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Gay Games

"Gay Olympics" redirects here. For other uses, see Gay Olympics (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Outgames.
File:Gay Games 2006 End-Ceremony 03.jpg
Gay Games Closing Ceremony 2006 - Handing off the flag to the Cologne, Germany contingent, host of Gay Games 2010

The Gay Games is the world's largest sporting and cultural event organized by, and specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) athletes, artists and musicians.[1] The 1994 Gay Games, held in New York City to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the modern start of the LGBT movement, "overtook the Olympics in size" with 10,864 athletes compared to 9,356 at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and 10,318 at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.[1] Founded as the Gay Olympics, it was started in the United States in San Francisco, California, in 1982, as the brainchild of Tom Waddell, whose goals were to promote the spirit of inclusion and participation, as well as to promote the pursuit of personal growth in a sporting event. It retains similarities with the Olympic Games, including the Gay Games flame which is lit at the opening ceremony.[2] The games are open to all who wish to participate, without regard to sexual orientation and there are no qualifying standards. Competitors come from many countries, including those where homosexuality remains illegal and hidden.

The Federation of Gay Games (FGG) is the sanctioning body of the Gay Games. From its statement of concept and purpose:

Host nations and cities

Year No. Host City
1982 I 23x15px San Francisco, United States
1986 II 23x15px San Francisco, United States
1990 III 23x15px Vancouver, Canada
1994 IV 23x15px New York City, United States
1998 V 23x15px Amsterdam, Netherlands
2002 VI 23x15px Sydney, Australia
2006 VII 23x15px Chicago, United States
2010 VIII 23x15px Cologne, Germany
2014 IX 23x15px Cleveland-Akron, United States
2018 X 23x15px Paris, France

1982 Gay Games San Francisco

The 1982 games took place in San Francisco from August 28 to September 2, 1982. Singer Tina Turner performed at the opening ceremonies.

1986 Gay Games San Francisco

The 1986 games took place in San Francisco from August 10 to 17, 1986. Singers Jennifer Holliday and Jae Ross were the featured performers during the closing ceremonies.

1990 Gay Games Vancouver

The 1990 games took place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from August 4 to 11, 1990. Approximately 7,300 athletes took part in 27 sports, with another 1,500 cultural participants attending. Opening and closing ceremonies were at BC Place Stadium (20 years later to be the site of the 2010 Winter Olympics opening ceremony and the 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony). This was the first games to be held outside the United States, and it is also notable for being the first games in which Masters world records were set (two, in swimming).

The event was also heralded by controversy from social conservatives. A Fraser Valley church's members took out full page ads in The Vancouver Sun and The Province condemning the event as proof of an "impending sodomite invasion" and encouraging residents to gather at Empire Stadium to pray against the event. The government of then-Premier Bill Vander Zalm refused to fund the event.[4]

1994 Gay Games New York

The 1994 games took place in New York City, New York, from June 18 to 25, 1994.

The games coincided with the 25th-anniversary events of the Stonewall riots and were themed on "Unity".[5] Actor Sir Ian McKellen gave the closing address at Yankee Stadium on June 25, 1994.[6]

1998 Gay Games Amsterdam

The 1998 games took place in Amsterdam, Netherlands, from August 1 to 8, 1998. The opening and closing ceremonies took place in the Amsterdam Arena.

2002 Gay Games Sydney

The 2002 game took place in Sydney, New South Wales, from November 2 to 9, 2002. Sydney won the bid to host the games from other contenders which were Montreal, Toronto, Long Beach/Los Angeles and Dallas.

2006 Gay Games Chicago

Main article: 2006 Gay Games

Gay Games VII were held in Chicago, Illinois, from July 15 to July 22, 2006. For more on the controversy surrounding Chicago's selection as host city, see Schism in LGBT sports communities over Gay Games VII below.

2010 Gay Games Cologne

Main article: 2010 Gay Games

On March 16, 2005, the FGG announced that Cologne, Germany; Johannesburg, South Africa; and Paris, France, were the official candidate cities for Gay Games VIII in 2010. Cologne was elected at the FGG annual meeting in Chicago on November 14, 2005.

The games were held in Cologne from July 31 to August 6, 2010. This marked the second time the games were held in Europe, with the first being in Amsterdam in 1998.

2014 Gay Games Cleveland and Akron

Main article: 2014 Gay Games

On March 17, 2009, the FGG announced that groups from Boston, Massachusetts; Cleveland, Ohio; and Washington, D.C., were finalists for the bidding to host Gay Games IX.[7]

On September 29, 2009, at the FGG Site Selection Meeting in Cologne, Germany, Cleveland was chosen as presumptive host of Gay Games IX in 2014.[8] The host organization, Cleveland Special Events Corporation, later expanded the host city to include nearby Akron, Ohio. They also chose to style their event as "Gay Games 9" rather than the traditional Roman numeral "Gay Games IX".

The Cuyahoga County Republican Party hoped to use the event as an opportunity to showcase how welcoming and friendly the Republican Party can be to the LGBT community. They hope that this will help them attract LGBT voters.[9]

Future Gay Games

2018 Gay Games Paris

Main article: 2018 Gay Games

On July 31, 2012, the FGG announced that six groups in seven cities had been approved as prospective bidders. The groups were from Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Limerick, Ireland; London, United Kingdom; Orlando, Florida, United States; Paris, France; and a group proposing to host the Gay Games in either Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, Brazil.

By August 31, 2012, a letter of intent to bid were received from all groups except those in Brazil.

In December 2012, the FGG announced that several requests from bidders to add new sports to the program of the games. Of these requests, that for the inclusion of polo was rejected, while those for archery, boxing, fencing, pétanque, roller derby and wheelchair rugby were approved. Of these, boxing, pétanque, roller derby and wheelchair rugby were included in the bids of the three finalist bidding organizations.

Bid books were provided by February 28, 2013 with a Q&A held over April & May 2013. A shortlisting vote took place on May 31, 2013 resulting in the shortlisting of Limerick, London and Paris as the final three cities to continue on the 2018 Bid cycle. Shortlisted cities received a 4-day visit (inspection sites) from a team of FGG inspectors (4 delegates + 1 CM) in July 2013. The final vote took place in Cleveland (Ohio, USA) during the 2013 Annual General Assembly. On 7 October, Paris was elected host city for the 2018 Gay Games.

Shortlisted Cities
23x15px London, United Kingdom
23x15px Paris, France
23x15px Limerick, Ireland
Non-Shortlisted Cities
23x15px Amsterdam, Netherlands
23x15px Orlando, United States


Lawsuit over 'Gay Olympics' name

Dr. Tom Waddell, the former Olympian who helped found the games, intended them to be called the "Gay Olympics", but a lawsuit filed less than three weeks before 1982's inaugural Gay Olympics forced the name change.[10]

Event organizers were sued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act of 1978, which gave the USOC exclusive rights to the word Olympic in the United States. Defendants of the lawsuit contended that the law was capriciously applied and that if the Nebraska Rat Olympics and the Police Olympics were not similarly prohibited, the Gay Olympics should not be either.[11]

Some, like Jeff Sheehy, coauthor of San Francisco's domestic-partner legislation and former president of the Harvey Milk Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Democratic Club, believed homophobia to be a motivation behind the lawsuit. They cited the authorized use of the word "Olympics" by the Special Olympics and other organizations as evidence of this homophobia.[11]

Others, like Daniel Bell, cite the IOC's long history of protecting the Olympics brand as evidence that the lawsuit against the "Gay Olympics" was not motivated by discrimination against gays. Since 1910 the IOC has taken action, including lawsuits and expulsion from the IOC, to stop certain organizations from using the word "Olympics."[12] Annual "California Police Olympics" were held for 22 years, from 1967 through 1989, after which, the word Olympics was no longer used for the event.[13] The Supreme Court ruled for the USOC in San Francisco Arts & Athletics, Inc. v. United States Olympic Committee.

A 2009 documentary film, Claiming the Title: Gay Olympics on Trial, was created in the United States and was previewed at several film festivals.[14][15] The subject was also included in a 2005 film by David Sector, Take the Flame! Gay Games: Grace Grit & Glory.[16]

In the years since the lawsuit, the Olympics and the Gay Games have set aside their initial hostilities and worked cooperatively together,[citation needed] successfully lobbying to have HIV travel restrictions waived for the 1994 Gay Games in New York and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

Plans to launch Gay Winter Games in Fall 1986

Plans to launch a complementary Gay Winter Games, slated for February 1986 in Denver, Colorado, collapsed, due to a lack of sufficient funding and logistical problems.[citation needed] There have been no subsequent attempts to launch a Gay Winter Games since, although Whistler, British Columbia, Canada, hosts an annual gay winter-sports festival.[17]

Schism in LGBT sports communities over Gay Games VII

In 2001, the bidding organization from Montreal, Canada, won the right to negotiate with the FGG for a licensing agreement to host the 2006 Gay Games, but after two years of failed negotiations Montreal broke off talks at the 2003 FGG annual meeting in Chicago. There were three main points of contention, over which neither party could agree:

  • The size of the event
  • The size of the budgetTemplate:Spaced ndash especially the planned break-even participation point
  • Financial transparency

In a weakening global economy following international terrorist attacks, including September 11, the FGG wanted Montreal to be able to plan for a successful Gay Games even if participation did not meet Montreal's optimistic projection of 24,000 participants, twice the level of participation of the previous Gay Games in 2002. Due to financial problems in previous events, the FGG also asked for transparency into Montreal 2006's financial activities. After Montreal refused to continue talks, the FGG held a second round of bidding in which Chicago and Los Angeles bidders, who had put forth well-received bids to host the 2006 games in the first round along with Montreal and Atlanta, chose to bid. Ultimately, the FGG awarded Gay Games VII to Chicago Games, Inc.

The Montreal organizing committee nevertheless decided to proceed to hold an athletic and cultural event without the sanction of the FGG; this plan developed into the first edition of the World Outgames, and the creation of its licensing body, the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association.

Due to limited personal and organizational resources, many individual and team participants were forced to choose between Gay Games Chicago and World Outgames Montreal, a situation exacerbated by the two events being a week apart. The closing ceremony of Gay Games Chicago on July 22, 2006, was only seven days before the opening ceremony of World Outgames Montreal on July 29, 2006. This meant that those who competed or performed in Chicago would have little recovery time before Montreal. The split resulted in a lower quality of athletic competition at both events because neither could claim the whole field of competitors. Team and individual sports were hurt alike. Few teams were able to field complete squads for both events; In wrestling, 100 wrestlers competed in Chicago (comparable to previous Gay Games), but only 22 competed in Montreal, by far the lowest number for any major international tournament. There were some advantages to the games being so close together time wise and location wise. For some overseas participants who had to travel far, the convenience of the two events being only a week apart and not far from each other enabled them to attend both. Many did not attend at all. After Chicago drew 9,112 sport and cultural participants, of which 7,929 were from the USA. Montreal drew 10,248 athletes, 1,516 Conference Attendees and 835 people to the cultural component of the games reflecting more than 111 countriesTemplate:Spaced ndash more 60% of the organization's original projections."

Since 2006, the need for a secondary global multisport event has been the subject of much debate, especially after the final financial figures for 2006 were released. In 2012, a round of negotiations between the FGG and GLISA ended after a mutually agreed deadline.[18] The board of GLISA unanimously agree to the proposal set forth by the negotiation teams, however the FGG board did not reciprocate. The Chicago Gay Games VII ended with no debt and all bills paid. In contrast, the Montreal World Outgames ended with 5.3M Canadian dollars of debt.

In addition, the lack of attendees and participants at both events resulted in GLISA (the organization which heads the Outgames) changing the years of the event to precede the years of the Gay Games, meaning that the World Outgames were held in 2009 in Copenhagen and the Gay Games held in Cologne in 2010, while the World Outgames are being held in 2013 in Antwerp and Gay Games held in 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 The History of LGBT Participation in the Olympics
  2. "Cologne gears up to play and party as host to Gay Games".
  3. Federation of Gay Games. "FAQs". Retrieved July 5, 2010. 
  4. Thomas, Sandra (July 25, 2011). "Outgames kick off in Vancouver". Vancouver Courier via Global Toronto. 
  5. "Gay Games IV – Unity '94". Federation of Gay Games. Retrieved February 6, 2009. [dead link]
  6. "Gay Games IV Closing Address". Ian Retrieved February 6, 2009. 
  7. "Federation of Gay Games press release on submission of bid books for Gay Games IX". Federation of Gay Games. March 17, 2009. Retrieved January 21, 2013. 
  8. "Federation of Gay Games blog post on choice of host of Gay Games IX". Federation of Gay Games. September 29, 2009. Retrieved January 21, 2013. 
  9. Kucinich, Jackie. "Cuyahoga County Republicans welcome Gay Games to Cleveland". The Washington Post. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  10. Blackwell, Savannah (September 5, 2001). "Crushing the Gay Olympics: The USOC's homophobic past". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Archived from the original on May 27, 2006. Retrieved January 4, 2006. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Clark, Joe (1994). "Glory of the Gay Games". Retrieved January 4, 2006. 
  12. Bell, Daniel (1998). "Why Can't the Gay Games Be the Gay Olympics?". International Games Archive via Archived from the original on March 7, 2006. Retrieved June 12, 2010. 
  14. "Home". Acquarius Media. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  15. Claiming the Title at the Internet Movie Database
  16. Take the Flame! Gay Games: Grace Grit & Glory at the Internet Movie Database
  17. Noel, Alyssa (February 2, 2015). "Whistler Pride and Ski Festival wraps up another year - See more at: Whistler pride and ski festival wraps up another year". Question. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 

External links