On Thursday, August 14th, we assisted Gay Games 9 by volunteering at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Cleveland under the supervision of Mr. Lonnie Burghardt who was trying, and succeeding admirably, to make sure that all of the events taking place in the hotel had the necessary number of volunteers and that the volunteers were making the most of their time. On this day, we spent a large part of the morning acting as hall monitors directing people where to go to watch the Dart and the Dancesport competitions. In the afternoon, however, Lonnie assigned us to keep an eye on the Volunteer Hospitality Room located right next to the Foot Locker in Tower City. The Volunteer Hospitality Room is where the volunteers can go to take a break and get something to eat and, to be sure, there were plenty of vegetarian, ham and chicken wraps for everyone. While we were there we re-organized the room and created recycling boxes for cardboard and plastic items. We also had a good visit with Mr. Reynaldo Garcia-Rivera who has attended several gay games in the past including those in Germany and Australia. Mr. Garcia-Rivera is 44 years old and resides in New York although he was initially from Puerto Rico and makes his living by working in housekeeping and elder care. He described Cleveland and Gay Games 9 as “good” and said that he “is like Star Trek. Any new territory is wonderful to see.” Mr. Garcia-Rivera didn’t believe that Gay Games 9 was as well-attended as other gay games that he had attended because the European Games are coming up soon and the Europeans decided to wait and attend those instead; many Europeans probably just didn’t want to come to Cleveland because they were under the mistaken impression that there was nothing to do here and would have preferred that Gay Games 9 to have been held in a metropolis like New York or Chicago; and the problem of direct flights between Cleveland and Europe. It was very interesting to listen to Mr. Garcia-Rivera’s take on things; we believe that he gave a fair and thoughtul evaluation and we plan to work in the volunteer room again tomorrow.Reynaldo Garcia Rivera
After we left the Renaissance, we went to Festival Village and purchased a delicious vegetarian corn dog (yes, they do make them!) and other items for dinner before we headed over to the FantAsia Gay Games Reception held at Negative Space Gallery at Asian Town Center. This event was put on by Asians and Friends Cleveland which, according to their website “is a non-profit organization serving Asian and non-Asian lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-gendered communities of Northeast Ohio.” We enjoyed talking to Mr. Michael Chew, who is an old friend of Ms. Margaret Wong and says hello to her, and his partner Mr. Paul Soprano who were the principal organizers of tonight’s event which was advertised as “a casual social evening for members of the gay games and some of Cleveland’s Asian LGBT community and friends” featuring works of local artists, music, and video entertainment. We spoke to our friend Mr. Johnny Wu who, by his own admission, didn’t do too well competing in the billiard contests but, nevertheless, really liked the being part of Gay Games 9 and thinks it was good that Cleveland hosted them because the athletes will return home and tell people how much they liked Northeast Ohio and maybe come back one day themselves and encourage their friends to pay us a visit also. We talked to several other people about the games including Dr. Andrew Goldberg, a radiologist at MetroHealth who just won a bronze medal in golf. Dr. Goldberg liked competing in Gay Games 9 because he loves golf and also liked the compliments that he received for speaking French very well. Dr. Goldberg was here because he wants to support the Asian community because he believes them to be a “very welcoming people” and remembers how kind to him they were when he moved from Pittsburgh to Cleveland about 13 years ago. We also spoke to Ms. Cindy Yu who is the Finance Director for the LGBT Community Center on Detroit Avenue in Cleveland. Ms. Yu immigrated to the United States from Hong Kong in 1988 and became a U.S. citizen in 1994. To her, Gay Games 9 is a wonderful success because it is “exciting, competitive, joyful and people are in a safe place and can be themselves here.” She cited the example of Dancesport wherein 2 women or 2 men can dance together without having to explain themselves or experience judgment and/or discrimination.