Get Ready for Gay Games 9
Expect the Unexpected! That’s the tag line for the 2014 Gay Games 9, to be held August 9-16 in Cleveland + Akron, Ohio. Many were surprised by the host city’s announcement, but don’t be fooled! There is plenty to see, do, and experience whether you are a participant, spectator or visitor.
Plus EDGE readers are being offered a $30 registration discount starting today and running through the month of September. Read on to learn more about Gay Games 9 and using the registration discount code.
The Cleveland Foundation is presenting the Gay Games 9 and want you to know "we’re not NYC, San Francisco, Chicago, Amsterdam... and that’s our appeal." From the resident friendliness to impressive attractions (major sports stadiums, arenas, and ballparks), world-class cultural facilities (Museum of Art, Auto Aviation Museum, Botanical Garden, Playhouse Square and many more), and award-winning restaurants there will be much to take in and enjoy before, during and after the Games.
In 1980 Dr. Tom Waddell, a former track and field star, envisioned the Gay Olympics as a vehicle of "sportsmanship, personal achievement, and inclusiveness" for gay athletes. The first Games took place in San Francisco in 1982 but were renamed the Gay Games after the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) sued and won an injunction preventing the use of the name for fear of injury to the organization.
The Gay Games goal then and now is to positively influence the cultural, social, and political attitudes towards the LGBT community through sport and cultural events. Every four years the competition takes place in many cities that have previously hosted the Olympic Games. You can see the past locations below. Noticeably the most recent games will be hosted in a smaller but nonetheless spectacular area with amazing community support, both gay and straight, top-notch facilities, venues and cultural locals, and an area excited to showcase itself and demonstrate the potential for changing attitudes in the area -- a goal of the Gay Games.
Prior Gay Games Locations
1982-San Francisco, California, USA
1986-San Francisco, California, USA
1990-Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada
1994-New York City, New York, USA
1998-Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2006-Chicago, Illinois, USA
2014-Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, USA
Gay Games 9 in Cleveland + Akron
I had an opportunity to speak with Rob Smitherman, the associate executive director/director of events and operations to get the inside scoop on Gay Games 9. He has previously worked on and competed in every Games since 1998, beginning in Amsterdam.
RS: We recently marked our one year date from the official Opening ceremonies with over 400 people at a Cleveland Indians game. It was amazing and the first time Cleveland Indians had hosted a gay event.
KW: It seems the Gay Games were already living up to their goal of influencing attitudes towards the GLBT community. Tell me about your Gay Games experience.
RS: My first Games were in 1998 in Amsterdam, and I played basketball. It was life changing for me. It was the first gay event I had ever been to, and it allowed two parts of my world to come together. Playing sports and being gay. I have been addicted ever since. I think it (the Games) is important for younger gay people hiding behind sports or those who have never played since being gay was not accepted in the sports community. In a small way the Gay Games might have helped change that. It is important for those living in smaller rural communities.
KW: There was buzz in the community about the Federation selecting Cleveland + Akron as the host city. Based on what you just shared, it makes perfect sense for the choice, but beyond those thoughts, why do you believe Cleveland + Akron won out?
RS: In 2009 Federation of Games was selecting the next hosting city for 2014. Representatives came to Cleveland and saw first-hand the greatness of the Northeast Ohio area. There are great venues, most being in the downtown Cleveland and Akron area, amazing spaces which area easy to get to and first-rate places to have sports events. These are key components to hosting the Gay Games. One example is the Cleveland State University pool, which is state of the art. Olympic teams have practiced here in preparation for three Olympics.
Second is the enthusiasm of people in NE Ohio. Although it will be the smallest city/area to ever host, it has taken the area by storm. There is tremendous support from the gay community and straight allies. People here see it as impactful. When we hosted an event for the Federation, there were thousands of people.
Third, Cleveland and Akron hosting the Games can make a
change. This will change the area. It will change hearts and minds. It is a game changer for Northeast Ohio. There has never been a gay event here. It’s an opportunity for people to see gays and lesbians being themselves and playing sports.
Finally, there is tremendous financial support. The
Cleveland Foundation is the presenting sponsor. They see the benefit of the Gay Games in Northeast Ohio for impact now and in future. Both the cities of Cleveland and Ohio have also extended much support, in addition to other national and local businesses.
KW: That is great. Can you expand on what are some of the area attractions that will be catering to Games participants and spectators?
RS: Sure. For track and field, we are using the facilities at the University of Akron, which is one of best dedicated track facilities in the state. For softball, there are lots of fields for all the teams, but the most spectacular is Firestone stadium. It is actually a field dedicated to softball; built in ’30s; cool looking; has concession stands; and there is even a professional softball team that plays there. The Gay Games softball finals will be played here for volleyball, which is one of the harder sports to put on because you need so many courts, and participants want to play in same place. We were not able to do that at Cologne, but we were able to do it in Chicago at Navy Pier. People loved that. So for Gay Games 9 in Cleveland + Akron we will be using the newly built convention center, which is in the middle of everything downtown. It is only one month old. Volleyball will be in the exhibit space, right next to the festival village, which serves as a home base: an area to hang out, with stages, vendors, events throughout the day and evening, utilized as a gathering space, all in downtown Cleveland.
KW: What about people getting around to all the events and locations. How is the transport system?
RS: This is always a bit of a challenge. However, many people do not realize that Cleveland has one of best public transport systems in U.S. It will take you from the airport to downtown in 30 minutes. Once you are in the city area, it is very walkable. For further events, there is the light rail, bus systems, a free trolley and we are even working on providing transport where no public transport is available.
KW: So it seems people will be able to easily maneuver around the city. For those looking beyond the sports and cultural events, and perhaps a night out, what is the gay scene like there? I hear there are only three gay bars.
RS: Cleveland and Akron are no Chelsea, Boystown or Castro, but there are many cool areas and neighborhoods that are gayish. Everyone here goes to the same bars and restaurants. It is all integrated. No one bats an eye at same-sex couple kissing or hand holding. Many locals have Friday night bar takeovers, where gays and lesbians have somewhat of set times. Now bars enjoy the crowd and money and it is more of a regular event.
KW: Are there any other unique, different or exciting surprises we can expect?
RS: The parties, similar to past Gay Games will continue. The Opening Ceremonies will be indoors at the Quick and Loans Arena where the Cleveland Cavaliers play. The Closing Ceremonies will be amazing at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Everyone will have to stay tuned to learn about performers and speakers.
KW: Sounds exciting. Back to the sports and cultural events, what is the national-international participation split and how have you enticed competitors to participate?
RS:There is a lot of non-US interest. We have over 19 countries represented so far. We have learned from past Gay Games that internationals tend to register about 8-10 months before the event. Registrations are great and above 10 percent projections so far. There are 35 U.S. states represented as well. We have a goal of 11,000 participants. We believe we can reach and potentially surpass this number. We focus on people who will actually register. By that I mean people who participate in gay sports, which is more our demographic. We will be at NAGA (gay softball). IGLA (gay swimming is very active). We are at many Pride events too, but that demographic is small.
KW: Not many people think so much about the cultural aspect. What can you tell us that most of us might not know?
RS: Band and choral concerts are the highlights. We are aiming for one performance each night. Cheer is also a great sight. Remember, Festival Village will have daily events. Plus there are many theaters and galleries with LGBT-themed events on their normal calendar.
KW: Let’s talk further about registration. Are there any sports that are close to filling up and preventing more people from registering? Any new sports or events for Gay Games 9?
RS: There are two sports that are filling up very fast and almost full. Those are competitive sailing and golf. Although not a specific sport at the Games and therefore no registration, we are teaming with IGRA (gay rodeo) to hold a rodeo and some events for a few days.
KW: How are you measuring the success of this year’s Games? What do you hope is the lasting impression people take away from this experience?
RS: I can only speak for myself, but I think it would echo the leadership and Federations hopes. I want people to come away a better sense of Northeast Ohio. I want everyone to have a great time, leave safe with only minor bumps, bruises and twisted ankles, and think this was the best Gay Games in a small city that fully embraced them and showed them a good time. I believe this will create change in Northeast Ohio. Change hearts, minds and attitudes through sports and cultural events.
KW: I am excited to be there to not only to participate but also to spectate and enjoy all the areas of Cleveland and Akron have to offer everyone lucky enough to visit the host city.
General Registration (http://gg2014.sportingpulse.com/index.cgi?client=1) is open now and includes entry into the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Spectator tickets for Opening and Closing Ceremonies are also currently on sale. Participants in the 35+ sport and culture events must register by July 9, 2014. There is an early-bird discount on general registration of $30 if you register by September 1, 2013.
EDGE readers can also use the registration code "EDGE2013" (no italics) through September 30, 2013 for an additional $30 discount.
Registration for 2014 Gay Games consists of two parts: General Registration and Event Registration.
General Registration is $165.00 USD until September 1, 2013 and $195.00 USD after September 1, 2013. If you use your EDGE discount code (EDGE2013) you can save $30 starting today through September 30, 2013.
General Registration is required of all participants. Each general registrant is able to march in opening ceremony, participate in closing ceremonies, receive a participant medal and bag, plus access transportation to events throughout the week of the Games and other related benefits.
You must complete General Registration before completing (optional) Event Registration. You can submit your General Registration any time then complete your Event Registration(s) at a later date (or you can do at the same time.)
Participants can register for a team-based sport and identify the team at that time or add the team name later. Sport teams interested in registering should designate a team organizer who should register and create a team code.
After you submit a General Registration, you can register for your specific event(s). Event registration fees vary upon the event. The fees cover venue and equipment rental, official staffing and event staffing.
Registration link http://gg2014.sportingpulse.com/index.cgi?client=1