Well, we have had a few days to come down from Gay Games 9 and “come down” is an appropriate phrase to use because, as far as we are concerned, it was an out-of-this-world event and we know a lot of people who felt the same way. We spoke to quite a few athletes, many of whom were foreign born, and, to a person, they all seemed to really enjoy their time in Cleveland and were impressed by the wonderful acceptance that they received here. Several even told us that they were stopped in the street and on public transportation by people who wanted to say hello to them and find out how they were doing in their contests. The athletes thought that they would have to reach out to the people of Cleveland but instead it was just the opposite; Cleveland reached out to them!
Unfortunately, we couldn’t make the closing ceremonies but the opening ceremonies were a terrific visual spectacle with the opening parade, the appearance of dignitaries like U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown and Connie Schultz, and the musical numbers by such artists as Alex Newell. It didn’t matter that the sound system wasn’t really up to par because the energy, joy and commitment carried the day.
Speaking of commitment, it says a lot for Cleveland’s level of it that there were so many volunteers that we were often looking around to find stuff to do. We tried to time a couple of swimming events and didn’t do so good here because we got confused as to what buttons to push at what time on the stopwatch (it didn’t matter, there were several back-ups to each race so the correct times were recorded and the prizes given to the right people) but we found a niche for ourselves in the Volunteer Hospitality Room at Tower City where we made sure the food was properly distributed and that people ate in the appropriate areas.
Moreover, we were proud to be a part of Margaret W. Wong and Associates because everyone at PFLAG was so grateful to us for providing the food at the informative panel discussion involving the athletes from Central America at Trinity Commons. We got to make some friends on the Volleyball Team from Columbia and were only sorry that the Softball Team from El Salvador was busy at their event in Akron and couldn’t have been there too.
Of course, we made several new friends like Mr. Lonnie Burghardt who did such a good job supervising the volunteers at the Renaissance Hotel and we reinforced our ties to the Cleveland Stonewall Democratic Club when we helped them table in Festival Village.
What’s more, the Gay Games officials who will be responsible for the French Games in 2018 were impressed by what we all did in Cleveland with Gay Games 9. In fact, they quietly told us that they will have to work very hard to equal or top what happened in Cleveland in 2014. We really hope that they succeed, though, because from our experience we could see why the Gay Games, in which everyone is welcome to participate regardless of their gender or sexual preference, mean so much to so many and we want it to keep on being a wonderful thing to look forward to every four years.