The Gay Games are taking place this year, and registration is not only under-way, organizers say it's on fire. For athletes, there's still time to sign up to be a participant—and for spectators, there will be more and better competition than ever before.
The Gay Games are scheduled for July 31 to August 7 in Cologne, Germany. The organizers report that 5,000 people have already signed up to participate in the Games, which are held every four years. Those registrants are drawn from 49 countries so far, with Germany and the United States being most heavily represented. Entries have also come in from places as far flung as Japan, Afghanistan and Madagascar. The sports with the most registrants so far are swimming, soccer and volleyball.
"With 5,000 registered participants, we are far ahead of our forecast of 2,500 for New Years Eve," said Annette Wachter, Co-President of Games Cologne. "Taking the credit crunch into consideration, this is a fantastic result and we are looking positively ahead to this coming July and August." Organizers typically have about 12,000 entrants for the Games, but due to the weak global economy had drawn that estimate down to 8,000 for this year's Games. Now, however, the organizers are rapidly making contingency plans should the full 12,000 eventually enter. The largest Gay Games ever were in 1998 in Amsterdam—which was also the last time the Games were held in Europe.
The Gay Games were conceived by Dr. Tom Waddell, an Olympic decathlete, and were first held in 1982 in San Francisco. They've taken place every four years since, right through to the 2006 Chicago Games (see also our piece on the dramatic origins of the 2006 Games). This year's Gay Games VIII takes place in Cologne, Germany's self-proclaimed "gay capital." Next year's games are scheduled for Cleveland, Ohio. In 2006, RealJock was present at the Chicago Games, and did reporting from the scene. We followed everything—from the opening ceremonies (we do love a good parade) to basketball, swimming and definitely wrestling. We also checked out the parties, because the Games offer more than competition—they also include entertainments such as the Pink Flamingo Party, where dozens of beautiful swimmers splash around in the world's wettest drag talent show. Click the links to check out photos, or get a glimpse below of what it's like to be a Gay Games athlete.
Here a member of the San Francisco Rockdogs gets some airtime:
(Photo courtesy of Gay Games)
And here one of the San Francisco Hustlers steps up to the plate:
(Photo: Jeremy Lawson for Gay Games)
Looks like fun, no? If you're an athlete, we encourage you register for this year's Games (and, hey, don't think you need to be an Olympic lifter—this year bridge was added as a new sport). Just click here for registration instructions. And for anyone planning or able to be in Germany this summer, we definitely encourage you to check out the Games as a spectator. Who knows, we may see you there!