The GG9 Closing Ceremony was last night, marking the end of the fabulous week-long sporting and cultural event. It was an incredible evening, moving and powerful as well as light-hearted and entertaining. The gorgeous summer sunshine and Lake Erie breezes at the Mall C provided the perfect backdrop to the ceremony.
At 5:00, there was a procession of all of the GG9 board members, athletes, and others involved with the games from the Convention Center across the street. Wearing my triathlon medal North Coast Multisport owner and GG9 Triathlon race director Mickey Rzymek sent to me as an honorary participant and Gay Games supporter, I lined up and rubbed elbows with athletes from all over the world including Australia, England, Puerto Rico, Germany, France, and many others. As I stood in the bottom level of the Convention Center, I took a long look at all of the colorful, happy people around me. The positive energy was palpable, and I radiated it back ten fold.
We made our way up the stairs and out onto the street. In a snaking line, we wound our way around the Mall lawn, passing spectators and volunteers who were cheering and clapping for us. Never in all my life have I felt more like a champion. I smiled and waved, shook hands and gave high fives, had my picture taken: it was as if I was a celebrity! The huge crowd made its way up to the stage, and after all of the people had gathered on lawn, a series of moving speeches were delivered by people including representatives of the Gay Games Federation, Gay Games Cleveland, and the Paris representatives who will be hosting GG10 in 2018.
As my husband and I wandered around the grounds, we took in the beautiful sites, sampled some of the delicious food from the food trucks of Cleveland, and soaked in the last few moments of this week-long celebration of inclusion. It was magical.
When I think back to the beginning of the week, I remember how heartbroken I felt that I was unable to participate the way I had intended, but by Saturday’s closing ceremony, I had made my peace with it. Hey, I still participated! I supported, rallied, cheered, and attended. I crossed the finish line at the 5K hand-in-hand with some remarkable people. I heard visitors from other cities and countries praise the city I love, which made me love it all the more. In the end, it didn’t really matter that I didn’t get to race; what mattered is that I was a part of it all. I was part of history. I believe with all of my heart that these games have impacted Cleveland, Akron, and Ohio as a whole more than we truly realize. We became and international symbol for equality in one week’s time! Being a part of that alone proved to be more exiting than I ever could’ve imagined.
Thank you to all of the board members, the volunteers, the participants and athletes, the spectators, and the supporters for making the Gay Games Cleveland the tremendous event that it was. See you all in Paris in 2018!