This page is a tribute to Doctor Tom Waddell, his vision, his courage, and his dedication to achieving his personal best;
ideals which live on in the spirit of the Gay Games.
I have no affiliation with The Federation of Gay Games. Grateful acknowledgment
is made to the Federation for permission to use the Gay Games Logo.
A group called San Francisco Arts and Athletics (SFAA) was formed. Two years were spent in the planning of this event which was to be called GAY OLYMPIC GAMES. Opening ceremonies were planned for August 28, 1982 and TINA TURNER agreed to perform.
Three weeks before the opening, the United States Olympic Committee obtained an injunction in federal court prohibiting the use of the word "Olympic". This despite the fact that the USOC had ignored the use of the ancient word by Special Olympics, Police Olympics, Nude Olympics, Dog Olympics, and many others.
SFAA appealed the Federal Court's injunction and a legal battle raged for two years. It was finally settled by the United States Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision in favor of the USOC in March, 1987. The still-vindictive USOC arranged to have legal fees of $92,000 levied against Tom Waddell's residence, despite the fact he was fighting for his life against AIDS.
(The following comment was provided by Derek Liecty of the Federation of Gay Games.
SOME PICTURES OF TOM WADDELL
It was never the intention of the SFAA to make the Gay Games entirely a San Francisco event. They were kept here a second time in order to refine them and clearly establish their philosophy. Having four years to plan the event, a much more diverse and entertaining set of events was scheduled by the SFAA. "Procession of the Arts", a series of cultural events complementing Gay Games II, was added. This included concerts, exhibits, plays, conferences, films, dances, cabarets, and an old-fashioned Circus Parade! The events promoting the talents and creativity of the Lesbian/Gay community, spanned the entire month of August.
In 1982, AIDS was virtually unknown. But by 1986, it was an ominous and very scary black cloud that threatened the Gay community. Gay Games II was a psychological boost as it demonstrated our strength, spirit, and unity. Tom Waddell was diagnosed with pneumocystis pneumonia 4 weeks before the start of the games, but competed in Track & Field and won a gold medal for Javelin.
Dianne Feinstein, Mayor of San Francisco, welcomed the crowd at the Opening Ceremonies with:
"I am so pleased to be here! Welcome to San Francisco and these Gay Games. They are very important, and don't let anybody tell you they are not. One of the things it has been a privilege for me to see is the spirit and talent that resides in this community - special spirit, special talent, a coming together in times of trial with the idea that "We Shall Overcome." What's important is that you are here; What's important is that you are good; What's important is that you are coming together from all over the world in peace and love to demonstrate to all who are willing to see that you are energetic, enthusiastic, and that you have much to give to this needy world."
At the Closing Ceremonies, Tom Waddell announced that the site chosen for Gay Games III was Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It was a very emotional moment for many of us in the stands because we knew that Tom was not likely to be with us in Vancouver.
The Gay Games grew immensely in both size and stature in the four short years since San Francisco. Vancouver, a very beautiful and friendly city, rose to the occasion. A portion of this effort was funded by the Canadian Federal Government. Vancouver's City Government and its police department were very supportive. Athletes were allowed free use of public transportation! Thousands of local people volunteered their help and Gay Games III became the largest volunteer effort in Vancouver's history. Opening and Closing Ceremonies and many social events were held in public buildings remaining from Vancouver's Expo. The people of Vancouver generously opened their city and their hearts and made an excellent impression on the visitors to Gay Games. The event was a tremendous opportunity for gays and lesbians to be seen in the public eye in a wholesome atmosphere that emphasizes fun and diversity, both cultural and athletic. It was in Vancouver that the Gay Games became Olympian in magnitude and rose to the stature of a world-class event!
The organizers of Gay Games IV chose to have the Games coincide with the Stonewall celebration. The games were held during the last week of June, 1994. A capacity crowd of 55,000 people attended the Closing Ceremonies on Saturday,June 25 at Yankee Stadium, a historic shrine in the world of heterosexual sports. The parade of athletes into the stadium lasted nearly 2 hours!
The Stonewall "March on the United Nations" took place the following morning. At the last minute the route of the march was changed and partly due to defiance and partly due to confusion, there were two marches; one up Fifth Avenue and one up First avenue. They converged near the entrance to Central Park. It was a joyous gathering on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon in Manhattan. It took until late afternoon for the final marchers to reach the celebration site. One highlight of the march was a Rainbow Flag one-mile long! (That's 1.6 Kilometers.) The headline entertainer at the Central Park celebration was Liza Minnelli.
For one long eight-day week Manhattan was inundated with Gays, Lesbians, and their friends (which includes but is in no way limited to: 'heterosexual', 'bisexual', 'trisexual', 'transsexual', 'homosexual children of heterosexual parents', 'transgendered', 'transgendering', 'bicoastal', 'queer', 'fag', 'drag queen', and, of course, the ubiquitous 'questioning'!).I hope I didn't leave anyone out! From dawn to dawn, every happening, every restaurant, every subway train, everything was predominantly gay! And the games were played, and records were broken, and medals were won. Tears of pride and joy were shed. Friendships were made, spirits raised, eyes opened, and hopes renewed!
Once again the Gay Games worked their magic in half-a-million different ways!
Stichting Gay and Lesbian Games Amsterdam 1998is organizing the Gay Games to promote the world-wide emancipation of homosexual men and lesbian women through the strengthening of their self-respect and sense of community. They strive to reinforce the feeling of self-esteem and mutual respect between homosexual men and lesbian women. The theme is Friendship and the motto "Friendship through Culture and Sports". Naturally, the Gay Games is open to anyone irrespective of race, sexual preference, age or origin.
Gay Games V received enthusiastic financial support from the city of Amsterdam and the government of the Netherlands. In fact, mid-week, when a financial crisis seemed to be developing, the City provided a financial guarantee of up to 5-million Guilders ($2.5-million) if needed. Major corporate sponsors included KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Speedo, Avis, Rolling Rock, Bacardi, Kodak, and Levi Strauss.
FRIENDSHIP THROUGH CULTURE AND SPORTS
August 1, 1998 was anything but a normal saturday in Amsterdam. It was the culmination of four years of planning by a core group of 62 dedicated workers. It was the first of eight days of community service for 3842 generous volunteer "FRIENDS". It was the beginning of a week of opportunities for 15,000 participants to strive to achieve their personal best. Finally, it was a day when the charming citizens of Amsterdam opened their sparkling city and their warm hearts to host the 250,000 visitors who gathered to celebrate the strength, beauty, and diversity of the gay community.
The 30 athletic events and a large variety of cultural programs were held at locations throughout the City, but the focal point was The MUSIEKTHEATER, Amsterdam's concert hall, which was transformed into FRIENDSHIP VILLAGE. Here, one could meet friends for lunch or drinks, cruise, buy event tickets and merchandise, volunteer to help out, check out the posted results of various events, wander through the halls and view the MEGA-POSTERS which changed daily, pick up a copy of the free newspaper, THE DAILY FRIENDSHIP, enjoy free live entertainment, or simply sit and watch the boats pass by on the canal.
In the evening, the focus shifted to the Dam (in front of the Royal Palace) in the City center. Here, a huge temporary stage and bleachers converted the square into an outdoor concert hall; the best show in town, free, nightly! There was also a free outdoor film festival in Vondel Park. Included among the cultural events was an international festival of lesbian and gay choirs featuring more than 2,000 singers. There were so many cultural events being offered, that if they had been presented in sequence it would have taken months to view them all. In adddition, all the major museums mounted exhibits with themes which complemented the theme of the week, "FRIENDSHIP THROUGH CULTURE AND SPORTS."
For eight electric days and nights, Amsterdam was crammed with all kinds of people; fat, skinny, old, young, tall, and short. They had one thing in common- They were all beautiful! There is no doubt - the Gay Games can change the world!
MORE ABOUT GAY GAMES V
13,000 people from 80 countries participated in 31 Sporting and 11 Cultural Events. There were even participants representing Iraq, Pakistan, and United Arab Emirates, places where the penalty for homosexuality is death. Gay Games is non-discriminatory and is open to anyone over 18. Participating and achieving one's personal best are the most important aspect of Gay Games.
FEATURING PICTURES BY CHRIS GEARY
However, it was officially announced in Sydney at the closing of Gay Games VI that Montreal would host Gay Games VII. Roger Brigham, Director of Communications for the Federation of Gay Games explains the mixup:
The successive financial failures of previous Gay Games hosts, coupled with the worsening world economy post 9/11, convinced the FGG that it needed to oversee the financial administration of the Gay Games and require host cities to get approval for budget expansions. Montreal, after two years of negotiations, walked away from the bargaining table and the FGG re-opened the bid process to the other original bidders: Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles. Atlanta opted not to bid; in March of 2004, Chicago was chosen over Los Angeles and signed the license agreement that allows for tighter financial overview. Chicago Games, Inc. is composed of volunteers with two decades of experience organizing LGBT sports events in the Midwest. They worked closely with the FGG's Registration Advisory Group to launch the registration site in record time and have been able to secure some notable venues, including Soldier Field for Opening Ceremonies and Wrigley Field for Closing Ceremonies.
Montreal claims that FGG pulled the plug on them. Apparently the Montreal organization decided to challenge FGG's leadership and compete with Gay Games by staging 1ST WORLD OUTGAMES MONTREAL 2006. The European Gay Lesbian Sport Federation decided to withdraw from FGG and joined forces with Outgames. This strengthened Outgames' position and further weakened FGG. Both events were scheduled for the same week, July 29 to August 5,2006, causing further friction and forcing the athletes to take sides. Fortunately Chicago rescheduled Gay Games VII for July 15 to July 22.
James Ledward, Editor of Gscene Magazine website attended the events in both Chicago and Montreal. He told me that "In Europe there is a view that the Federation Of Gay Games has lost its way. Europeans definitely have a perception the Gay Games has become too US centric and the Gay Games organisers need to work hard at countering that, not in the US but over here in Europe. I was at the European Games in Utrecht last year when the organisers from the Gay Games in Chicago were given a place at the opening Ceremony to give a pitch for the Chicago event. The speaker was booed by a large section of the crowd."
I believe that the directors of both organizations are being self-centered and forgetting the negative effect their quarrel has on the athletes and the entire gay community.
Despite a record heat wave and violent thunder storms, Chicago Games hosted 11,650 participants from 70 countries, drew 140,000 spectators and offered 31 sports: Badminton, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Bowling, Cycling, DanceSport, Darts, Diving, Figure Skating, Flag Football, Golf, Ice Hockey, Marathon, Martial Arts, Physique, Pool Billiards, Power Lifting, Racquetball, Road Races 5/10K, Rowing, Rugby, Sailing, Soccer / Football, Softball, Squash, Swimming, Tennis, Track and Field, Triathlon, Volleyball, Water Polo and Wrestling.
Chicago Gay Games was a financial success, the first Gay Games to achieve that goal. They received over $13-million from hundreds of sponsors including many large companies, an airline, national chain stores, liquor companies, and big newspapers. Obviously the business world is finally realizing that there is a lot of money to be made by being gay-friendly. Ceremonies tickets ranged from $35 - $90. Based on pictures I've seen online, there were plenty of unsold seats at both events. Estimated attendance at the Opening Ceremony at Soldier Field (football's Chicago Bears) was 32,000. 20,000 attended the Closing at Wrigley Field (baseball's Chicago Cubs). Results of most events are available at the official Gay Games Chicago website.
Even though Gay Games has become an enormous international sporting event, is now recognized and acknowleged by the US Olympic Committee, and is a lucrative market for big sponsors, most of the world is still unaware of the event. Gay Games are bigger than the (thoroughly covered by the press) Olympics, and more than newsworthy. So why were they not even mentioned on national network news or in newspapers across the country except around Chicago? The not-so-gay-friendly New York Times was a major sponsor of the Games but didn't bother to report the story in their own newspaper. Even in San Francisco, news from Chicago about Gay Games was hard to find. It's like "Don't Ask. Don't Tell." It seems that they're saying "We'll do business with you. We'll even support you, but we can't let the non-gay world find out".
The 1st World Outgames reports a half million spectators and 10,248 people from 111 countries registered to compete in 35 sports. They finished with a $5.7-million ($4.3-million US) deficit and have filed for bankruptcy protection. Their budget was $14-million. Outgames Montreal charged $45 - $150 for their Opening Ceremonies and $35 - $100 for Closing. I have no idea of the significance of their financial problems, their place in the gay sports world, or their politics. If they survive, they will probably continue to be a thorn in the side of the FGG. If they did well in Montreal, and if they flourish, it will be difficult for FGG to ignore them. Reminds me of how the US Olympics people treated Tom Waddell and his Gay Olympic Games.
Plans to hold World Outgames II in Copenhagen in 2009 continue