Gay Games VII in Chicago Opening Ceremonies

Much of the Gay Games Opening Ceremonies would have been better left to an banquet.  Especially since the whole thing lasted 4 and a half hours. I think this means there weren’t enough lesbians involed in the planning – they are ALWAYS organized. There were lots of self-congratulatory speeches from many committee members and a continued need to remind us all how important the Gay Games is. It is sort of like when the President of the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences comes out at the Oscars and talks and everyone wants him to hurry up so they can get on to the fun. And there was continual need to talk about the Gay Game founder’s vision and who he was and what he thought and the history of the Gay Games and what it all means. Ugh. And much like a presidential debate everyone spent the first few minutes of every speech thanking everybody.

You don’t need to tell us all of these things over and over and over again. When a single man walks out on the field representing his country of Uganda, holding up his national flag and a stadium of people goes wild because this man has risked so much to come to Chicago and compete as an athlete amongst his peers – that is much more powerful than a speech. Marshall Islands also had just one athlete – as did the state of Wyoming. When you compare those single souls against the massive throng from Australia (or what looked like half the population of Chicago presenting the locale) the point is made instantly.
Chicago loves Mayor Daley. He may be twisted and crazy, but Chicago will take that in a Democrat over any kind of Republican any day. Daley came out to screaming fans on their feet and said all the right things. Daley knows that pissed off lefty gays vote and will vote for him.

The middle part of the ceremony consisted of a four-act perfomance piece around 4 themes: Exclusion, Oppression, Expression and Ignition. This is where things fell apart. I was a bit disappointed with this middle section. Since homosexual men and women command so much influence over popular culture, taste, performance and style – I thought for sure they’d deliver a fantastic presentation that moved at a great clip. Nope. It wallowed in it’s own importance. It was boring. Teams of dancers did modern dance in abstract around a lone hunky man (again, does this always piss off the lesbians that it is always about another lonely hunky white man?) experiencing…. well exclusion, oppression, expression and ignition. The dance got swallowed up in the stadium and it just was very muddled.

Between each perfomance act, notables (we presume) came out to deliver speeches and tirades. Many of don’t remember who Kate Clinton is or so-and-so are and I’m sure many of the international attendees were similarly clueless. It would have been nice to have the Jumbotrons tell us not just the person’s name but who they are. George Takei gave a moving speech about his experiences in the Japanese-Internment camps. And then things got very angry. For about 45 minutes the whole presentation got very political, very angry and very un-celebratory. I was disappointed when a spoken word artist went off on five minutes screaming rant using tons of profanity and grafting a whole lot of activist baggage onto the events of the evening. I was embarrassed with the profanity – this should have been a family-friendly event. Another monologue was a guy reading the suicide letter of a teen who killed himself because he was gay. Another part brought out panels of the AIDS Quilt – that was moving – but again it took too long and wallowed in itself.

Particularly embarrassing I think is that most of the performance piece was so distinctly connected the experience of gay and lesbian men in the United States. Here we have thousands of people from all over the world coming to the US to celebrate these events and we don’t give them a global context. I figured they though, “Oh great, here go the self-important Americans. Again.” All of these themes could have expressed adrmiably and completely in five minutes. We don’t want to Take Our Medicine and realize How Far We’ve Come over and over and over again.

This went on interminably and finally – finally! – finally: The marching band came out. It was like a whole new event. The crowd went absolutely apeshit and was screaming and started doing the wave around the stadium as the marching band arranged itself in various shapes including VII – since this is the seventh Games. This is what it should have been like all along! Faster, lighter, more spritely, swift… and then Margaret Cho came out and the crowd went insane. Everyone was screaming as Cho took the stage and riffer for five minutes. Again she used a little bit of profanity and her funniest joke was:

There’s all these Christian protesters outside. You can’t even call them Christians because with all the things they are saying and doing even the Satanists are like, “You guys are being SO mean.” These people don’t remember the Book of John verses 24 and 25 which says: ‘Shut the fuck up.’ that’s the King James version.

Her invocation and jibe at George W. Bush caused the rest of the crowd to join her in booing our beloved leader. And of course the joke:

We have to realize that any government that would deny a gay man to bridal registry…

And the rest of the crowd joined in

…is a fascist state!

Oh I forgot to say that Megan Mullaly kicked off the whole thing and the crowd went pretty crazy about her too. Greg Louganis has a moustache now – it’s very 1970s.

And then some more speeches and songs we didn’t know from people we couldn’t recognize. The acoustics really suck in Soldier Field as well.

The best part of the performance piece was a section where they mixed the bass line from ‘Hollaback Girl’ with ‘Respect’ – that was slick.

I think the whole entertainment part could have been one long star-studded medley. These people are supposed to staging – Cerda am I right? It should have one thing after another, each thing topping the next, non-stop, no break for scene changes, no pauses, no commercial breaks, just a great build-up to what has to be some of the best fireworks I’ve ever seen.

I usually hate fireworks but these were upclose. Lining the east rim of Soldier Field and lacing the sky with lights and flares – VERY nice.

And who were those Indian dancers? They took like five minutes to do a curtain call.

Summary: one person walking across a football field holding his national flag is all the opening ceremony you need.

Oh and did you notice how nearly the entire crowd walking from Soldier Field to Millenium Park was all men? Where did the girls go? Did they say: “Screw this crap, we’re taking the Chevy?”

Oh I forgot: They had Carmina Burana. The club mix of Carmina Burana. This music is as overused as Canon in D.







12 responses to “Gay Games VII in Chicago Opening Ceremonies”

  1. Michael Avatar

    Great write-up. Agreed on most everything except you can never play Carmina Burana too often 😉

  2. Steven Vance Avatar

    I was in the museum campus taking photos of the skyline, the trains, and the museums.

    I thought about just walking up to the stadium box office to get a ticket (I was alone).

    I loved every mention of the crowd going apeshit.

  3. Maddge Avatar

    Profanity! I’m outraged! Is there a transcript of the speech?

    You make me glad I missed the gay games. Thank you for that.

  4. Dan Avatar

    Wow. I’m sorry to hear the opening was such a mess. It makes me sad, really. The opening ceremonies is usually my favorite part of the Olympics – I love all the symbolism, and I love how different countries present their artistic culture. It’s pathetic that they let this turn into a political hate-fest. I plan on going to the closing – hopefully the organizers are listening to the bad press about this and are revising plans for the closing accordingly.

    I went to the triathalon Sunday morning. It was pretty cool to watch. And not just cuz of the sweaty hunks in spandex – I just think it’s awesome to see all these gay and lesbian folks out there competeing in events that we’re traditionally told we’re not good at. Wanna call those guys “sissies?” Go swim half a mile, then bike for 10k then RUN for 10k – in under 3 hours, THEN tell me they’re sissies! Ha!

  5. Andy Avatar

    I think Chicago’s NBC affiliate carried the ceremonies – that is the primary reason I was a bit annoyed at the profanity. That it’ll come off as ‘Oh those crazy fags can’t make a point with out yelling and screaming.’

    The more I think about it the more I remain steadfast in the view that simply because the Gay Games exist is a huge point being made – requiring little addendum or discussion.

  6. Richie Avatar

    I agree with Dan. I used to scoff at the idea of Gay Games, but then I remembered all the mean kids in junior high who made fun of anyone who wasn’t good at sports. If you couldn’t throw a football or make a 3 point shot, you were GAY and gay is bad.

    Now the gay boys who couldn’t run fast enough with their adolescent legs are finishing marathons with enough energy left over to make a mean mojito and a snide comment about what the other competitors were wearing. I love it.

  7.  Avatar

    I’m sure the band appreciates your comments, but the crowd didn’t cheer because they were excited; they did the wave because they were bored and couldn’t hear what the heck he band was playing, let alone figure out what the squiggles on the field were supposed to be. I found it rude on the part of the fans, but… Overall, I think the “Cultural” aspects of the games have been grossly overlooked and under-reported.

  8. Andy Avatar

    Gotta half-agree. The crowd went wild when the band came out and then got bored and started doing the wave.

  9. j Avatar

    I was in the band and was bored stiff by the time we came out – the wave in the crowd was a highlight for me – whether or not it was for us – it showed that the crowd had the endurance to get through the previous 3 1/2 hours and still had some energy left.

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  11. Shona Avatar

    As a European visitor, I can tell you that you`re spot-on about the rest of the world thinking “Oh great, here go the self-important Americans. Again.” At least the entire team I was with thought so, as did everybody I talked to after the ceremony (including mortified Americans). This was the most torturous, terminally boring ceremony I have ever participated in and I paid over 100 dollars for the “privilege”. If they`d cut out all the crap, they could have whizzed through the good stuff in 30 minutes and left us all with a happy feeling. I reckon the Gay Games federation should stipulate that they want an opening *celebration* instead of *ceremony* and we might be able to skip the woe-is-me misery in Cologne.

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