The Gay Games Opening Ceremony packed the Quicken Loans Arena Saturday night.
Delegates from 51 Countries and 48 States made their way onto the floor for the 7 p.m. show.
Richard Bonomo came from Massachusets to participate in the Gay Games. “I had a much different image,” Bonomo told Channel 3’s Hilary Golston. “I was very impressed with the architecture. The people have been really nice… very friendly. The downtown is quite beautiful.”
Hans Stevns was the only delegate from the Netherlands, but came ready to compete none-the-less. “Because I’m in swimming, I thought I’d do a twist and be the female part,” Stevns told Golston. “I’m also the captain, because I’m the only one from the Netherlands and I represent my country in every way.”
The celebration featured Lance Bass, Andrea McArdle, and the legendary Pointer Sisters. Bass gave Channel 3 News an exclusive interview about the impact of the games. “Once I came out… you know… anytime I show up at a football game they’re like Lance Bass is at a football game… yeah… we like sports too,” Bass told Channel 3. “It’s nice to show people that it’s not just a stereotypical community.”
President Barack Obama delivered a surprise taped video message address, welcoming the world to Ohio and the United States of America for the Gay Games. “To the thousands of athletes, coaches, families and spectators from around the world, welcome to Ohio and the United States of America.”
A former Olympian and supporter of the LGBT community, Greg Louganis, inspired the crowd with his words. “I want to give a shout-out to Cleveland… congratulate Cleveland and Akron for putting this together… this is awesome, Louganis told the crowd.
David Robinson, with the Gay Games 9 marketing team, reports organizers estimate between 20,000 and 25,000 participants to partake in Gay Games activities running through Saturday, 16.
A full list of activities can be found here.
The Games are also expected to generate $40 million for the local economy, Robinson reports. “The Gay Games are really about changing hearts and minds though sports and culture. It’s about welcoming all. It’s an all-inclusive event,” Robinson told Golston.