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    Gay Games XI to Open in Guadalajara and Hong Kong

    By Doug Litwin–

    For the 11th time since it began in San Francisco in 1982, the Gay Games will get underway on November 4, for the first time in two locations on two continents where the event has never taken place.

    Hong Kong and Guadalajara (Jalisco, Mexico) will co-host the events that will run from November 4–11 in both cities simultaneously. Given that the roots of the Gay Games are in San Francisco, local artists and athletes have always comprised one of the largest contingents of participants, and 2023 will be no exception. Organizing these many individuals locally is the venerable Team San Francisco.

    During their run in San Francisco on Saturday, January 21, members of Team SF visited
    locations in Golden Gate Park including the National AIDS Memorial Grove, Kezar Stadium, and historic sites in the Castro.


    The Gay Games was founded in 1982, primarily by San Francisco physician Dr. Tom Waddell, along with a few others. The seed to hold such an event was planted when Waddell represented the USA at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. That’s when Waddell wondered, “What if we had a Gay Olympics in San Francisco and invited everyone?” He and his other co-founders made it happen and named the event the “Gay Olympics.” A lawsuit by the U.S. Olympic Committee forced the name to be changed to the Gay Games, in a landmark legal battle that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Since its founding 41 years ago, the Gay Games have been held every four years in: San Francisco (1986), Vancouver (1990), New York City (1994), Amsterdam (1998), Sydney (2002), Chicago (2006), Cologne (2010), Cleveland + Akron (2014), and Paris (2018).

    Led by Track & Field athlete Reggie Snowden and legendary runner Brent Nicholson Earle, members of Team SF on Saturday, January 21, launched the International Rainbow Memorial Run 23 in San Francisco. This ceremonial run has continued in other former host cities and will culminate in both Hong Kong and Guadalajara, the two host sites for Gay Games XI.

    The Gay Games is the world’s largest sports and cultural festival that is open to all. Each edition features dozens of sport and cultural events, attracting participants from more than 90 countries. As many as 13,000 artists and athletes have taken part in individual Gay Games.

    The mission of the all-volunteer Federation of Gay Games is to promote equality, diversity and inclusion through sport and culture. The event is built upon the core principles of Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best™. Based on these values, since 1982, the Gay Games have brought together people from all over the world, with diversity, respect, equality, solidarity, and sharing. The Gay Games is open to all, young or old, athlete or artist, experienced or novice, regardless of sexual orientation.

    It is a fundamental principle of the Federation of Gay Games that all activities conducted under its auspices shall be inclusive in nature and that no individual shall be excluded from participating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, political belief(s), athletic/artistic ability, physical challenge, age, or health status.

    A year ago, an ambitious 40-part series of online posts was published to tell the story of the first 40 years of the Gay Games. Told in photos and words of actual participants, the series is called Passing the Torch and may be read in its entirety at:

    Because of the one-year delay in Gay Games XI, the 40th Anniversary will continue to be celebrated through 2023. Limited edition commemorative pins are on sale right now by visiting:

    Gay Games XI 2023

    In 2017, Hong Kong beat out two other finalists for the right to host Gay Games XI in 2022. Then, a number of factors, including COVID-19, forced plans to be changed. The first decision was to delay the Gay Games by a year, just as the Tokyo Olympics had done earlier. Then, with extreme uncertainty regarding international travel to Asia and other factors, the decision was made to select a second city to cohost the event. Since Guadalajara had finished behind Hong Kong in the 2017 bidding, they were asked in early 2022 if they could gear up to cohost the event on short notice. Thus, Gay Games XI will simultaneously take place in two cities from continents where the event has never been held: Asia and Latin America. You can learn more about the two host-cities at their websites:

    Reggie Snowden

    Hong Kong:

    The Local Connection

    Team San Francisco uses the claim “Where the Games Began” and represents numerous athletes across multiple sports. Team SF is led by Reggie Snowden (track & field) and Ken Craig (martial arts). Each has his own story to tell about the Gay Games.

    Ken Craig

    Both Team SF and the Federation of Gay Games are nonprofit organizations. Part of the mission of both groups is to raise funds year-round so that underserved individuals can receive scholarships to participate in this life-changing event. More than 1,000 individuals have received such support over the years.

    Locals Receive Special Honors

    The highest honor bestowed by the Federation of Gay Games is the Tom Waddell Award, presented to two people of differing gender identifications at each quadrennial event. More information about this award may be found at:

    In 2023, one of the Tom Waddell Award recipients is Roger Brigham of Oakland. The other recipient is former Federation Co-President Emy Ritt of Paris, France. Roger joins several other Bay Area recipients of this prestigious award from years past: Derek Liecty (Walnut Creek), Sara Waddell Lewinstein (Oakland), Gene Dermody (San Francisco), Susan Kennedy (Antioch), and Gert McMullin (San Francisco).

    Personal Story

    My involvement with the Gay Games began in 1986 at Gay Games II. I participated as both an artist and an athlete, something I’ve done at every Gay Games since then. Although it has led to a very busy week of making music and playing my sports, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve met so many amazing people over the years, with friendships that still exist today. To help shape the event, I joined the Federation of Gay Games in 1999 and have served the organization in various capacities. When I stepped down from the FGG’s Board of Directors in late 2021, I became appointed as the group’s first Archivist. I guess when you get old and have a good memory, they put you in charge of organizing the group’s history! I don’t mind doing that a bit.

    My Gay Games story will continue on November 2 when I fly to Guadalajara. I will be toting my bowling balls to join the tournament there, competing alongside friends old and new. I must include a shout-out to my long-time bowling teammate and doubles partner Jim Hahn of San Mateo. Jim is one of a small number of people who have participated in every one of the Gay Games dating to 1982. He’s not slowing down at all and has plans to attend every event through Gay Games XV. Keep that streak going, Jim!

    Sadly for me, since Guadalajara organized its event without the normal five years of planning time, the participatory cultural events will not be taking place (although there will be cultural events presented by local artists). Thus, I’ll be leaving my trusty clarinet at home for the first time and my fellow bandmates won’t be there.

    Looking Ahead to Gay Games XII

    If you’re reading this and aren’t already registered to go to Guadalajara or Hong Kong, mark your calendars for early June 2026. That’s when the world will again gather for the Gay Games, this time in the beautiful Mediterranean city of Valencia, Spain. Gay Games XII promises to be amazing. Meanwhile, the Federation of Gay Games, which is entirely staffed by volunteers, will be starting its site selection process for Gay Games XIII (2030) in January 2024.

    Doug Litwin is an occasional contributor to the “San Francisco Bay Times.” In addition to being a bowler, he is a very active member and holds a Board post at the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, the Official Band of SF.

    Published on November 2, 2023