Since this article first appeared a lot of new information has been revealed and new research has been carried out. This article should be seen as a mere snapshot of the information known at the date of its publication. Several facts may now be outdated or inaccurate.
Between the 1980 and 1984 Olympics a new Olympics emerged. It was the brainchild of US Olympian Tom Waddell. After his participation as team doctor for the Saudi team in 1976, Tom returned home to
It was while attending a gay bowling match that the spark of an idea of the Gay Olympics occurred to Tom. He travelled around the
drumming up support and enthusiasm and very soon a group was formed to arrange the first games in 1982. But before they could begin the US Olympic Committee sued the group over the use of the word “Olympic” (where have I hear that before?). Tom protested that they had ever objected to the Police Olympics, the Dog Olympics, or the Porn Olympics, so why pick on the Gay Olympics? US
Legal proceedings started, and with less than 19 days before the games began all references to “Olympics” had to be blacked out of posters and publicity. The legal battle was to last until 1987 by which time the Gay Olympics had been renamed the Gay Games. From such an unpromising start grew a movement which is still going strong, and still holds the world record for the most competitors in a multi-sport event (over 4,000 more than the biggest Olympics).
In this 30th anniversary years of the Gay Games I’ll bring more of its history in August.
Two Winter Olympics for the price of one now. At the 1984
and 1988 Sarajevo games the same 3 gay ice skaters appeared – Rob McCall, Brian Orser and Brian Boitano. Calgary
Rob McCall was a pairs figure skater who was Canadian champion 7 years running from 1981. Performing with Tracy Wilson in the Sarajevo Olympics of 1984 Rob won an Olympic Diploma for their 8th place. At the
games inn 1988 they took the bronze medal. Calgary
In 1990 Rob was diagnosed with AIDS. He kept this secret because
law at that time banned anyone with HIV/AIDS from entering the US and Rob wanted to continue touring in ice shows and competitions. Rob died in 1991 aged 33. Even as his health deteriorated he planned an AIDS benefit called “For Skate the Drama”. It was also to become his tribute event. USA
At that time there was a lot of denial within the sport. Many skaters either disbelieved there were many HIV+ skaters, or chose to ignore what effect AIDS would have on their sport. With major skaters dying of AIDS more and more skaters chose to show their open support by appearing at the AIDS benefit.
One skater who performed at “For Skate the Drama” was American Brian Boitano. In 1978 he had won a bronze medal at the World Junior championships. One place behind was Canadian Brian Orser. The two were to become Olympic rivals, both competing in
in 1984 and Sarajevo in 1988. Calgary
Boitano won silver in 1984 while Orser took an Olympic Diploma in 5th place. At the World Championships over the next 4 years they dominated the medals, alternating gold and silver positions 3 years running. At the 1988 Olympics the media hyped up the “
of the Brians”. Going into the final free skating section the 2 Brians were effectively tied – whoever won this section won gold. Orser made one mistake and missed a jump, giving Boitano the gold medal. Battle
No doubt this was a disappointment for Orser. But at least he had had the honour of carrying his national flag at the head of the home team in the parade of athletes at the opening ceremony. Orser’s participation in Olympic skating has continued. At the 2012
games Orser coached the gold medallist Yu-Na Kim. Vancouver
Boitano’s career, however, went in several directions. Sports-wise he returned to the Olympics in 1994. On the tv he earned cult status in caricature form on “
”; he won an Emmy for his role in “Carmen on Ice”; and has fronted 2 series of his own cookery programme. South Park
Before we leave the 1988
games there’s some more lgbt names to mention. Former Olympian Brian Pockar was artistic director of the closing ceremony at which k d lang made her first Olympic performance, and Nat Brown was the coach and head technician for the Calgary ski team. US
I’ll return to the warmer climes of the summer games next times with a look at the 1984
Olympics. Los Angeles