Tom Waddell Created The Gay Games To Change The World. His Dream Is Coming True

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.

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  • michael mellor

    The gay games are a form of segregation. I thought gay people wanted to be equal. I wouldn’t want to compete with other gay people only.

  • RIGay

    Michael, I kind of agree with you. It’s time to go mainstream. If a team is that good or has that good of an athlete, compete to get accepted a college or Olympic team.

  • tdx3fan

    GG9 is open to any and all people (gay, straight, asexual, etc.) regardless of skill level.

  • tdx3fan

    My partner and I are going to be seeing Greg Louganis on the day of the opening ceremonies (he will be in Akron I think) and then we are guests of one of the sponsors at the GG9 opening ceremonies. Then we are seeing the Indigo Girls. I am not sure about any of the sporting events. Also, as part of the arts and entertainment, a local theater will be performing My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding August 7-10 and August 14-17.

  • masc4masc

    It’d be better to compete in the real Olympics. The special Olympics were created because obviously mentally/physically challenged people can’t compete against people who don’t have those challenges. Is homosexuality a handicap now? This is just stupid. I’d also like to know who it is that thinks EVERY gay function should be accompied by circuit parties. It’s getting older than the queens on the circuit scene.

  • milkcluber

    There are a dozen different sporting events that use the name Olympics, including the Police Olympics and the Rat Olympics. But when Tom did it, USOC sued and even attached the deed on his house to pay the legal bills. And it was the same USOC officials later found to have taken perks and even bribes from other cities seeking to host the Olympics. In 1988, then SF Mayor Art Agnos refused to sign the Olympics deal unless LGBT sports participants were given equal access. Several city elected officials put his decision on the ballot, and the voters choose to repeal Agnos’ decision. Now it turns out the deal USOC offered also sunk SF with all the costs and the USOC all the profits. And the entire American Olympics effort got its strongest push under Avery Brundage, who approved having the 1936 Olympics in Berlin and came back to speak at pro-Nazi rallies. Not all the Olympic leadership has displayed the spirit that could make us proud, but one person certainly did — Tom Waddell.

  • dazzer

    @masc4masc: As someone who volunteered at the London Paralympics – I can assure you that professional disabled athletes are exactly that – profession, elite athletes and many parasports beat the crap out of able-bodied sports – look out for wheelchair rugby, for example. It’s like ice hocky but faster and more violent – it’s the only sport in the world where the coaching staff all have to be welders to mend broken chairs on the court.

    But you’re exactly right the circuit parties.

  • SteveDenver

    I’m excited to be going. I booked a block of six rooms, knowing friends would be clamoring for them at the last minute. I was right and I have friends from all over the U.S. and a couple I met at the Games in Amsterdam. Everyone was surprised I didn’t want some kind of fee, so I’m set for dinners the entire week!

    The first Games I attended were in 1994 in New York City. The World Cup was in town, but gays and lesbians had already locked up all the hotel rooms and venues downtown. It was amazing. Anyone with a medal around his or her neck was game for conversation. People from around the world, all ages and descriptions. All streets into Greenwich Village were barricaded for foot-traffic only, there were so many of us.

    It was the first year sanctioned officials were brought aboard. Over 20 world records were shattered, and nearly a million people marched on the U.N., and it barely made news.

    This is an amazing event. Looking forward to showing Cleveland just how awesome 1000s and 1000s of homosexuals and our friends can be!

  • Essus67

    @masc4masc: To avoid the personal attack rule on this site, it is my opinion that are masc4masc is a self loathing nincompoop. As vague disclaimers are no ones friend – I am only stating it as an opinion, not as a fact. With that over, masc4masc, when the Gay Games were started most, if not all countries that participated in the Olympics or higher level amateur Sports would not permit an out glbt athlete to compete under ANY circumstances. This may have changed somewhat – YAY progress – but in many countries any amateur athlete who even hints as being anything but straight will not be supported by any of the structures in place to get them to higher level events, like funding, facilities and coaching ,no matter how deserving their talent.

    The attempts at trolling aimed at events and circumstances with a barely veneered contempt coupled with a fundamental lack of history, nuance and understanding have no place here. These games, in part, are to showcase our abilities and talents in a world that still perceives the glbt community as marginal and irrelevant. As part of that world focus, one of the mandates of these games is international participation.

    This is an incredible message countering that perception and with apologies to JoemyGod – They wish we were invisible. We’re not. Let’s compete.

  • masc4masc

    @dazzer: I definitely wasn’t suggesting the handicapped are inferior. I’m sure their games are just as challenging. I was saying that an able-bodied person would obviously have an unfair advantage over someone who’s handicapped, so there’s a need for them to have their own games. I don’t consider gay to be a handicap, so we can compete in the regular games. No need to self-segregate. However, something like this may make more sense for trans athletes since no one really knows where to put them and gender is usually an important factor in physical competitions.

    @Essus67: You’re just a bitter bitch. No disclaimer. :)

  • mokuhulu

    @michael mellor: Except for the fact that you don’t have to be gay to participate. I was in GG in 2002 and 2006 and we had wrestlers participate from our club who were 100% straight. It’s just the name. It was named that to bring awareness to the fact that we are not all limp-wristed stereotypes, cross dressers and female impersonators.

  • dazzer

    @masc4masc: This is really difficult to explain – and I’m probably not getting it right. And, for that, I apologise.

    America didn’tcover the Paralympics – and I think that’s a shame to your country. American journalists and TV networks simply didn’t think that the Paralympics were worth the time of day in American culture. I’m not saying this to be unpleasant or obnoxious, but I am telling from personal experience as someone who volunteered to deal with the press and media in both the Olympics and Paralympics, you went from hundreds of American journalists covering the Olympics to precisely one – yes, one – American journalist covering the Paralympics. And he was an intern covering the Paralympics because he wanted a job on the next Olympics coverage.

    In London 2012, there was a stadium of 80,000 people in the main, athletics stadium.. 80,000 people turned up every morning afternoon and evening for the try-outs in the Olympics – and 80,000 people turned up every morning, afternoon and evening for the try-outs for the Paralympics – and everyone paid money to be there. No one got a free pass. There was no concept embedded that if you wanted to watch paraspots, you didn’t have to pay as much.

    From American eyes, I guess I’m going to come across as a bit of douche for what I’m going to write next.

    Tatyana McFadden is wheelchair racer – and she is – without any shadow of doubt – the best wheelchair racer in the world. She is completely, consistently and without any shadow of a doubt the very best athlete in the world in her discipline.

    And she’s an American.

    If she were an American who threw a javelin or a shot-put or a discus or a bit of modern gymnastics hoop – she’d be a national heroine, She’d be vying for a place on a cereal box.

    But she’s in a wheelchair, best in the world by a long chalk, and you don’t even know she exists.

    You can put any able-bodied athlete you want into a similarly appartatus-based sport to see who wins as a sportsperson.

    Sport is sport man, what your body looks like is neither here nor there.

  • masc4masc

    @dazzer: I agree. I’d actually love to see the Paralympics. I think it could probably be very inspiring. The US can be very superficial.

  • gaym50ish

    In my very UN-legal opinion, the Olympics organization could never have “owned” the ancient name under ordinary U.S. trademark law. But Congress took care of that by granting the U.S. Olympic Committee exclusive rights to the name in 1978. I believe that was a big mistake, and I think the Congress should repeal it.

    The committee has lent the name to the Special Olympics, the California Fire and Police Olympics, the Georgia Golden Olympics, the Junior Olympics, the Olympics of the Mind and even the Eskimo Olympics, to name a few. But, would they allow themselves to be associated with gays? No way! That should be enough discrimination for Congress to repeal their exclusive rights to the name. Let’s start a movement!

    Geographical features and businesses on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula were supposed to be exempted under that law, but the Olympic Committee foolishly continued to file lawsuits over those uses of the name — most recently against McClatchy Newspapers, owner of the capital city’s daily paper, The Olympian, which has published under that banner since 1890.

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