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Gay Games VII: A Look Back
by Ross Forman
2006-08-02

This article shared 4893 times since Wed Aug 2, 2006
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Pictured Gay Games VII basketball pics by Rita Skarbek and Ron Favors

______________

They came to Chicago from around the world, about 11,500 mostly gay and lesbian athletes, for 30 sports in Gay Games VII, held July 15-22. There were celebrity athletes, such as Esera Tuaolo, Billy Bean, Bruce Hayes and Tyler Duckworth. However, it was mostly the average Joe and the average Jen—as in Jen Cham, a lesbian ice hockey player from Vancouver, B.C., who played on two teams. 'This was my first Gay Games, but definitely will not be the last. It was a truly amazing experience,' she said.

The Games brought together athletes from 70 countries. More than 750 media credentials were issued for the festivities that ranged from flag football and basketball to figure skating and water polo. There also were band, choral and cheer performances, plus parties galore.

'One of the best parts of athe experience was hosting friends from Montreal who had never been to Chicago before,' said Andy Rogers of the Chicago Blackwolves ice hockey team that captured a bronze medal. 'Showing them the city, going out on the town [ and ] just talking and learning their perspective on things was great.'

The Opening Ceremony was held in sweltering heat and humidity at Soldier Field, while the Closing Ceremony was held at Wrigley Field, highlighted by a chilling rendition of 'True Colors' by Cyndi Lauper.

'The most memorable experience to me was winning the gold medal in men's ice hockey in three consecutive Gay Games, the others being Amsterdam in 1998 and Sydney in 2002,' said Brian Cordeiro of the Boston Lobsters. 'The most exciting thing about the Gay Games isn't just competing in a sport, but the idea of being part of something special in the LGBT community and the chance to meet interesting people and make new friends with athletes from all over the world.'

Cham's Chicago appearance is actually due to Hurricane Katrina, believe it or not. A friend of hers went to New Orleans last September to assist with the hurricane's aftermath. 'After she returned and reported on the urgent need for volunteer medical help, I contacted the American Red Cross and arranged to go down as a registered nurse to assist with the care of evacuees in Louisiana,' Cham said. 'I was scheduled to leave Oct. 5. However, on Oct. 4, the Red Cross informed me that conditions were such that they no longer needed me. I was left with an unused ticket to Louisiana.

'Prior to this, a friend of mine had asked if I wanted to go to the Gay Games in Chicago with the Vancouver Northern Lights [ team ] . I originally declined, since my tuition as a naturopathic medical student is very high. But then I had an idea: I could switch my unused [ New Orleans ] ticket to a flight to Chicago.'

The next daunting task Cham faced was to figure out how to raise the rest of the funds necessary to compete for a week on a student budget. Enter Team Vancouver.

'They provided a bursary, making it possible for me to actually register to play hockey,' she said. 'Without them, I suppose I'd have been sitting in the stands with my stick and skates, yelling support and pretending to shoot imaginary pucks into our opponents' nets. So I ended up getting there AND being able to play!

Among Cham's high points were taking part in the Opening Ceremony and receiving a medal. 'The Opening Ceremony was definitely a highlight. It was incredible to march into Soldier Field along with thousands of other athletes competing in every imaginable event, meet people from all over the globe and begin friendships that will last a lifetime. Another huge highlight was receiving our silver medals and holding our flag as the sole Canadian hockey team after a week of hard-fought games.'

Cham scored several goals in the Games and competed in the recreational and competitive divisions.

'I feel that as a community, we were an extremely positive influence during our visit to Chicago,' she said. 'People stopped us on the street, chatted about sports and generally seemed pleased to be involved in hosting such a great event. I am thankful to the city of Chicago for hosting the Gay Games and to all the amazing people I met this week for contributing to an experience I will never forget.'

When it comes to on-ice contributions, no one was as valuable as Cordeiro, a center for the Boston Lobsters, gold-medal winners in the men's recreation division. In one game, for instance, he scored five goals and chipped in two assists.

'Overall, I was impressed with the City of Chicago. I feel that it was the perfect choice to host Gay Games VII,' said Cordeiro, making his third Games' appearance. 'The city was clean, the restaurants were amazing and the nightclubs were large enough to accommodate athletes from around the world.'

Andy Rogers was playing for the Chicago Blackwolves ice hockey team in his second Games—and he left the seven-day event with a bronze medal and lifelong memories.

'I had a great time at the Games,' he said. 'We played some great team hockey, and worked hard to get into a medal round. It was exciting to have won [ the bronze-medal game ] after getting the tying goal, going scoreless through the overtime and finally winning in the shootout. Pure drama!

'Of course, bonding with my own team at Opening Ceremonies and throughout the Games was enjoyable. Winning the bronze was just icing on the cake. This was an experience we'll never forget.'

The Games certainly won't be forgotten by hockey goalie Kathy Seaman or her family—seven of whom played on the same team. No wonder they actually took their Christmas 2006 photo in Chicago.

The Integrated Water Systems ice hockey team, nicknamed the Left Wings, featured Seaman's family. Here's the scoop:

— Seaman is the goalie and she married Jen Putney.

— Seaman has three kids who played on the team: Rebekah, Bobby and Mary.

— Jen's brother, Ted, played, along with his wife, Rebecca.

The team hails from Wolfeboro, N.H., a city of about 8,000, and advanced to the gold-medal game in the men's recreation division, but lost to the Boston Lobsters.

_____

Kevin Boyer spent countless hours and, no doubt, many sleepless nights preparing for the Games—and I'm not even talking about his on-field softball play. He was, of course, the main spokesman for the Games, so it is only fitting he has the final say on a few subjects:

Would Chicago consider applying for 2014 Games, so the committee had a full four years to prepare? 'No,' Boyer replied. 'The Gay Games should move around to different cities and continents. We're looking forward to 2010 in Cologne and 2014 in another great city.'

What was your most memorable moment from GGVII? 'Listening as the entire [ Wrigley Field ] crowd went nearly silent for Cyndi Lauper's [ performance of 'True Colors' ] was probably the most memorable moment of the Games. That and the excitement as our team won gold in softball.'

Any surprises? 'Yes. It was much harder work the 'week of' than I think we anticipated. Long, long hours put in by board, staff and volunteers.'

Finally, what was the worldwide mainstream media coverage for GGVII like? 'Our clipping services tell us that we had more than 100 million audience impressions from television, radio and print articles around the world. Just today I've seen clippings from mainland China, Taiwan, Japan and Spain, for example,' he said.


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