I felt the need to express in a public forum, my thoughts regarding Gay Games VII from a volunteer standpoint and as a Chicagoan.
I sit here with bittersweet emotion stirring in my belly. I am elated, exhilarated, a little angered, but mostly, overwhelmingly ecstatic that I live in this city and was involved in this monumental event.
First let me get this out of the way and start by saying that there was some negative stuff that angered me. I heard some awful things said about the Games as they were being produced. Poo poo to that. The positive energy sent beaming into the universe was way too overwhelming to even give the trivial negativity a second thought.
This event sparked a sense of pride in me that I have never experienced. I was proud hearted on so many levels. One, to live in the greatest city that is Chicago. Secondly, to be involved with such an organization as Chicago Games, Inc., giving me the pedestal to represent Chicago from. I was overwhelmed by all of the friends that I met and of the athletes who medaled and/or performed their personal best. Mostly I was elated to be gay! Chicago shined across the midwest and across the globe. I met several people and all, I mean ALL of the people I encountered had such great things to say about how they were received by Chicago. While out in Boystown, the pride of the city beamed brighter than the rainbow flag made up of the athletes at opening ceremony. The host hotel was so accommodating and treated everyone with the respect and dignity that only a first-class hotel in a first-class city can. The volunteers poured into headquarters to help out. From veteran volunteers that created CGI, to the newbies arriving to hand out water, to the warehouse workers, to the professional volunteers ( medical, security, coaches, massage, social workers, community organizations, etc. ) was an outpouring of support like none this person has seen. This is something to be proud of Chicago. We rocked! I think that all of gay/lesbian/trans Chicagoans should pat themselves on the back for a job well done. It takes a village ... and we stepped up. I know that some people might say that some things went wrong or bad, but look at it this way: most cities have four years to prepare for the games and our planning time was cut to two and a half.
I heard something from a fellow volunteer. 'if you like sausage, don't go see how it is made'; one would not want to see the nastiness, the messy work that it takes to make a world-class event like this, and I would tend to think that that is probably true because one might encounter the negative back stabbing, and power-hungry climbers, of the stereotypical planning of such an event, and hence, not like it or choose to stay away. However, I had the opportunity to see how the games were made and carried out. I saw from some of the beginning stages of the camaraderie and creativity unfolding. I heard firsthand at headquarters the trials and challenges that arose. I also saw CGI staff, board, and, volunteers who took a week, or two, or more off work, critically thinking and finding resolutions to these challenges. I saw how when you get a bunch of us queers together and focus on our strengths, that great things happen. Negativity can be a virus but that was squelched by the focus of the talented people staffing the games. They kept their eyes on the ball and moved forward. I will mention names but I am certain that I will miss someone because there were just so many people helping, but here goes: david, susan, jeff, sam, tracy, liz, kyle, valerie, tom, marco, enrique, omar, gayle, julien, charmaine, ann, kevin, sky, noel, eric, remington, jason, randy, lee, kashaun, kathleen, omar, jaime, kurt, amelia ... the list goes on and on. I know I missed names but the talents and dedication will not be forgotten.
I moved here a little more than two years ago and did not know a soul in Chicago. I began volunteering as a way to meet people, as well as help out my new-found community. And as it turns out, all of my local circle of friends, all of them, are in some way connected to the Gay Games; all of them I met through the games or through people that I met at the games. So it was especially emotional for me to see the flag passed on to Cologne, Germany, as I saw a chapter in my life ending, but the book continuing.
I would like to close by just extending a huge thank you, a giant hug, and a big gay hoorah to the board, staff, and volunteers at CGI for putting together a marvelous event, and thank you for letting me be involved in it. It has changed my life forever. Chicago is and will continue to be a shining example of the way a gay community, with heart, determination, and unending camaraderie, can be a model for other cities. I am proud to be a part of it. ... Thank you Chicago, thank you CGI.
always, freedom morrison,
AKA russell walker