December 18, 2013 | by Kevin Majoros
Going for the Gold
Chris Coates, track, athlete, gay news, Gay Games, Washington Blade

Chris Coates, a D.C. track athlete planning to compete in the Gay Games next summer in Ohio. (Photo courtesy Kevin Majoros)

It has been more than four years since Washington lost the Gay Games 9 bid to Cleveland/Akron and the sting of that loss has faded. Now it’s time to seriously start thinking about your plans to go to Cleveland for the Gay Games to be held Aug. 9-16.

Cleveland? Akron?

I’ve been hearing a lot of rumbling in the LGBT sports community locally and nationally about the location of the Games. People are asking, “Why would I want to go to Cleveland or Akron?”

What’s in it for you and why should you attend? For those of you who’ve participated at the Games in the past, you know the reasons. For those of you who’ve not, I will supply a few.

The LGBT sports movement has been experiencing a great amount of support and progression over the past few years. The media will be in Cleveland on a large scale and this is our opportunity to shine as athletes and support our community.

I remember in 2006 when USA Today ran a cover story about the Chicago Gay Games and I was pleasantly surprised. During and after the Games, I didn’t see a lot of coverage. I think that will be different this time because the LGBT sports community now has a larger presence.

Paris recently won the bid for Gay Games 10 in 2018. If the Cleveland/Akron Games fail, there will be no Paris. While it’s true that the Gay Games received a $250,000 grant from the Cleveland Foundation as a presenting sponsor (a first for the Games), if attendance is poor, it will hamper the efforts to fund the Paris Games.

According to Les Johnson, a Federation of Gay Games board member, Cleveland and Akron are excited about us coming.

“Washington D.C. has big things happening here all the time,” Johnson says. “The Gay Games are a really big thing for both Cleveland and Akron and they are looking forward to hosting us.”

There will be more than 35 sports contested in Cleveland and Akron and the sports venues are top notch, from the Cleveland State aquatic facility to the Firestone Stadium softball venue to the University of Akron track & field stadium. This is an opportunity to compete at well-run facilities with experienced officials.

You might be thinking that Cleveland doesn’t have a large gay scene. That’s true, but what do you think happens when 10,000 LGBT athletes from more than 65 countries invade a town for eight days? It becomes very gay.

You’ll see the LGBT community in force at restaurants, bars, tourist attractions and especially on public transport. At the past few Games I’ve met most of my cohorts for the week on public transport.

One of the popular features from the Cologne Games in 2010 and a personal favorite of mine were the athlete villages. Every day after competing, thousands of athletes and supporters converge on the villages for music, dancing, drinking, food and people watching. Dinner with the Icelandic swim team, beers with the Irish soccer team — what more can you ask for?

Another thing to be excited about is marching into the opening ceremonies with 10,000 athletes from all over the world. The Cleveland/Akron Games will open at the Quicken Loans Arena in downtown Cleveland. The Arena is home to the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Assocaiton, the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League and the Cleveland Gladiators of the Arena Football League.

Team D.C. is expecting to send more than 400 athletes from our LGBT sports community. Team D.C. will once again coordinate the uniforms and will march in together representing Washington behind the District flag and the Team D.C. banner. We always get a huge response.

Based on what I’ve heard so far, we will be represented in the sports of swimming, water polo, softball, soccer, flag football, tennis, running, triathlon, bowling, cycling, basketball, dancesport, open water swimming, volleyball and track & field.

The closing ceremonies will be held at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland and represents the last chance to hang out with all the new friends you made during the week.

Team D.C. is offering a discounted registration price for the Gay Games which ends Jan. 8.  The code is “teamdc.”

What are you waiting for? Eight days of sports, music and world culture are calling your name.

8 Comments
  • Gay Games Cleveland is in Table Tennis Damage Control mode.
    The table sponsor fell thru, the spokes person fell thru, the venue with wooden floor fell thru and the new assistant to sports rep Smitherman asked Busch the same questions he answered one and a half years ago.

    Busch still remembers from the 80’s and 90’s when the Gay Games focused on the Sports and Athletes, now it is about the Corporations and Money.

    Smitherman told Busch to play at the Convention Center on concrete or carpet; this is like asking the swimmers to jump into NYC’s dirty Hudson River water. They still are not getting it, people don’t play on concrete or carpet, instead of working with the community Smitherman gave table tennis the only choice, CONCRETE or CARPET. We are talked at, not worked with.

    The lack of community sensitivity, the lack of communication, the lack of experience and the lack of respect was the reason why Busch had no choice but to resign. “Imagine the problems we are going to face when we arrive in Cleveland in 2014 after all the problems and disrespect we are experiencing now?”

    Gay Games officials don’t care about Table Tennis, the sweet talk in the press release doesn’t change the facts that all of the above fell through and that Mr. Busch was talked at and disrespected. They are feeling the pressure and damage control has kicked in.

    The interpretation of the series of events depends on if you represent the interest of the corporations or the best interest for the community. The last time we checked, the Gay Games represents the corporation’s best interest and we are the table tennis community.

    Gay Games is using their power of status and class by disagreeing with the interpretation of the events by Mr. Busch. They are using their “Status in Society” that they are all respected members from the community, and that everybody should trust them. Why would anybody want to listen to Mr. Busch’s interpretation, one guy, a long time LGBT educator, lecturer, historian, activist and grass root organizer, who created the NYC Table Tennis team in 2002, put a team together for the first time in 2010 and won 8 medals in Cologne. The community leaders like Mr. Busch have often become an inconvenience to LGBT leadership for “truth telling” and exposing LGBT leadership and organizations about the corruption and the packaging of our community for personal gain.

    To this date the Table Tennis community received no apology. Busch was told to stop posting the table tennis information on the Gay Games Facebook page; they are trying to delete this problem away. Busch explains his postings, “Because the Gay Games is failing to inform the Table Tennis community on a regular basis, it is my responsibility to inform the LGBT sports community.”

    The Pink Pong Foundation, founded in 2002 in New York City by Busch is the only organized table tennis organization in the United States with 100 members. “We are boycotting the Gay Games to bring attention to this crisis. We hope to open up a dialogue amongst the LGBT sports community to talk about the purpose of the Gay Games. Who is benefiting, the sports or the corporations?”

    The goal is to reach 5.000 people read the blog by August of 2014. For more information: http://gaygamescleveland.blogspot.com/

    • I’m sorry to hear about your boycott of the Games. As seen by the Olympic boycotts in 1980 and 1984, it doesn’t solve any problems. Whenever a sporting event is held with 10,000 athletes, there are going to be conflicts. At the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago, they changed the swimming schedule at the last minute to nighttime. We swam 5 nights in a row, missed all the nighttime happenings and had to eat dinner at 1 am every night as there was no food at the pool. It wasn’t the best situation, but the important thing is that we were all there. I plan to compete in the open water swim in Cleveland. Do I want to swim in Lake Erie? Not really…but I will. And I don’t agree that one person isn’t enough to create a change. Best of luck, Wolf.

  • I think it is very relevant to mention the fact that three transgender women have been murdered in the past 8 months, including two this past month. The Cleveland media coverage has ranged from questionable to outright atrocious and harmful in spite of the intervention of GLAAD and the hard work of local advocates. The safety of the trans community is quite salient for athletes and tourists. The bias of the local media is an embarrassment and bodes poorly for people exploring Cleveland online prior to booking a trip.

  • Hi Sue: We at the Gay Games appreciate your thoughts and also believe strongly in providing a safe environment for everyone. So you and others are aware, all law enforcement is already working closely with us and meet regularly as plans are developed to ensure the safety for all the participants. These groups include local police in every jurisdiction where the Gay Games will be, sheriff's departments, federal law enforcement, Coast Guard and Ohio State Highway Patrol. They too are eager to have a safe and welcoming environment for all who participate and attend the Gay Games next August. If anyone has questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@GG9CLE.com. We are eager to welcome the world next summer and show everybody what a truly inclusive sporting event looks like!

  • Are you working with the local trans community? I'm not being difficult, simply hopeful that the Gay Games can be a support for the local community after you are gone.

  • Sue Kerr: Another good question. Yes, we are working with the local trans community, including attending recent community town hall on the issue. A leader in the trans community also acts as one of the trainers in the new Diversity Center program here for LGBTQ cultural competence training that is available to all businesses, organizations, etc. (GG9 staff completed the 5-hour program a couple months ago). THe Gay Games also works on a regular basis with the LGBT Center of Cleveland, which is one of the lead community partners of the Gay Games. Through our community partner program (we have 2 dozen plus from all segments of the nonprofit, faith and neighborhood communities), we are working to foster a legacy that remains long after next August.

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