Gay Games Kick Off in Chicago

Sun. July 16, 2006 12:00 AM by Kevin Wayne

Heat and protesters fail to spoil Gay Games Opening Ceremonies

Chicago, IL - Despite the intense heat wave in Chicago, the seventh Gay Games have officially begun with a festive opening ceremony at Soldier Field.

Thousands of spectators filled Soldier Field to welcome nearly 12,000 GLBT athletes from over 65 countries.

(Gay Games Photos - updated daily)

Lead by Team San Francisco the athletes entered in an Olympic-style procession and were greeted by generous applause and cheerleaders. Chicago’s delegation finished the procession.

As the sun set on the stadium situated on Chicago’s lakefront, spectators were entertained by over 1,400 dancers, acrobats and musicians. The celebrity-packed entertainment included Erasure's Andy Bell, Margaret Cho, Frankie Knuckles, Jody Watley, Megan Mullally, Heather Small, Kate Clinton and more.

The opening ceremonies ended with a spectacular final number and fireworks show lighting up Chicago’s skyline.

Actress Megan Mullally said of Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley, "he doesn't bat for the team but he bats for gay rights." As she introduced the mayor, the crowd jumped to their feet in applause. The mayor outlined his strong history of supporting Chicago’s GLBT community and promised to continue "as long as I’m mayor of this great city."

(Read Mayor Daley's comments from the Gay Games Opening Ceremonies)

Nearly 100,000 spectators and visitors are expected to visit Chicago during the Games creating an estimated $80 million in local economic impact. Banners promoting the games are hanging on streets all over Chicago.

The Gay Games are a possible Olympics dress rehearsal for the city of Chicago.

Over the next week the athletes will be competing in events ranging from body building to swimming and diving to dancing at 33 venues throughout Chicago and the suburbs.

The closing ceremony on July 22 at Wrigley Field will feature performances by Cyndi Lauper and a host of other gay, lesbian and gay-friendly artists.

Photo: Thousands of spectators fill Chicago's Soldier Field for the Gay Games opening ceremonies.
Photo by: Ryan Kolodziej
(View Gallery)