The 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland is off to a thrilling start as the opening ceremony packed the Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night. It was a celebration that featured Lance Bass, Andrea McArdie, and the Pointer Sisters. Most of all, athletes, coaches, families, and spectators were inspired by a surprise video statement by President Barack Obama.
Obama started the video by expressing how proud he is of his administration’s efforts in advancing equal rights for gay and lesbians. He said, “It’s been remarkable to see the games thrive over the years. We’ve also seen America change in that time.”
With the message, Obama didn’t just address American athletes, he also had a message for athletes from countries where anti-gay laws have been signed into law. He told them, “The United States stands with you, and for your human rights.” The Gay Games started in 1982 and since then, there have been major strides in gay rights and also in acceptance. Much of that was seen on Saturday night as delegates from 51 countries and 48 states made their way onto the floor for the show before the surprise video by Obama.
Those participating in the Gay Games, along with spectators, were not just inspired by the message from Obama. Former Olympian and vocal supporter of the LGBT community Greg Louganis also inspired with his words. He said, “I want to give a shout-out to Cleveland…congratulate Cleveland and Akron for putting this together…this is awesome.”
Before the opening ceremony, Louganis spoke at a sold-out City Club luncheon sponsored by the Cleveland Foundation. He sent a message of change and encouraged visibility. He said, “It’s important to get outside your community and let people see who you are and not play safe. If you’re uncomfortable, you may be creating change without even realizing it. Never underestimate the positive impact you can have just by being yourself and letting people see who you are as people.”
The thousands of athletes participating in the Gay Games will follow out Louganis’ message and continue to spark inspiration in those who may be afraid to be themselves. Obama’s message, along with the electricity set off by the night can only help but influence and continue a change that is making its way throughout the nation and the world.
According to David Robinson, a member of the Gay Games 9 marketing team, the Games overall are expected to general $40 million for Cleveland’s economy. And is an even that has become about “changing hearts and minds through sports and culture.” With between 20, 000 and 25,000 participants to partake in activities running through August 16, Gay Games 9 is off to a strong and electric start.