As Gay Games 9 approaches its close, I must confess – I am a little sad…
For eight days in August, our city felt very “international” to me, worldly and sophisticated. I keep hearing good reports about the games and, in fact, met several participants (and three medalists – two gold, one silver) at work today. The Games participants were all proudly wearing their respective medals – as they should be. One woman had traveled from Russia to play badminton – she was lovely, with limited English but so proud and happy to be here. I actually asked if I could hug her, told her how moved I had been to see the Russian delegation at the Opening Ceremonies and then she asked if I would take a picture of her and her partner for them. I was honored.
Another medal winner was a proud gentleman who said he had trained for more than two years to compete in the swimming competitions, then went on to say how beautiful and welcoming Cleveland was, what a fantastic job the local Gay Games 9 committee had done and how he would remember this experience forever. The last athlete was a “bruised-up” lady – seems she was the goalie on the American ice hockey team (which lost to the Canadian team, boo!) She seemed to actually be beaming when I asked about her medal, then she shook my hand and asked if I would take a picture with her! I was flattered (and of course said “Yes!”) Like the others, she mentioned what an amazing experience the Games had been for her and how warm, friendly and welcoming everyone was in Cleveland.
Cleveland? Akron? You kick ass… As someone worried – and dare I admit, skeptical? – about our city’s ability to pull the games off, I will be the first one to admit I was SO WRONG and that Cleveland and Akron have made me “proud to be from CLE!”
While I am happy that the athletes have all enjoyed an amazing experience, I must selfishly share that I, too, have had an amazing experience. Cleveland feels “new” to me, full of potential and possibility. And while maybe I didn’t get a medal (or did I?), that renewed spirit and faith in our city is an even greater reward. Congrats again, Gay Games 9, and all the people that made you happen. I couldn’t be prouder of my city!