The Gay Games is the world's largest sporting and cultural event organized by and specifically for LGBT athletes, artists, musicians, and others. Originally called the Gay Olympics, it was started in San Francisco in 1982, as the brainchild of Tom Waddell, whose goals were to promote the spirit of inclusion and participation, as well as the pursuit of personal growth in a sporting event.
The Gay Games is open to all who wish to participate, without regard to sexual orientation. There are no qualifying standards to compete in the Gay Games. It brings together people from all over the world, many from countries where homosexuality remains illegal and hidden.
The Federation of Gay Games is the sanctioning body of the Gay Games. From its statement of concept and purpose:
|Gay Games I - Challenge 1982||San Francisco,||August 28, 1982||1,600|
|Gay Games II - Triumph 1986||San Francisco,||August 9, 1986||3,500|
|Gay Games III - Celebration 1990||Vancouver,||August 4, 1990||9,500|
|Gay Games IV - Unity 1994||New York,||June 18, 1994||11,000|
|Gay Games V - Friendship 1998||Amsterdam,||August 1, 1998||14,700|
|Gay Games VI - Under New Skies 2002||Sydney,||November 2, 2002||12,000|
|Gay Games VII - Where the World Meets 2006||Chicago,||July 15, 2006||12,500|
|Gay Games VIII - Be Part of it 2010||Cologne,||July 31, 2010|
Event organizers were sued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act of 1978, which gave the USOC exclusive rights to the word Olympic in the United States. Defendants of the lawsuit contended that the law was capriciously applied and that if the Nebraska Rat Olympics and the Police Olympics did not face similar lawsuits, neither should the Gay Olympics.
Some, like Jeff Sheehy, coauthor of San Francisco's domestic partner legislation and former president of the Harvey Milk Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered Democratic Club, believed homophobia to be a motivation behind the lawsuit. They cite the authorized use of the word "Olympics" by the Special Olympics and other organizations as evidence of this homophobia.
Others, like Daniel Bell, cite the IOC's long history of protecting the Olympics brand as evidence that the lawsuit against the "Gay Olympics" was not motivated by discrimination against gays. Since 1910 the IOC has taken action, including lawsuits and expulsion from the IOC, to stop other organizations from using the word "Olympics."
The FGG wanted to plan for a smaller event with a more conservative budget and, the Montréal organizing committee wanted to plan for an event with 24,000 participants, twice the level of participation of the previous Gay Games in 2002. Due to financial problems in previous events, the FGG also asked for transparency into Montréal 2006's financial activities.
After withdrawal of its sanction from Montréal, the FGG held a second round of bidding between Chicago and Los Angeles, both of which had put forth well-received bids to host the 2006 games in the first round in 2002. Ultimately, the FGG awarded Gay Games VII to Chicago.
The Montréal organizing committee nevertheless decided to proceed to hold an athletic and cultural event without the sanction of the FGG; this plan developed into the first edition of the World Outgames, and the creation of its sanctioning body, the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association.
Due to limited personal resources, many individual and team participants were forced to choose between Gay Games Chicago and World Outgames Montréal, a situation exacerbated by the two events being a week apart. The closing ceremony of Gay Games Chicago on 22 July 2006 was only 7 days before the opening ceremony of World Outgames Montréal on 29 July 2006. This meant that those who competed or performed in Chicago would have little recovery time before Montréal. The split resulted in a lower quality of athletic competition at both events because neither could claim the whole field of competitors. In this regard, competitors in team sports fared the worst because teams were much less likely (relative to competitors in individual sports) to compete in both the Gay Games and World Outgames. There was some advantages to the games being so close together time wise and location wise. For overseas participants that had to travel far the convenience of the games being only a week apart and not far form each other, enabled those participants to attend both.
It is yet to be seen whether the worldwide communities of LGBT athletes are willing and able to support both the Gay Games and World Outgames into the future. The Chicago Gay Games VII ended with no debt and all bills paid. The Montreal Outgames ended with 5.3M Canadian dollars of debt.