Back in the 1980’s Howard Goodall performed a song on Rowan Atkinson’s LIve tour of the UK, to which he wrote the music and Richard Curtis of Blackadder fame wrote the words. The song was a satirical piece called “That’s why I hate he French,” and alluded to the centuries old rivalry between France and Britain. Amongst the many witty lyrics there was a line which said “I’ll be buggered if I go to gay Paris.”
Don’t be surprised if the song suddenly re-merges across the channel following the news that France have been awarded the hosting rights for the 2018 Gay Games. What will have made their victory all the sweeter was Paris defeated Limerick and yes, London for the hosting rights.
As much as people may scoff and snigger the Gay Games are now a massive event. Originally called the Gay Olympics, and the brainchild of Tom Waddell. It was his goal to promote the spirit of inclusion and participation, as well as to promote the pursuit of personal growth in a sporting event. Participants of every sexual orientation and skill level compete.
The Gay Games has many similarities with the Olympics, including the Gay Games flame which is lit at the opening ceremony.
The games are open to all who wish to participate, without regard to sexual orientation and there are no qualifying standards. Competitors from many counties, including those where homosexuality remains illegal and hidden.
Tom Waddell was an Olympian and competed in the decathlon at the Mexico City Olympics, after placing third in the US Olympic trials. At the Games he finished sixth out of the 33 competitors. He broke five of his own personal records in the ten events.
He founded the first Gay Olympic Games in San Francisco in1982. Three weeks before the games were due to start he and his fellow organisers were sued by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) under the U.S. Amateur Sports Act of 1978. This Act gave the USOC exclusive rights to the word ‘Olympic’ in the United States.
Happily these differences were laid to rest and the two organisations now work together. They successfully lobbied together to have HIV travel restrictions waived for the 1994 Gay Games in New York and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Tom Waddell was not around to see that day having died from AIDS in 1987 aged 49.
HIs legacy and the Gay Games live on in his memory. Paris will celebrate the tenth event.