Gay Games VII Closing Ceremony Review

Sun. July 23, 2006 12:00 AM
by PJ Gray

Confessions of an Athletic Supporter—Part Deux

Well, I've done just what Rydell High's Principal McGee encouraged in the film Grease. I'm not an athlete, so I became an athletic supporter. (God, I'm going to catch hell from close friends for that one.) Eve Arden would have been so proud.

Before I describe my experience at the Gay Games Closing Ceremony, first let me mention something that I left out of my description of the Opening Ceremony. As a former television producer, I completely respect and admire all of the hard work that the coordinators and volunteers provided to the success of these Games. They deserve major props. It takes countless hours of commitment to make it all happen. And despite my opinion regarding the duration and choices made to the roster of the first event, I was pleasantly surprised at the pace and the variety of entertainment at the Closing Ceremony. Fewer speeches with no angry rants (Sorry Ms. Chin, you impress me tremendously with your passion but not at a time for joy and celebration), inspiring words, music and dance, and a smaller venue made for a very memorable, enjoyable and, yes, prideful afternoon... and all under four hours.

It was a beautiful day at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. The temperature was especially comfortable for a July afternoon. The athletes who endured record heat last week definitely deserved to be rewarded.

Although the folks at the Cubs organization were accommodating with their space, they still had to be concerned about their home during their regular season. So, a long cross-shaped pathway was built onto the field to protect as much of the grass as possible which caused an awkward performance space. However, knowing how we "creative types" are, coordinators and performers worked around the problem and made the best of it. The afternoon began with a fitting procession of athletes. Their energy was both positive and relaxed which set the tone for the rest of the event. At this time, the Gay Games VII Mixed Chorus sang "Turn the World Around." The chorus sounded terrific.

Then, as one of the highlights of the day, the rock trio BETTY performed the National Anthem and gave the folks at Wrigley and hopefully everyone in the LGBT community something to talk about for years to come. They ROCKED and really got the crowd going after the long procession.

The rest of the event was smattered with very appropriate commentaries: the diplomatic Welcome from the representatives of the Federation of the Gay Games; an awkward greeting from the remarkable and tireless Chicago gay media mogul Tracy Bain. (I still question whether she sleeps. When, Tracy? When?!); the lighting of the symbolic torch prominently displayed over the hidden second base; and the official Flag Transfer Ceremony to Cologne for the 2010 Gay Games VIII. This included Mayor Daley who, I heard from some mild-mannered Wrigley workers, had never been to the Friendly Confines until this event. To think, if that’s true, it took the gays to bring him to Wrigley Field. What power we have... It’s no wonder that some people still live in fear of us.

I mentioned there were fewer speeches. It felt that way because fortunately some political messages were delivered with laughs--thanks to comedians Ant and Poppy Champlin. This strategy worked well with the crowd. One memorable speech was given by the impressive South African Beach Volleyball Olympian Leigh-Ann Naidoo who brought (no, commanded) the crowd to their feet to thank the Games’ coordinators and volunteers with well-deserved recognition. Then, when she touched on the very important issue of homophobia around the world (specifically citing torture victims as examples), it made the audience naturally somber. Again, was it appropriate to this kind of event? I suppose that will always be debated. Despite the noticeable calming of the crowd during her oration, she received hearty applause when she finished.

Entertainment highlights included: ROTC—Chicago’s Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps who are always fun and brought the crowd back to life (It was so nice to see them perform somewhere other than the Pride Parade.); the Glam-Dance Queen-Diva Kristine W sang "I’ll Be Your Light"; a special appearance by the DC Cowboys (very "Brokeback... The Musical" C’mon, face it. You knew it was coming eventually.); and finally the incomparable Cyndi Lauper who sang the now-classic gay-adopted anthems "True Colors" and "Shine." Her voice only gets better with age and had an ideal strength to carry through such a large venue.

The event ended with fitting remarks from Eli Scho-Antwerpes (say that ten times fast), the Deputy Mayor of Cologne, more dancing, and the Official Gay Games Anthem "Take the Flame" performed beautifully by the chorus.

So, that’s it. Another Games has passed and the legacy of Tom Waddell lives on—thanks to so many who are inspired by his dream. Congratulations to all the athletes who challenged themselves to compete. You have my deepest respect.

In a word: awe

Photos by: Frank Failing, Male Image Photography

See more photos from the Gay Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, plus events throughout the week in the photo galleries.