GAY GAMES 9 is the 9th iteration of the Gay Games, an international gathering for athletic competition hosted by and for people in the LGBTQ+ community. Launched in 1982 by Dr. Tom Waddell, the Gay Games are an international sporting event that occur every four years. The Gay Games represent a safe arena for all athletes, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, race, gender, nationality, or ability. The Games came to Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, from August 9 - 16, 2014, sponsored by the CLEVELAND FOUNDATION. The 2014 Gay Games included more than 35 sports, and events were open to all adult participants, regardless of athletic ability or sexual orientation.
In 2009, After a year of scouting potential sites to hold the game, the Federation of Gay Games (FCG) selected Cleveland out of fourteen cities that bid to host the games. Several other American cities, including Boston, Miami, and Washington DC, were passed up for the opportunity. In a proposal to the FGG, the Cleveland Foundation partnered with the International Gay Rodeo Association, a multinational coordinating group of rodeo events for LGBT+ participants, to ask that the sport be included should Cleveland host the games. After Cleveland won the bid, 2014 marked the first year that Rodeo was included in the games. There was also an attempt from city leaders to pass a domestic partner registry for same sex couples to show support for the Games which was blocked by a group of ministers, who stated that it interfered with Ohio’s ban on gay marriage.
The Cleveland Foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to the Gay Games, making the 2014 games the first to have a presenting sponsor. The games received a swift name change, and from 2013 onward was known as the Gay Games presented by the Cleveland Foundation. As a consequence of this grant, an LGBT field of interest fund was created at the foundation, set to launch upon conclusion of the games. Other notable sponsors included the CLEVELAND CLINIC, CLEVELAND INDIANS, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS, Coca Cola, Marriott International, and United Airlines. Notably, the UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST also sponsored Gay Games 9, becoming the first religious group to contribute a large sponsorship to the event.
The opening ceremony was held at the ROCKET MORTGAGE FIELDHOUSE (formerly Quicken Loans Arena) on August 9, 2014 and featured welcomes from notable political and sports figures. President Barack Obama made an on screen appearance to wish athletes a safe and inclusive competition. Former Olympians and other stars, including Greg Louganis, Lance Bass, Alex Newell, and the Pointer Sisters made performance appearances. Over the course of the week-long celebration and competition, there were corresponding festivities across Cleveland. The CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART hosted “Out in Art,” and there was Gay Games Night at PROGRESSIVE FIELD in addition to multiple parties. The Games were also welcomed to the city by Terminal Tower, which was painted rainbow to celebrate the event, and the WESTERN RESERVE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, which hosted a special exhibit for the Gay Games: "The Victory of Self: The LGBT Community in Northeast Ohio".
Events for the Gay Games 9 were held across 40 venues, including the CLEVELAND METROPARKS ZOO, the Veale Convocation, Recreation and Athletic Center at CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY, the Cleveland Mall, and the East 9th Street Pier at Voinovich Park, among many others. The Gay Games brought in more than 10,000 competitors from over 60 countries, and over 20,000 athletes and visitors. Competitions included basketball, beach volleyball, bowling, cycling, dance sport, darts, diving, figure skating, flag football, golf, ice hockey, martial arts, open water swim, physique, pool (billiards), powerlifting, racquetball, rowing, running (5K), running (10K), running (half-marathon), running (marathon), sailing, soccer, softball, sport climbing, squash, swimming, table tennis, tennis, track and field, the triathlon, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling & grappling. To see the results of these competitions, click here.
Throughout the games, several competitors secured world records. Brian Jacobson lowered his own world record in the Masters 50-meter freestyle swim to 23.31 seconds from 23.43 set only a week before in Minnesota. Ida Keeling became the first person to complete the 100 meter race in the 95-99 age category for an internationally recognized competition. Keeling completed the race in 59.8 seconds. Kinnon MacKinnon became the first out transgender man to take home gold, winning the powerlifting competition at 28 years old. MacKinnon lifted almost three times his body weight to secure first place at the Gay Games.
From sponsors, civic organizations, and participant fees, $6.8 million was raised to fund the Games. Throughout its duration, the Gay Games 9 resulted in more than $52 million in economic exchange. Out of the 32 years of Games prior to the Gay Games 9, the Cleveland Gay Games were the most economically successful.
Riley Simko, Grace Howard
Updated by Sidney Negron
Last Updated: 7/29/2022