On Saturday evening, August 9th, we attended the opening ceremonies for Gay Games 9 at the Quicken Loans Arena. We, as well as countless other people, had been looking forward to this evening for a long time.
The opening parade, staged by Ms. Jane Miskovic who also staged the 2014 Sochi parade, took almost an hour out of a three hour show but by itself it was worth the price of admission. There are 6000 contestants from 52 countries and 49 states taking part in Gay Games 9 and they all walked in country by country in alphabetical order. The United States was the last group to march in and they did it state by state in alphabetical order except for Ohio which walked in last with its 1400 proud participants. The ticket holders in the Q applauded loudly for all of them especially for the Russian Federation due to their resistance of Russia’s much-publicized repressive policies against gay people.
There was then a funny opening number set to “Rollin’ on the River” that was billed as a “Greeting from Akron” with featuring energetic dancers and Good Year tires being rolled around.
Gay Games Co-Chairs Mr. Steve Sokany and Ms. Hollie Ksiezyk officially welcomed everyone and noted that U.S. Senator Rob Portman had sent a letter of Best Wishes but U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and his wife Ms. Connie Schultz were present and each spoke for a couple of minutes. U.S. Senator Brown said that having Gay Games 9 here was a chance for Ohio to redeem itself after passing Proposition 1 against Gay Marriage in 2004 and Ms. Schultz said that respect for gay rights and marriage equality keeps growing constantly and praised her husband’s outstanding voting record in these areas.
The rest of the show was a combination of musical numbers, brief speeches and tributes. Among the speakers were famed Olympian and noted gay rights activist Mr. Greg Louganis who praised the Russian delegation and recalled that he won his first national title in Cleveland years ago. Mayor Frank Jackson of Cleveland and Mayor Don Plusquellic of Akron took to the stage together to express their pride that the games would take place in their cities. President Barack Obama even addressed the Q in a short film which ended with the President saying “let’s get these games underway!”
The entertainment was excellent and the performers included Ms. Andrea McArdle (Broadway’s original “Annie”) who sang “Tomorrow” and did another stunning musical number with Mr. Alex Newell from the TV show “Glee”.
At the conclusion, U.S. Senator Brown called out “let the games begin!” and everyone swayed and clapped their hands to a performance of “I’m so Excited” as some of the participants danced on the floor of the Q.
We had a marvelously good time this evening and as we left we thought of how emotionally uplifting the opening ceremonies were as well as words by Ms. Connie Schultz which were, “put the world on notice that here in Northeast Ohio we celebrate love in all of its forms. We celebrate families in every configuration!”
On Monday, the games themselves will actually start. As Ms. Joanie Evans, Member of the Board of Directors of the Federation of Gay Games, said tonight, they are about “participation, inclusion, and personal best.”