Cleveland closes its Gay Games, passes the torch to Paris

Cleveland, Ohio — On a stage decorated with a model of the Eiffel Tower and the American and French flags, Cleveland officially closed the 2014 Gay Games on Saturday and handed its flag over to Paris, France, which will host the event in 2018.

A delegation from Paris’ Gay Games committee accepted the flag from Cleveland after the flame of the 2014 Games was ceremonially extinguished in Cleveland’s Mall C, the area that served as hub of the Games’ “Festival Village.”

“We have spent such a magic week,” Paris 2018 co-president Manuel Picaud told the crowd. “Cleveland and Akron have been so smiling, so welcoming, so open-minded. Everybody has been great. We have learned a lot from these Games. Thank you all.”

Organizers of the Cleveland event thanked the area for its support, extending particular kudos to all who worked to make the event a success.

“What a week. We did it,” said Gay Games Executive Director Thomas Nobbe citing record-setting performances by a 99-year-old runner and a masters swimmer, as well as the hospitality the area extended through gestures like bathing Terminal Tower in rainbow lights each night.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said Cleveland became the “capital of the LBGT community” during the event, calling it a test that proved the area is open and accepting of diversity.

“On behalf of Cuyahoga County, we were so proud to host you here,” said FitzGerald.

After congratulations were extended all around, it was time for the crowd to party with loud dance music and entertainment hosted by comedian Scott Nevins.

Some people danced and socialized over dinner and drinks. Others bought souvenirs and posed for photos on a long rainbow flag draped over a park staircase. Others reminisced about good times they had at the event and in the area.

“I’ve done a lot of competitive table tennis, but I’ve never had more fun at a sporting event,” said table tennis gold and silver medalist Mary Beth Hatem of Maryland.

“I had no idea Cleveland was such a food town,” added her table tennis partner, Vivian Fong, who planned to bring Ballpark mustard and a cooler of Mitchell’s Ice Creamhome with her to Maryland.

Former Clevelander Roma Kassaraba returned to the area from her current home in Switzerland to volunteer at the Games. Holding a piece of the giant American flag during the opening ceremony at Quicken Loans Arena was among her “Top 10 life experiences,” she said.

“It was like we weren’t separate countries, we were all one,” added her friend, Sandy Kish Jordan of Vermilion, who also volunteered at the opening ceremony.

The Games drew about 9,000 participants.

Another opening ceremony volunteer, Dan Burnett of Cleveland, said participating in the event gave him the perspective that tourists have of the city.

“The city was clean and welcoming, which reinforces how proud we are to be from Cleveland,” said Burnett.

by Sabrina Eaton, Plain Dealer Washington Reporter 

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