• Photo for Gay Games VIII Underway in Cologne, Germany
    Photo Credit: William Cheung

Gay Games VIII Underway in Cologne, Germany

By L.K. Regan

The eighth Gay Games are underway in Cologne, Germany with nearly 10,000 athletes competing in over 30 different sports. We will be bringing you an interview with Chris Morgan, a champion weightlifter participating in the Games. But first, let's set the mood with a glimpse of the Games so far.

There are 9,475 registered participants from 65 countries competing in this year's Games, and they run the gamut from athletes who compete year-round at a very high level to folks who just want to be part of the event. The theme of the Games is inclusion—anyone can be a part of the action. Given that the Games are set this year in Germany, it's no surprise that this is the most heavily represented country with 31% of the athletes. But the U.S. has shown up in force at 23%. And though there are over 30 sports being played at the Games, roughly a quarter of the athletes are competing in either soccer or an aquatic event.

The action this weekend focused on the opening ceremony, which featured fireworks and a performance by Taylor Dayne of this year's Gay Games anthem, "Facing a Miracle." Matthew Mitcham, a gay athlete from Australia who won a gold medal in platform diving at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, led the athletes' oath. (That's Mitcham pictured right, posing with a 2002 Gay Games medal.) Mitcham, who has been serving as a Gay Games ambassador, also told the crowd, "I've cried twice since I've been here." The last time that happened, he said, was in Beijing.

Also announced as an ambassador: David Kopay, the first openly gay NFL player. During his 10-year professional football career, Kopay played for the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Detroit Lions, Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints, and Green Bay Packers. He has been a long-time advocate of the Gay Games, and has received the Federation of Gay Games' Hero Award. Says Kopay of the Games, "When I came out 30 years ago, the idea of something called 'gay and lesbian' sports was unimaginable. The Gay Games is directly responsible for inspiring people to stay or become active in sports, encouraging them not to let homophobia get in the way of expressing their love and enjoyment of athletic competitions." When Kopay was announced in Cologne's ReinEnergieStadion, a roar of appreciation went up from the crowd.

In the coming days, we'll bring more news from the Games, including checking in with champion powerlifter Chris Morgan. To get you in the mood, here's a video celebrating the Games, and set to Taylor Dayne's official Gay Games anthem: