Not to be confused with Outgames

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:

The purpose of the Federation of Gay Games is to foster and augment the self-respect of lesbians and gay men throughout the world and to engender respect and understanding from the nongay world, primarily through an organized international participatory athletic and cultural event held every four years, and commonly known as the Gay Games.[1]

Gay Games host cities, opening dates, and participation levels

Name Host City Opening Participants
Gay Games I - Challenge 1982 San Francisco, Template:USA August 28, 1982 1,600
Gay Games II - Triumph 1986 San Francisco, Template:USA August 9, 1986 3,500
Gay Games III - Celebration 1990 Vancouver, Template:CAN August 4, 1990 9,500
Gay Games IV - Unity 1994 New York, Template:USA June 18, 1994 11,000
Gay Games V - Friendship 1998 Amsterdam, Template:NED August 1, 1998 14,700
Gay Games VI - Under New Skies 2002 Sydney, Template:AUS November 2, 2002 12,000
Gay Games VII - Where the World Meets 2006 Chicago, Template:USA July 15, 2006 12,500
Gay Games VIII - Be Part of it 2010 Cologne, Template:GER July 31, 2010
Gay Games IX: 2018 Template:N/a N/A, 2018

Naming controversy

Dr. Tom Waddell, the doctor and former Olympian who helped found the Gay Games, intended the Gay Games to be called the "Gay Olympics," but a lawsuit filed less than three weeks before 1982's inaugural Gay Olympics forced the name change.[2]

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.[3]

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.[3]

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."[4]

Schism in LGBT sports communities over Gay Games VII

In 2001, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) awarded the seventh edition of the Gay Games to Montréal, Canada for 2006, but the FGG removed its sanction in late 2003 after differences arose between it and the Montréal 2006 organizing committee. There were three main points of contention, over which neither party could agree:

  • Size of the event
  • Size of the budget — especially the planned break-even participation point
  • Financial transparency

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.

Gay Games VIII: Cologne 2010

On 16 March 2005, the Federation of Gay Games announced that Cologne, Johannesburg, and Paris were the official candidate cities for Gay Games VIII in 2010. Cologne was elected in the FGG annual meeting in Chicago on 14 November 2005.



  • Cities which hosted Gay Games (c.q. World Outgames) have some Olympic tradition and/or facilities have been used. The Games have not been held during an Olympic Year.
  • Host cities intentionally switch between the (Northern-)American and the (Western-)European continents.[citation needed] (Sydney 2006 was the first in the Southern Hemisphere)
  • The second World Outgames will take place in Copenhagen from 25 July to 2 August 2009.
  • the 3rd World Outgames are foreseen in 2013. Among others is Antwerp (Belgium) one of the candidate-cities
  • the IX Gay Games will probably been organised in 2014. Among others is Antwerp (Belgium) one of the candidate-cities

See also


  1. Federation of Gay Games. Concept and Purpose. Retrieved on 2006-11-25.
  2. Blackwell, Savannah. "Crushing the Gay Olympics: The USOC's homophobic past", San Francisco Bay Guardian, 2001-09-05. Retrieved on 2006-01-04. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Clark, Joe. "Glory of the Gay Games", 1994. Retrieved on 2006-01-04. 
  4. Bell, Daniel (1998). Why can't the Gay Games be the Gay Olympics?. International Games Archive. Retrieved on 2006-01-04.

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