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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Gay Games 10 right around the corner with 10,000 competing
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2018-08-01

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The final tally for Gay Games 10, which runs Aug. 4-12 in Paris, is impressive: 10,317 participants from 91 countries, with 36 sports, 14 cultural events, and an academic conference.

About 170 from Chicago are participating.

No doubt Gay Games founder Dr. Tom Waddell would be smiling down on France, where the gay sports world goes for gold, anchored around the Games' long-standing principles: participation, inclusion and personal best.

The Gay Games launched in San Francisco in 1982, with 1,350 competitors from more than 170 cities worldwide. Waddell, who competed in the 1968 Summer Olympics, died in 1987—at age 49.

The quadrennial Gay Games have since been held in Vancouver, New York, Amsterdam, Sydney, Chicago, Cologne and Cleveland/Akron.

The 2022 Games will be held in Hong Kong.

The host city for the 2026 Games will be announced in 2021—with early candidates being Brisbane, Brighton and Hove ( UK ), and Tel Aviv.

"I hope the Gay Games continues to be strong. It has a really wonderful [and] important legacy, [so] I hope people will continue to support it," said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com and one of the nation's top sportswriters on LGBT topics.

"Twenty years ago, the Gay Games was it, along with just a few [one-sport] events here and there. The Gay Games at the time was the ultimate destination for LGBTQ athletes. Today, that has changed—because there are so many events."

A case in point is the annual multi-sport Sin City Shootout, held every January in Las Vegas. The annual Gay Softball World Series continues to expand, as does the Gay Super Bowl. Chicago hosts the Pride Bowl flag football tournament every June, and it continues to grow.

The Amateur Sports Alliance of North America ( ASANA ), organizers of the 2018 ASANA Softball World Series, an all-women event set to be played Sept. 18-22 in New Orleans, announced a recent partnership with Cloud Sports Network ( CSN ), the first professional streaming service dedicated to amateur sports coverage, to broadcast tournament games live in a format accessible from any internet-connected device in the world.

"It's incredible, the access that LGBTQ adults have to play recreational sports," Zeigler said. "The growth of events has been a big change [in recent years]."

Growth among out athletes seemingly expands daily. There are near-daily coming-out stories of out athletes. Bradley Kim, a safety for the Air Force Academy football team, announced in late-July via social media that he is gay.

In June, the spotlight was on professional soccer player Collin Martin, who plays for Minnesota United. He announced he is gay on the same day that his team held its Pride night, and when Martin got into a game after coming out, the home crowd at TCF Bank Stadium gave him a standing ovation.

"The sports world is accepting us, period," Zeigler said.

"[Martin's] biggest impact will be in the city of Minneapolis and the sport of soccer, as it is with all athletes. Their biggest impact will be in the city they play in and the sport they play."

Martin follows Robbie Rogers as out, active MLS players.

Rogers, in 2013, became the first openly gay man to compete in a top North American professional sports league. Rogers retired permanently last November after a series of injuries forced him to miss the entire 2017 season.

"MLS having two openly gay players says something about the state of soccer. You can't say it's difficult to be out in Major League Soccer," Zeigler said.

"The biggest impact anyone can have is to inspire courage in someone else to come out—in their private life or publicly. It could be a linebacker in, say, the Atlanta Falcons locker room who sees and reads Collin's story, and just connects with Collin's story. But, by and large, [Martin's] biggest impact will be in his city, in his sport."

Zeigler added, "The most important impact [coming-out has for an athlete] is, on their own life. We know that people are happier and more fulfilled when they are out and able to be who they are—with their friends and family, and that extends to their co-workers and teammates."

Zeigler's site, Outsports.com, has a simple tag line: Courage is Contagious. "We know that many athletes get their courage [to come out] from reading the stories of other out athletes," he said.

In late June, the third Outsports Pride was held around New York City Pride—and more than 150 athletes from across the rainbow attended.

"This was the most successful [Outsports Pride], not just because it was the most people attending. [But rather,] the atmosphere was so inclusive, so positive. It was the most diverse group of people we've had—with more women, more people of color, more transgender than ever before."

Outsports Pride annually attracts out high school athletes, college athletes, former pros, and some who have retired from the working-world.

"Outsports Pride is a physical manifestation of the website," Zeigler said. "The part [of the website] that we are most proud of is, the stories of real people who are coming-out in sports and finding overwhelming success and building community."

At the New York event, Zeigler told of a retired gay man. "He said [Outsports Pride] was the most inclusive LGBTQ event he has been to in years, that it was the first time he walked into an LGBTQ space and didn't feel like he should be sitting by himself in the corner. People of all ages, all genders and all races said hello to him, greeted him, asked who he was, where he's from and his connection to sports.

"People around sports are good people; they understand community and teamwork, and they understand being welcoming to people."


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