It looks like the Ninth Gay Games held in Cleveland went off without a hitch and everyone had a good time. There had been some apprehension that Cleveland did not have the long history of LGBT acceptance and hence athletes and tourists may not feel welcome. But that fear proved unfounded.
Nick Gill says he was warned by a teammate on his indoor volleyball team about what Cleveland might be like before they left Portland, Maine, for the Gay Games this week.
”He was telling us horror stories about growing up here,” Gill said Thursday while watching the beach volleyball tournament at a lakeside park just outside downtown Cleveland, which is staging the Games with nearby Akron.
Gill said his teammate, who was raised in Cleveland, has been ”humbled” by the progress the city has made and by the warm reception Gay Games participants have received.
”People are just so thankful we’re here,” Gill said. ”It’s exceeded all of my expectations.”
Other Games participants also praised Cleveland and Akron and called the host cities friendly and hospitable.
Cleveland, a former manufacturing center on the southern edge of Lake Erie, and Akron, about 35 miles south, were hardly the first choice of the international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community when they were chosen in September 2009 over gay friendly locations Boston and Washington. Some critics in the gay media predicted the Games in northeast Ohio would be a disaster.
Cleveland, home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has no identifiable gay neighborhoods, or gayborhoods, and its LGBT community generally keeps a low profile. But this week rainbow-hued gay pride flags are fluttering throughout downtown.
San Francisco resident Jason Garrett competed in the tennis tournament earlier in the week. He said he is heartened by how friendly people, even the taxi drivers, have been.
While I thought that the games would be well received by the majority here, I was concerned that small groups of protestors might protest and mar the event. But that did not seem to happen and even some Christian groups went out of their way to be welcoming.
This increased acceptance has been visible throughout Cleveland and Akron throughout the week, despite some initial concerns about hosting the games in a smaller, more conservative location that in previous years. Thousand of people flocked to the Festival Village in Cleveland, residents and visitors alike. Dave Fisher, an Akron resident, spent much of the week visiting the Gay Games’ locations in his city. Fisher was one of a few hundred Christians who organized to pass out pink plastic wristbands that read “God likes me.”
Well done, Cleveland!
Now if you would only get rid of your stupid and offensive baseball team logo …