You don’t have to be gay. You don’t have to be good. You just have to be 18.
What began as a list of “rules” has turned into the unofficial motto for Gay Games 9 — which will be coming to Cleveland and Akron Aug. 9 to 16 for a week of sports and culture.
“The games began in 1982. They happen every four years, much like the Olympics,” said Tom Nobbe, executive director of the 2014 games. “They were founded by Tom Waddell, who was an Olympic decathlete in the 1968 games. He had a great Olympic experience but didn’t feel comfortable coming out. He couldn’t bring his whole self to the games.”
This is the first year the games will be hosted by two cities, said Nobbe, noting the area got the bid to host the games in 2009 and has been planning the events since them.
“We have the smallest LGBT community [from past years] so it will be very different from past games. It’s going to be much more diverse because we have more folks from outside the LGBT community,” said Nobbe. “This event is probably the most inclusive sports and culture event in the world.”
Nobbe said he expects 7,000 to 8,000 participants, but estimates 20,000 to 25,000 in total attendance. He projects the event will have a $40 million positive economic impact on the area.
Events for the Gay Games will take place all over Cleveland and Akron, with the rodeo taking place at the Summit County Fairgrounds.
“This is the first time the rodeo is merged with the Gay Games,” said Dirk Breiding, vice president of sales for the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau, who was instrumental in bringing the rodeo to Tallmadge. “But it’s an affiliate sport because they give out cash prizes. The Gay Games event gives out medals, not prizes.”
The rodeo, which is presented by the International Gay Rodeo Association, begins Aug. 10.
According to Breiding, the Summit County Fairgrounds was chosen because it offers better facilities for the event than those in Cuyahoga County.
“When we found out the Gay Games were coming to town, we were interested in providing something uniquely North American,” said Brian Helander, public relations director for the rodeo and a competitor. “We came to an agreement to put on a full rodeo at the same time in conjunction for Gay Games competitors if they want to get a taste of cowboy and cowgirl life.”
More than 100 are expected to compete in the rodeo’s 13 events which coast $25 each to enter. The arena, which holds 600 to 700 people, is open to spectators. Tickets for spectators are $15 per day.
The event, which is considered a pro-am competition, gathers competitors who aren’t professional but win earnings that come from a portion of the entry fees. Ribbons and belt buckles will also be awarded as prizes.
The remainder of proceeds will benefit a local charity, which has yet to be selected.
A square dance during the event has been scheduled for Aug. 10, beginning at 8 p.m. The cost is $10.
For more information about the rodeo, visit www.gaygamesrodeo.org.