Editor’s Note: James Williamson wrote the following column exclusively for Uken Report and filed it from Paris where he is attending and participating in the Gay Games.
PARIS — So, what are the Gay Games about?
While it is a great opportunity to promote Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley to an international audience as “like no place else” — thank you Palm Springs Tourism Bureau for the fun shirts and memorabilia — that’s not it.
It’s about people competing — mostly in a friendly manner (?!) — in sports that they enjoy and in which they are skilled. Like other major sporting competitions, it’s about the training, discipline and practice — it’s about excelling and (hopefully) winning.
As a sporting event, it’s about celebrating our physical and sporting ability. About our golf handicap, our killer backhand slice, and the fact that we can dig deep, push hard, and beat previous personal bests.
But it’s about very much more.
It’s about the the kids who were never jocks, now showing up as competitive athletes. It’s about folks of different ages and abilities having the opportunity to walk into a stadium during the Opening Ceremonies of a major athletic event and have the crowd cheer them on.
It’s about pride. And creating hope. Feeling good in yourself and loudly and proudly declaring to the next generation “Yes, you can!”
Williamson is among a contingent of about 40 to 50 people from the Coachella Valley, calling themselves Team Palm Springs, who have traveled to Paris, France for the 2018 Gay Games that will be held Aug. 4-12.
Among the group are Geoff Kors, Palm Springs City Councilmember; Ginny Foat, former member of the Palm Springs City Council and executive director of the Mizell Senior Center; and David Vogel, founder of Digicom Learning.
Members of the group plan to participate in tennis, track and field, golf, bowling, and swimming.
Kors and Williamson are participating in singles and doubles tennis.
The group was scheduled to carry the Palm Springs banner during Opening Ceremonies and Closing Ceremonies. This year marks the 10th Edition of the games since they were created in 1982 in San Francisco. The Gay Games are held every four years.
The Gay Games are a worldwide sport and cultural event that include 36 sports, 14 cultural events, many conferences and festivities.
This year’s sports include track and field, tennis, golf, basketball, swimming, diving, water polo, hockey, fencing, cycling, wrestling and volleyball. More than 12,000 athletes are expected to compete from 91 countries. Participants include everyone from beginners to Olympic medalists.
“Palm Springs is a tremendously popular destination for LGBTQ visitors so we are thrilled to have Team Palm Springs traveling to Paris to represent our city in the 2018 Gay Games,” Mary Jo Ginther, director of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism, said in a prepared statement.
Team Palm Springs will be promoting tourism’s newly developed website, gayestplaceintheworld.com to the LGBTQ community while in Paris. The URL was created for Team Palm Springs while attending the Games. The Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism made for the banner they will carry at Opening Ceremonies along with some other marketing elements like T-Shirts and little giveaways to help promote Palm Springs.