During the 1998 Amsterdam Gay Games a participant from Iran marched in the opening ceremony with a paper bag over his head.
This sad incident is not lost on the author of a new book detailing the history of the Gay Games, Victorian University academic Dr Caroline Symons who says the unique sporting event can be an incredible safe haven for people from four corners of the globe to meet and play sport.
“On the whole it’s been very productive and positive for the community,” Symons told Sydney Star Observer.
Gay Games: A History is the first account of its kind to detail, in depth, the life and times of the Games since it began in San Francisco in 1982.
The book, to be officially launched in September, evolved from a PhD Symons started in 1996. She says the work helped her develop her own understanding of the GLBTI community she became a part of.
“I wanted to find something that I was passionate and really interested in,” she said. “I was working at the Australian Institute of Sport and I’d just ‘come out’ and I though the Gay Games were a good place to start.
“I learnt about the community and the politics as well as the multiplicity of the community too.”
Symons charts each Games with an even-handed academic eye, starting with the early visions of Games founder Tom Waddell, to the Gay Games developing into one of the largest sporting, cultural and human rights events in the world.
Naturally, as with any historical account, past tensions make the most interesting reading and
Symons takes an objective look at the bitter 2004 split between organisers which saw the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) and a newly formed Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA) go their separate ways.
Old wounds run deep but the two warring organisations have managed to do what many thought impossible and have recently announced a joint international gay sports event will be held in 2018.
“I don’t think I’ve written anything too controversial in that section having researched and spoken to people,” Symons said.
“I’m sure you can’t write something that will please everyone, you’re going to ruffle feathers.
“I did intend to say more about the history of what happened during those negotiations that caused the split, but it was too much … that would be a book in itself.”
Symons said she hopes the book will be seen as an overall positive account of the Gay Games.
“I hope I’ve written a generous history,” she said. “I haven’t gone out to be hyper critical because I think those who put on the games have really worked under some pretty challenging circumstances.”