The annual Gay Games are set to begin on August 9 in Cleveland, which won the right to play host over Boston and Washington, D.C. The full week of competition will welcome more than 10,000 athletes from around the world to participate and, yes, socialize. Watch out, Cleveland!
But it wasn’t always such a carefree event. Tom Waddell founded what was then known as the Gay Olympics in 1982 on the principle that competition can overcome division and prejudice. But the United States Olympic Committee sued the Gay Olmpics shortly after the first competition in San Francisco, claiming it owned exclusive rights to the word Olympics despite the fact that dozens of other organizations, such as the Special Olympics, used the name.
Waddell lost the suit and the Gay Games were born. In a twist, the Republican lawyer who represented the Olympic Committee, Vaughn Walker, went on to become the judge who struck down Prop. 8, leading to the legalization of same-sex marriage in California.
Walker came out shortly after the decision and then retired. It is safe to say all has been forgiven.
Despite thriving LGBT amateur, high school and college athletics, pros are just beginning to inch out of the closet. Witness, Michael Sam and Jason Collins. (And there are plenty of out Olympians, including our fave, Tom Daley.)
Reality check: There are still is not a single openly gay baseball player.
In 1982, Waddell wrote:
“We are involved in the process of altering opinions whose foundations lie in ignorance. We have the opportunity to take the initiative on critical issues that affect the quality of life and we can serve in a way that makes all people the beneficiary.”
The Games now overflow with great events. We’ve rounded up a few highlights:
- Gay Games Happy Hours — Come out and meet your fellow Games athletes and attendees at nightly Happy Hours hosted by Renaissance Cleveland Hotel.
- Official Gay Games 9 White Party Featuring: Boy George — Don’t miss universally recognized iconic performer Boy George as he headlines this premier event with support from Marc Vedo and Evan Evolution. Monday, August 11 at 7 p.m.
- Indigo Girls at the Gay Games — Indigo Girls will be performing at Lock 3 in Akron behind the Akron Civic Theatre as part of the Gay Games celebration. Thursday, August 14th at 5 p.m.
- Tony Moran: Official Gay Games Gold Party — Sweat it out with the athletes on the dance floor and engage in some sportsmanlike conduct. Thursday, August 14th at 8 p.m.
For a full guide to the games including more parties and all the sporting events, head to the GayCities Guide To Gay Games 2014.