(This story was published in 2006).
By: Chunky Morgan
Gay Games in Chicago was always going to be a special homecoming for me, with so many wonderful happenings in the previous four years. Since Sydney in 2002, British and World Championship titles have changed my life forever.
Returning to the Gay Games as World Champion in my sport and as an official Ambassador was always going to be an emotional and special occasion. Ten magical days in the Windy City, with expectations high and media attention at fever pitch.
Here’s an "Ambassadors" account of Gay Games VII.
Thursday 6th to Thursday 13th July - Acclimatizing
I’ve already been in Chicago for a whole week, acclimatizing and adjusting my body clock. Training is going well. Quad’s gym in Boys Town is an amazing facility, with a great atmosphere and equipment for bodybuilders and power lifters.
I’m already calling upon valuable experience gained at the World Championships in Atlanta in 2004, and so far things are looking good. My body clock has turned around nicely and my energy levels are highly reasonable.
Earlier in the week, …
I attended the offices of Chicago 2006 and witnessed first hand the commitment of the Gay Games staff and volunteers. The whole place was buzzing with excitement, everyone is working extremely hard to deliver the Games on time.
To see these wheels in motion is truly ‘Inspirational’.
Friday 14th July - Registration
It’s only at the Hilton accreditation Center that this event becomes a reality for hundreds of participants, volunteers and officials. This was also the start of my Gay Games homecoming, with the welcome and response overwhelming.
Within only a few moments of stepping into line for registration, my cover was blown. I was recognized by Cheer San Francisco, "Hey, you’re that weightlifter aren’t you? Hey, you’re that really good weightlifter aren‘t you?"
We all know Cheer SF doesn't do anything quietly !
I suppose this was the first time that the magnitude of my World Championship win had really hit home. Strangers from all around the world were shaking my hand, asking for autographs and photographs. It was a truly humbling experience.
Saturday 15th July- Opening Ceremony
Many of you may have heard people talk about the Gay Games legacy, which is passed down through the years. The legacy is made up of traditions which were first introduced by Tom Waddell at the first two Gay Games in 1982 and 1986.
One small part of the legacy is that the Powerlifting event is always on the first day of Gay Games. This means that it’s impossible for me to see the Opening Ceremony, as it finishes late in the evening. I’m tucked up in bed by 6 p.m. !
It is also tradition for the Powerlifting Technical meeting to be held on the day before the competition. Participants renew friendships and rivalries, with officials from the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) giving a rules briefing. It’s time to get serious.
Sunday 16th July - Competition Day
I’m up and around at 5 a.m.
Going through my pre-competition procedures, ahead of Eddie (coach for the day) arriving at my hotel. Time to check my kit, prepare food, take a calming walk and meditate. We’re on the road, heading for the venue by 6.30 a.m., as weigh in opens at 7 a.m.
Chicago is in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures hitting 100, with equivalent humidity. This is unusually hot for a British boy and I’m under no illusion that today is going to be extremely tough.
I’d always said that I’d try and go to maximum weight in Chicago, even if the temperature was high, especially in the knowledge that people were expecting me to produce a World Class performance at Gay Games.
The figures of 225kg Squat, 100kg Bench and 250kg Dead Lift, were not far from my best, but were still below par. With only six people in my lifting group, it was impossible to gain enough recovery time, before being required to take my following attempts.
My own dream performance of a personal best at Gay Games will have to keep until Cologne 2010. I’m hoping to put that to rest in Germany, but of course the weights and challenge get bigger every year. I win Gold Medals and set seven Games Records.
Monday 17th July - Nuclear Fall Out
Once the event is over, it’s best to let it go.
I had a whole 24 hours of letting go in Chicago, as my body closed down for business due to dehydration. I had pushed the limits in the heat at the Welsh Ryan Arena and now my body was telling me some home truths.
My one regret of the Chicago trip, is the cancellation of my appearance at the Brokeback Locker Room event, hosted by the New York Times. It would have been an honor to have appeared alongside my personal hero Dave Kopay. Maybe at Gay Games VIII in Cologne?
Tuesday 18th July - Physique
One of the most anticipated events of the Gay Games week is the physique event, which was also held at the Ryan Welsh Arena. There was a large crowd of supporters for the evening show, which is the final chance for athletes to impress the judges.
I’ve never witnessed a body building competition live before and found it very interesting to see competitive posing. Some of the clashes in the middle and heavyweight classes were particularly entertaining.
My highlight of the night though was seeing fellow Ambassador Tom Bianchi, make his competitive debut in a physique competition. His face was filled with joy, as he took to the stage and delivered his routine. Tom wins a silver medal.
Wednesday 19th July - Press Conference & Outsports
My press conference was cancelled on Monday morning due to sickness, it was therefore re arranged for mid week. The Chicago 2006 media center was buzzing with journalists from all around the world, all wanting my reaction to the four Gold medals. It still feels a little strange to have journalists interested in your story, especially when you come from a small sport like Power lifting. But, I realize that my story is important to the movement and I’m happy do anything possible to help promote Gay Games.
That evening ….
The Outsports party was held at Crew Bar and was in full swing when I arrived at around 10.00 pm. It was a pleasure to meet fellow Ambassador Esera Tuaolo (see photo. I'm at right), who seemed to be having the time of his life competing in flag football at Gay Games. Esera's Outsports team won the gold medal.
Thursday 20th July - Figure Skating & Men at Sea
One the hottest events of the Gay Games week is the Exhibition of Champions in the figure skating. This is where all of the medalists from two days of competition, perform special routines to entertain the audience.
Once again, It was the first time that I’ve ever seen figure skating live and it was a totally new experience. Gay Games is the only place that you will ever see same sex pairs on the ice together and this was very emotional to see. The Brokeback Mountain on ice was fabulous!
The best party of the week was the Men at Sea Party, aboard the Spirit of Chicago. Imagine 1,000 beautiful men, dancing under the stars, on the Michigan River, with the Chicago skyline in the background and DJ Chris Cox pumping out the tunes. Chicago boys know how to party in style.
Friday 21st July - Sightseeing
It’s also important to highlight some of the cultural aspects of Gay Games, as there were a host of exhibitions, concerts, parties and panel discussions all week long. I decided to visit the Athletes Portraits Exhibition, at the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue.
It was wonderful to see pictures of gay athletes hanging in one the highest profile galleries in Chicago. Gay Games was taking centre stage in this city, and this was a fine example of how the local community had welcomed us with open arms.
Just across the road from the Water Tower is the Hancock building, which has the best view of Chicago available to the public. This is highly recommended sightseeing, because the views across the city are spectacular from the Hancock Observatory.
Saturday 22nd July: Closing Ceremony & Triumph Party
The Closing Ceremony of Gay Games at Wrigley Field was my Opening and Closing rolled into one. I’m never allowed to see the Opening, so my focus is to make sure that my closing night experience is unforgettable.
During the ceremony the FGG flag is transferred from the current hosts Chicago 2006, to the forthcoming hosts Cologne 2010. It was a great honor to be chosen to carry the Gay Games flag alongside fellow Ambassador Leigh Ann Naidoo.
It was also wonderful spending time with friends from Golden gate wrestling club, both during and after the closing ceremony. They’re a shining example to all sports clubs, with their warmth, spirit and camaraderie.
So, the Games are over and it’s now time to party …
The perfect end to a perfect week, was hearing my favorite DJ Manny Lehman spinning at the Aragon Ballroom. Four thousand participants, officials and circuit boys came together for a huge closing party.
One of my lasting memories of Gay Games VII is seeing Cheer San Francisco entertaining the audience in a special midnight performance. For once, the Gay Party Circuit and Gay Games were brought together in a surreal harmony. Together in Triumph.
Chris Morgan is the current Gay Games and World Drug Free Powerlifting Champion. He is an Ambassador to the Federation of Gay Game and Cologne 2010. www.gaygames.com & www.games-cologne.com