March 18 – A group promoting this year's Gay Games became the first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) themed participants in a St Patrick's Day Parade when they took to the streets of Cleveland, Ohio yesterday.
A group of around 14, led by Board member of Gay Games 9, Kevin Schmotzer, took part in the annual celebration of Irish culture and were warmly received by the thousands lining the streets in Cleveland.
"I wasn't aware that we were the first LGBT-themed group to march in the St. Paddy's parade until it was over," said Schmotzer, who is part of the Organising Committee for the 2014 Gay Games set to take place in Cleveland and neighbouring Akron from August 9 to 16.
"The Gay Games have changed this community.
"People have embraced the Gay Games coming here in a way that five or 10 years ago, I don't know that they would have.
"It feels great.
"We had a lot of applause and clapping and cheering.
"There was definitely a lot of excitement from a lot of people who saw who we were."
The Ohio cities are expected to attract around 30,000 visitors including 11,000 competitors from 70 nations in August for what will be the ninth staging of the Games.
The event claims to be the largest diverse amateur sporting event in the world that promotes equality for all people, particularly LGBT athletes, from all over the world, and is open for anyone to compete.
The event was created by Olympic athlete Tom Waddell, who competed in track and field events at the Mexico 1968 Olympics.
The first Gay Games were staged in San Francisco in 1982 and have been held every four years since, in Sydney, Vancouver, New York, Amsterdam, Chicago and Cologne, while Paris will host the 2018 Games.
The parade in Cleveland was in stark contrast to the parades in New York and Boston, which are traditionally among the largest in the United States.
Many sponsors and high profile political figures did not attend the parades in both cities this year due to organisers refusing to let LGBT groups openly march.
Beer companies such as Guinness, Heineken and Sam Adams pulled their sponsorship over the issue while New York Mayor Bill De Blasio and his Boston counterpart Martin Walsh stayed away from their city's parade.
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