BY CANDY PARKER
The thousands of participants gathered at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland for the opening ceremony of the International Gay Games were welcomed by President Barack Obama who made a surprise appearance via videotape Saturday.
Obama gave context to the event stating, “Since 1982, the Gay Games have given lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes and supporters around the world a chance to come together to compete, celebrate and inspire others. It’s been remarkable to see the Games thrive over the years. We’ve come a long way in our commitment to the equal rights of LGBT people here (in America) and around the world.”
The President went on to acknowledge those athletes who face serious human rights challenges in their home countries. “Some of you have come from places where it requires courage, even defiance, to come out, sometimes at great personal risk,” Obama said. “You should know that the United States stands with you and for your human rights.”
Athletes from around the world are gathered in the Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, area to compete in more than 35 sports and cultural events. In addition to President Obama’s welcoming remarks, attendees at the opening ceremony were treated to an opening number by a trio of drag singers lip-syncing “Proud Mary,” a Mexican athlete decked out in a sombrero, knee-high, red, platform boots and skimpy silver shorts, and performances by Lance Bass and the Pointer Sisters.
The competition runs through Saturday, August 16.
Watch President Obama’s full Gay Games 9 address below.