The past year marked a watershed for LGBT sports. Athletes at every level—professional, college, high school and amateur—at first ventured, then flooded out of the closet. Media attention no longer treats gay athletes as exotic creatures. Homophobes are increasingly marginalized, banished from the sidelines to the back row of the bleachers. In some ways, LGBT athletics has reached the point we’ve long waited for: normalcy.
So does that mean there’s no longer any need for the Gay Games? Thousands of athletes, a hefty lineup of corporate sponsors, and hundreds of paid and volunteer organizers would beg to differ.
Gay Games 9—the latest edition of the event first held 32 years ago in San Francisco—is set for August 9 through August 16 in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Patterned on the Olympic Games (but denied use of the “O” word by a legal challenge), the Gay Games are now an international spectacle.
What can we expect to see at Gay Games 9? This year’s event will draw upon the visibility of newly out athletes, empowering those who are not yet out, while providing one more opportunity to show the general public that LGBT people are indeed everywhere.
Athletes will perform in a broad array of sports: softball, track and field, soccer, swimming, rowing, volleyball, bowling, even darts. Unlike the Olympics, there are also “cultural” competitions—in band and chorus.
Up to 9,000 participants are expected from around the world. Organizers expect 20,000 additional guests, performers, spectators and volunteers. Those numbers are on par with the number of athletes in the Summer Olympics.
Like the Olympics, there are opening and closing ceremonies, and a Festival Village, which will be the epicenter of plenty of exciting parties. Among the headlining performers are Boy George, JD Samson and MEN, Bright Light Bright Light and Ana Matronic.
Regular Gay Games-goers may find a different environment than what they’re used to. Cleveland and Akron are not exactly San Francisco, where the first two Games were held—nor are they Vancouver, New York City, Amsterdam, Sydney, Chicago or Cologne, the hosts of previous events. But while these two Ohio cities may not be as cosmopolitan as others, they’re just as gay-friendly.
“There’s a thriving gay community in northeast Ohio,” says Gay Games marketing manager Matt Cordish. “There’s no one defined area, like West Hollywood or the Castro. But we can go anywhere and be ourselves.”
Registrations are still being accepted for Gay Games 9—but hurry. Sports, band and chorus registrations must be completed by July 15.
And, remember, anyone can participate. The games are open to everyone at least 18 years of age, regardless of sexual orientation, gender status, religion, nationality, political convictions, physical condition or athletic ability. Spectator packages are also available. To sign up, visit the Gay Games 9 registration page: gg2014.sportingpulse.com.