Are Two Games Better Than One?

Article excerpt

"Where ya from?" The achingly gruff voice of Harvey Fierstein echoed through Yankee Stadium as a parade of gay and lesbian athletes flowed ever so slowly around the field. The playwright and actor had been left on this grand stage without any lines, stranded on a dais constructed over the pitcher's mound in front of thousands of spectators. So he was improvising. "Where ya from?" he yelled over and over. The athletes yelled back, and Harvey repeated into his microphone the bits and pieces he could make out.

Thus began the dosing ceremony for 1994's Gay Games IV. The organizers had cooked up the athletes' grand entrance--which went on for a half hour or more--but hadn't thought to provide any narration or means of identifying the competitors.

Harvey made the best of it, and his good-natured prodding has become an inside joke between my partner and me. "Where ya from?" we'll fake-shout in our gruffest Harvey voices and laugh. No one else knows why this is funny. You had to be there.

We owe that souvenir to the Gay Games' disarray. A more professionally produced event would have left no opportunity for Harvey's bellowing. But since the Games moved from its San Francisco birthplace to Vancouver for the 1990 competition, it's been a series of "let's put on a show" events staged by a new crew in a new city every four years.

Each time, the nonprofit Federation of Gay Games selects a freshly assembled committee of planners and promoters. Then it offers advisory support as a bunch of neophytes learn from scratch how to put on an Olympic-size event. Since Vancouver, each local committee--in New York, in Amsterdam in 1998, and in Sydney in 2002--has had grand plans and hopes. …