Cleveland and Akron welcomed thousands of participants and visitors from more than 50 countries and 48 states for the 2014 Gay Games presented by Cleveland.
City leaders involved wanted to share a welcome and say a few words about the event.
Those who spoke during the press conference were:
- Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson
- Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic
- Cleveland Foundation CEO Ronn Richard
- Federation of Gay Games Co-Chairs Kurt Dahl and Joanie Evans
- Gay Games 9 Executive Director Tom Nobbe
"In 2009, I told the Gay Games Selection Committee that we will do all we can to be the best Games you ever had. We are well on our way," said Mayor Jackson.
"Months ago, a minister said I've started a process for us [ministers] to talking about tolerance and acceptance," said Mayor Plusquellic. "The Gay Games coming to our area has started a conversation by religious leaders to welcome all."
A brief question and answer session followed the conference.
On Saturday night, the Gay Games officially kicked off with opening ceremonies celebrating the thousands of athletes and artists participating in the Games.
"This certainly is a can't-be-missed event, not just for Games participants, but for thousands of Cleveland and Akron residents who want to be part of history and have a great time," said co-chair John Garofalo.
President Barack Obama made a surprise video appearance after the National Anthem to kick off the Gay Games and welcome friends and family.
"Good luck to the athletes...and go Team USA," Obama said in conclusion.
"The Gay Games is thrilled to have President Obama take his time to show his commitment to the Games' mission of inclusion, participation and personal best," said Hollie Ksiezyk, co-chair.
Fellow co-chair Steve Sokany agreed.
"It was a special moment that no one in the arena will forget and a great way to kick off the exciting Games week," he said.
Opening Ceremony continued with special appearances from Greg Louganis, Lance Bass, the Pointer Sisters, Broadway's Andrea McArdle and Alex Newell.
It was pomp and circumstance at its very best. Billed as the world's largest sporting and cultural event, expectations run high.
"Everybody is going to be upbeat. Everyone is happy to be here," said one attendee. "I think it's about time we had something like this."
Founded in 1982 in San Francisco by a man whose goal was to promote inclusion and participation, the event is now in its 32nd year.
"We're just here to support the Gay Games. We think it's a great thing for Cleveland to have," said another patron.
The only problem for the event was in 1982, when it was forced to change its name from the Gay Olympics to the Gay Games.
Cleveland is well-prepared, embarking on possibly the most comprehensive security plan northeast Ohio has ever seen.
"We're very impressed with the cleanliness and the safety of the town. They've prepared it well," said one guest.
The Warehouse District and Public Square have been cleaned up. Travel on the RTA rail has also been spruced with tree limbs cut and graffiti removed.
On Friday, an unprecedented reception of 1,500 yoga enthusiasts exercised on the Mall welcoming the Games and its athletes.
After a long, festive Opening Ceremony, around 8,000 athletes are ready to participate in 36 events over the next week.
If you attend any of these events, send us your photos for our slideshow at email@example.com!
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