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CHICAGO – Attendees slapped hands and patted the backs of an estimated 12,000 Gay Games VII athletic participants as they walked through Wrigley Field and into the stands as the weeklong Games closed on July 22.
“The finale was just spectacular,” said Rick Guay of Pleasant Ridge, who competed in softball on Team U.S.A. “It was right there in the middle of the gay part of town. … You could feel the energy from people all over the place.”
Although Guay, 43, complained the opening ceremony, which kicked off the week of events, could’ve been crunched into a shorter time span, the closing ceremony on Saturday ended on a high note, thought Jeff Knebl, 44, of Traverse City.
“They were both pretty magnificent, but the closing was so much better,” Knebl said.
Near the end of the three-hour ceremony, music sensation and LGBT activist Cyndi Lauper drew the biggest applause. Dressed as the Statue of Liberty in a long, rainbow-colored gown, Lauper sang two songs, including her hit “True Colors.”
“Stand tall and together pass the flame on,” Lauper said.
Knebl’s partner Cole Vliet-Sutten, 24, took home the gold for the 10K and the bronze in the half marathon.
“I’m so happy we were able to do this,” Vliet-Sutten said. “Every time that I did something this week it was my personal best. I’ve never ran as hard or worked as hard as I have here.”
Vliet-Sutten was proud of himself and the other 135 Michigan athletes who competed, including his and Knebl’s partner Richard Tuxbury, 58, of Traverse City, who won the gold in Mountain Biking.
“It just made me so proud to be from Michigan because we were so loud and so rowdy,” Vliet-Sutten said. “And we were making so much noise we were even drowning out the protestors.”
Guay and his partner and teammate Jim won the silver. “There was so much good competition,” said Guay. “Whether you win or lose, it’s still an experience.”