By Andrew Davis
On July 10 at Roosevelt University, with local and Gay Games officials standing behind him, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley officially welcomed the Games, which will take place July 15-22.
Daley, who was introduced by openly gay 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney as 'someone who's always understood the broader impact of the Games,' encouraged everyone to welcome out-of-town athletes and to show them 'that Chicago hospitality.' The mayor also urged people to attend the sports and cultural events. ( The sports-related activities will take place at 33 venues throughout the city as well as suburbs including Evanston, Oak Park and Crystal Lake. )
'This is an important opportunity for Chicagoans to see these fine athletes and some outstanding entertainment. [ It's also a chance ] to show Chicago off to people who we hope will become regular visitors to our city,' he stated. He also thanked 359 sponsors that have contributed over $10 million in 'cash and in-kind sponsorships.'
There were other speakers as well. Chicago Police Superintendent Phil Cline assured that security will be tight during the Games. 'In addition to regular patrols, specialized units will be assigned to various venues, accordingly,' he declared. Cline also said that there will be an area for those who wish to 'express their 1st Amendment rights [ such as protesters ] '—and that they should express their thoughts peacefully. Dorothy Coyle from the city's department of tourism discussed various cultural events that will be affiliated with the Games.
Andrew Velasquez of the Office of Emergency Management and Communication talked about the extensive public safety-related preparations that have taken place. 'Included in the meetings were representatives of Chicago's police, fire and EMS departments as well as representatives of the various public safety agencies of the suburban venues and local universities that will also be hosting events,' he said. He added that the Games are expected to have 'a minimal impact on traffic,' a rather unexpected statement.
Kevin Boyer, the vice co-chair of the Gay Games board, said that the event 'is Chicago's chance to shine and we are extremely proud of the support we have from our mayor, Richard M. Daley—the Gay Games' number-one fan.' Boyer also took time to introduce Jessica Waddell, daughter of the late Gay Games founder Tom Waddell.
During a question-and-answer session concerning the Games, Boyer talked about how the quadrennial event got started. 'It was founded in the early 1980s based upon [ the concepts of ] participation, inclusion and personal best. Dr. Tom Waddell was an Olympic athlete in 1968 and enjoyed the experience so much, he came back to the gay and lesbian community and said 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could have an Olympic-like experience for everyone? Out of that, he founded the Gay Games.' Also, Daley, in answering an inquiry, mentioned how the city coming together for this event will hopefully send a message of the United States Olympic Committee, since the mayor would like Chicago to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
A non-Gay Games question-and-answer period centered around Robert Sorich. ( Sorich, Daley's longtime patronage chief, and three other former senior city officials were found guilty on July 6 of fraud. )