An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 participants and spectators boogied down last weekend to the songs of pop icon Cyndi Lauper at the closing ceremonies of Gay Games VII at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
Lauper, dressed as a rainbow version of the Statue of Liberty, headlined the colourful celebration, marking the end of a weeklong Olympics-style sporting event.
“I feel like this is becoming sort of a tradition for me since I performed last time the Gay Games were in the States, in New York City in 1994,” Lauper said.
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who has been vocal about his desire for his city to host the 2016 Olympic Games, escorted the Gay Games flag during its ceremonial transfer to an official from Cologne, Germany, the host city of the 2010 games.
“As mayor, I want you to know how much we enjoyed having you here this past week,” Daley said to the crowd. “I’m sure you found Chicago is a very welcoming place for members of the gay and lesbian community.”
The 7th Gay Games were originally planned for Montreal, Canada, but after a disagreement between local organisers and the Federation of Gay Games, the event was handed to Chicago.
Montreal organisers decided to stage their own games, and the inaugural Out Games opens in Montreal on July 29. Many doubted whether the Chicago Games would be a financial success, but organisers now report the event to be the most profitable in the history of the Gay Games.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that attendance figures will not be available until later this week, but Gay Games spokesman Kevin Boyer told the Chicago newspaper that he predicted the games would make money.
Mr Boyer estimated the city and surrounding suburbs pulled in $50 million to $80 million through the Gay Games. The Chicago Tribune reports that the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau made a more modest economic impact estimate of $33.4 million based on the lodging, meals and transportation costs of the 11,500 registered athletes.
Regardless of how successful the games were, many attendees said that Chicago earned a reputation for being a progressive city.
“This was one of the only places where if you want to put your arm around your partner or give her a kiss, you can do it without having to worry about what other people will think,” Crete resident Jean Tolchinsky told The Sun-Times.
“I think Chicago showed its best side.”
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