a result of their government’s continued perpetuation and support of apartheid.

    Mr. Murphy successfully defended his Decathlon title at Gay Games II, but subsequently lost his battle to AIDS.

    “Irish Participation at Gay Games II”

    Dear OUT: Here Irish Wit is seen. We boycott Gay Olympics II when we have no team. (With apologies to the Dean…) Well, despite the best efforts of many, both outside and unfortunately within the gay community, to ensure the games would not take place, I am happy to be able to report that as of closing date 1st June, almost 3,700 athletes had signified their intention to compete, at an almost three-fold increase on the numbers participating in Gay Games I.

    Also, I personally am boycotting the boycott so there will be an Irish team. Considering the status of civil rights for gay men in Ireland I find it absurd to even consider a boycott on such spurious grounds. I had to resign from my job to compete in the first games so I am all too familiar with Apartheid “Irish-style” as it relates to gays and the jobs they may perform.

    Early season competitions indicate I am in good shape to defend my Decathlon title on 15 and 16 August. I shall also be competing in the high-jump and javelin competitions.

    The Games will run from Saturday 9 August to Sunday 17 August at various venues in the greater San Francisco area and have again generated tremendous enthusiasm and excitement. Though most competitors will come from within the U.S., large contingents are expected from Canada and Australia. Attendance from Europe is again disappointing. Ironically the last Newsletter of the organizing committee bore the headline “Come out and Play.”

    I suppose the lesson here is that one must come out first and this is always a problem. A Dutch soccer team in the last Gay Games dwindled to one player (who guested with the San Francisco team) as the team members realized that participation would mean publicity and how many of us are really that much OUT of the closet.

    Yours sincerely, Oliver Murphy

    * * *

    MAURO BORDOVSKY: Gay Games I imposed a limit on the number of swimmers per team. We had so many swimmers recruited and interested in participating at Gay Games I that we created three teams: Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica. It was after our successful and fun performances at GGI that we realized what we had, decided to continue as a team, and formed West Hollywood Swim Club. Later, we renamed the Club West Hollywood Aquatics to incorporate Water Polo, Diving, and other aquatic sports.

    * * *

  • 31 Jul 2022 10:17 | Douglas Litwin (Administrator)

    Efforts Outside of San Francisco

    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 4 of 40 - 31 July - Efforts Outside of San Francisco

    “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.

    * * *

    Chris Van Scoyk at Gay Games II, 1986

    CHRIS VAN SCOYK: I first heard about the Gay Games, then called the Gay Olympic Games, by reading an article by Rick Bohner in Frontiers Magazine. It said a swim team was being formed to compete in San Francisco. Those interested should meet at Venice Beach for more information. I met Rick at the beach and soon began workouts led by Michael Roth. We only had a few weeks to prepare, and it was certainly not easy to get back in shape; but we did it.

    * * *

    Charlie Carson on medals stand at GGI, 1982

    CHARLIE CARSON: I’m age 27 and in my second season with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC). I’ve been tapped to lead NYCGMC’s committee organizing the first national festival for the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses (GALA), scheduled for September 1983, so I am up to my eyeballs in that. Recently I’ve been reading Tales of the City, and chorus friends have told me I must go to San Francisco someday.

    News about a “Gay Olympic Games” is making its way around the world. This seems like a good excuse for a first San Francisco trip. Plus, I’d thought my swimming days were over when I moved to New York, so this spurs me to get back in the water. I send off for the registration package and decide to do it. The swimming plans are odd. Age groups are not the usual five-year divisions used in Masters swimming, and the schedule lists a 400 yd. Backstroke and 400 yd. Butterfly. Write to Sports Chair Mark Brown in mid-April to say the 400 yd. Butterfly isn’t really something swimmers do.

    Late July / Early August 1982 – New swimming schedule mailed to participants has corrected the events to standard distances – I wasn’t the only one to question it – but it’s still an oddball schedule with two days of prelims followed by two nights of finals.  There’s a rule: Only one swimmer per age group from a city. Don’t know any other swimmers from New York so, what the heck, I sign up for multiple events.

    Wednesday, August 18 – Games organizers help us network by sharing contact information among participants within cities. I meet diver Jeff Gordon at 5:30pm to train together at NYU. Jeff is very good! We head from there to join NY Front Runners George Waffle and Marty King for hour-long “Gay Rap” on WBAI radio about the Games with a call-in from co-founder Tom Waddell. The radio show fires us up that much more, and Jeff and I train at NYU several more times over the next week.

    * * *

    Shamey Cramer (lower left) with members of the 1984 Christopher Street West LA Pride Entertainment Committee

    SHAMEY CRAMER: Saturday, 15 May 1982 started out like any other day. I took the bus into West Hollywood to go shopping at International Male on Santa Monica Blvd. - the furthest point west in the area of West Hollywood known as “Boystown.”

    After making a purchase to complete my latest ensemble, I headed into the Mother Lode, a gay bar two blocks east. I ordered a Long Island Iced Tea, my preferred drink at the time, and headed toward the back. I needed to use the bathroom and a pay phone.

    The Gay Games I poster referenced in the following paragraph

    About halfway down the very short hallway, I noticed a poster to the right. It has three figures on it, and was announcing the first-ever Gay Olympic Games, to take place in San Francisco from August 28 through September 5, Labour Day weekend. I felt a strange calm come over me, and knew in that instant: my calling had found me.

    As I stood there, I could envision so many things: establishing precedent and protocol, creating an international governing body and local teams, and using this event as a focal point for community organizing and unification.

    I had been a foreign exchange student in high school and helped my Mom write, produce, and direct the local Miss America Pageant in my teens. This combined my love for pageantry, international relations and the Olympics, but with an added bonus I had never envisioned before: hosted by the lesbian and gay community.

    I immediately wrote down the contact information for San Francisco Arts & Athletics, the organization producing the event. In those days, a mailing address and telephone number was all one could expect. And more often than not, the mailing address was a postal box or mailing service, as a way to protect the recipient from potential homophobic attacks.

    The fact someone even called an event the Gay Olympics was truly audacious. This was just fifteen years after Kathryn Switzer became the first woman to run illegally in the Boston Marathon of 1967, and the Olympics were still two years away from having their first Women's Marathon.

    That following Monday, I called the number and spoke with Mark Brown, the host organization’s board member who was running operations for Dr. Waddell. The project had been up and running for six months, but hit a snag when the U.S. Olympic Committee sent a cease and desist letter for use of the word “Olympic,” which was their protected trademark. He was concerned about how the USOC was going to proceed, but as it stood, it was a wait-and-see kind of situation, given all the other events and organizations that had used the word without recrimination. But to be safe, he and the others also referred to it as the Gay Athletic Games.

    During our conversation, I informed him of my family’s background working in sports administration, and my desire to help create a strong and unified Team Los Angeles. He gave me the contact information for U.S. Olympic swimmer Susan McGreivy, the famed, openly lesbian civil rights attorney based in Los Angeles. Tom had asked her to run the team, so I gave her a call and we scheduled a time to meet.

    (L) Susan McGrievy in the pool, 1956; (R) Susan's Olympic swimming team at Melbourne Olympics, 1956, Susan is in bottom row at far left)

    In 1955, Susan competed as a 15-year-old high school student at the Amateur Athletic Union’s indoor meet, winning the 250 and 500 yard freestyles; and a bronze medal in the 400 free at the 1955 Pan American Games. The following year, she competed at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne Australia.

    Susan later attended Northwestern University, became a teacher in California, briefly coached the Thailand swim team, volunteered with the Peace Corps, and then married, raising two children before coming out. She graduated from law school in 1977 and became attorney for the Gay Community Services Center of Hollywood (later known as the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center), which led to her becoming a civil rights attorney for the Southern California American Civil Liberties Union, with a focus on gay and lesbian rights. She later represented the ACLU in cases against the Boy Scouts of America, and in defense of the Norton Sound Eight.

    I met Susan the night of June 1 at the Melting Pot Cafe located at the west end of Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood, by Doheny Drive. It was a typical 1970s cafe, with lots of dark wood interior, potted plants, and hanging ferns. We both had a Chef’s Salad.

    Susan filled me in on where things were most likely going to go with the potential lawsuit, and the legal arguments they (SFAA) had that were favorable to their position. However, the USOC was a very powerful organization, and we were already seeing the rise of fundamental religious leaders becoming more engaged in American politics.

    Add to that the initial reports of the AIDS epidemic, and a majority of queer folk still needed to remain silent and hidden in order to survive.

    After sharing a few of my ideas of how I envisioned putting Team Los Angeles together, I asked what I could do to help. She pulled out the papers with names and addresses of all those who had either registered or reached out to her or the San Francisco office.

    Susan McGrievy & Shamey Cramer, 2013

    As she handed over the documents, she said: “Here ya go. They’re all yours.” When I asked about meeting again, she responded: “Between my regular practice, and the possibility of a lawsuit over this, I don’t have time to organize a team. You’d be doing me a great favor if you just ran the whole thing.”

    And that’s how Team Los Angeles was officially launched on June 1, 1982. Eighty-eight days later, one hundred and forty seven athletes proudly marched into Kezar Stadium behind the Los Angeles banner, with Shelley Farber, who later that week captured medals in the women’s marathon and swimming, carrying the city flag. We were the largest traveling contingent, representing one out of every nine athletes, and were accompanied by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles, and the Great American Yankee Freedom Band of Los Angeles.

    George Frenn (L) and Susan McGrievy (R) lighting the cauldron at Gay Games I Opening Ceremony  (Photo: Lisa Kanemoto)

    And best of all, it was Susan and her fellow Olympian George Frenn, a community ally and friend of Dr. Waddell’s who had grown up in greater Los Angeles, chosen to be the final torchbearers of the cross-country relay and light the cauldron that chilly afternoon to officially open the inaugural Gay Games.

    * * *

    1982 Gay Games I swimmers:

    Back Row (L-R): Richard Hunter, Neil Fenn, Jeff Shotwell, Mauro Bordovsky (lavender sweater), Doug Orloff, Steve Smetzer, Ric Bohner, Mike Wallace;
    Middle Row: Frank Maciejewski; 

    Front Row: Charlie Carson, Jeff Gordon, Ron Kirchhoff, Mark Wussler

    MAURO BORDOVSKY: I had arrived in the U.S. from Brazil four years prior to the first Gay Games. I swam some on my own and at some colleges I attended in Los Angeles, but had not competed for a while before competing in Gay Games I. I have participated, and medaled, in all 10 Gay Games, thus far.

    I was at Venice Beach where Richard Hunter and Rick Bohner were recruiting swimmers to form a team to participate in Gay Games I. We met, talked, and I agreed to join the plans, even after an approximate two-year hiatus from swimming. I started training as frequently as practice times were available in preparation for the Games.

    * * *

    Doug Orloff (at right in striped Speedo) at Gay Games I

    DOUG ORLOFF: The month leading up to and including Gay Games I was one of the highlights of my life and I will always be grateful for being allowed to participate in the first international gay sporting event.

    I heard about the “Gay Olympics” in the local gay newspapers. The business owners in West Hollywood had sponsored a swimming race at the park pool in 1981. It was a timed long distance swim and a very local event. I believe it was a 30-minute swim and whoever did the most yards won. I was sponsored by a clothing store that was next to The Revolver on Santa Monica Boulevard. I won the race and they gave me a trophy. I still have it in a box somewhere. The clothing store was proud of sponsoring the winner and did a big photo of me in my Speedo in their front window. When Gay Games I was announced, the guys that owned the store told me I should participate.

    We practiced every day under Michael Roth’s coaching for a month to prepare. A lot of us were out of shape after having left swimming in college and high school. I remember the first day of practice where Richard Hunter and Ric Bohner introduced us all and told us about the San Francisco event. We became a team literally overnight and it was like nothing else in the world – to all of a sudden be on a swim team with GAY men. And to be open and unafraid - well it was thrilling.

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

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

    Creating San Francisco Arts & Athletics: Laying the Foundations

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

    Zohn Artman on Castro Street

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

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

    * * *

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

    * * *

    The Red Book

    Jean Nickolaus Tretter in 1983

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    Gay Games Co-Founder Mark Brown

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

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

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

    * * *

    Gene Dermody on the wrestling mat at Gay Games I

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

    Charlie Carson at Gay Games I, 1982

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

    * * *

    Jack Gonzalez (center) and his Studio One volleyball team

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

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

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

    * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

    40th Anniversary History Series

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


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

    Post 1 of 40 - 28 July - Introduction

    “Passing The Torch: Ruby Anniversary Edition” is a factual timeline of the major events that have been part of the Gay Games evolution since its inception.

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

    The series will run from 28 July 2022 - one month before the 40th anniversary of the original Opening Ceremony at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium - through 5 September, the anniversary of Gay Games I Closing Ceremony. All postings will remain online and available for viewing at the FGG website.

    * * *


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

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

    Tom Waddell at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Colonel F. Donald Miller

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

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

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

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

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

    * * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

    • Single Pin = USD 10 plus shipping

    • Pack of 5 Pins = USD 45 plus shipping

    • Pack of 10 Pins = USD 90 plus shipping


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


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

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

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

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

    You can find the article HERE.

© 2020 The Federation of Gay Games

The Newsletter of the FGG



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