The Russian Open Games: Thwarted at Every Turn by the Powers That Be, but a Success Nonetheless!

In the vein of the late Dr. Tom Waddell, who founded the Gay Olympics (now the Gay Games) in San Francisco in 1984, Konstantin Yablotskiy and Elvina Yuvakaeva, co-presidents of the Russian LGBT Sports Federation, organized the recent Russian Open Games "with the goal of promoting healthy lifestyles, physical activity and sports among the LGBT community and its supporters." They invited me to Moscow as the U.S. ambassador to the games, got me there, and graciously hosted me for several days. Then the Russian powers that be thwarted us at every turn.

Konstantin and Elvina worked tirelessly to keep spirits high and prevent the obstacles -- bomb threats, a smoke bomb set off at one of the venues, hotels that had been booked in advance suddenly claiming they were under construction and turning away participants once they learned who we were -- from getting us down. They did an awesome job in one of the most challenging political climates I have ever witnessed. In my view, they deserve the Tom Waddell Award hands down for standing up to their country and its anti-LGBT laws to build self-esteem in the LGBT community through sport, which was Dr. Waddell's dream and vision to begin with.

The Russian Open Games began in Moscow on Feb. 26, three days after the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi came to a close, and ended on March 2, five days before the Winter Paralympic Games were to start. Sochi was just Putin's propaganda, while the Russian Open Games represented real Russia!

With only one person knowing the location of each venue, we had to assemble in the Moscow Metro and go from there each time. It was odd and eerie at the same time, but we pulled it off! Congrats to everyone involved for an impossible job well done!

Why did I go at all? I have been saying that there is an LGBT child born in Russia every day, and who is protecting that child, especially in the current anti-LGBT climate brought on by the "propaganda" law passed in June? Konstantin and Elvina are fighting for those children!

A note from Konstantin:

Thank you Greg!

On Friday and Saturday we had Dutch Sport Minister with an ambassador with whom we had a feeling of safety. On Friday as well a smoke bomb was thrown to the basket hall.

But finally we overcame all these troubles and led the games till its end with success and happiness.

This weekend we have a strategic meeting where we shall work out our strategy of development. For all of us now is a very key point time.

Thank you for your inclusion and inspiration, Greg. Hope to see you in Cleveland at GG9.


Russian LGBT Sport Federation



P.S. You can read more about my experience in Moscow for the Russian Open Games here, here, and here.