(This story was published in 2006).

By: Ronit Bezalel

Being from Chicago, I’ve seen how hard the organizers have worked for years to make this event a reality. They faced the unique challenge of having half the normal preparation time and the task of creating fiscally responsible games. It’s a testament to the strength of this community that the Gay Games VII materialized.

Yeah, the Games were far from perfect. But the most important aspect was that everyone I spoke to had a wonderful time and remarked on the supportive community spirit. For me, this is what the Gay Games are really about. It’s an opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate while hopefully making room for all our differences as well.

Of course, I do have to address the many, many organizational glitches. Games seemed to be rescheduled at random. Water and Gatorade were often scarce or non-existent. The website was a navigational nightmare, especially trying to find out when a specific team was playing. Opening ceremonies were a downer and way too long. Events were spread out making it impossible to get around without a car or strategic use of the shuttle when there was one available. It was also a bummer to have to pay for some events.

Here is my Gay Games VII report card:

Opening Ceremony: C –

Do we really need to be reminded how oppressed we are? Still, the last half hour made up for the prior monotony. If you stayed until the end, you know what I mean.

Closing Ceremony: A –

Wrigley Field was THE perfect venue. There wasn’t a bad seat in the house. The weather co-operated, the speeches weren’t too long and the entertainment was awesome. The only drawback was the occasionally muffled sound system and those annoying Illinois lottery beach balls.

Host City: B

Chicago was a great location. People were friendly, the downtown core was clean and the Mayor impressed me with his message of inclusion and support. The only drawback to the city is its large size. Events were so spread out and the taking public transportation to some of the farther events could be a hassle.

Venues: N/A

Since I mostly concentrated on covering the road races, it’s hard for me to comment on the venues. However, I did hear a wide range of opinions from quite positive to downright negative. I can say that for my off-road race, the course was great.

Parties: A –

Well, I only had the opportunity to attend the Pajama party and the closing Victory Party. Both were tons of fun. Girls, if you missed the pajama party muffin eating contest, you missed something special! I did hear that some of the women’s parties were under attended though.

Website: F

My frustrations were so great with the Gay Games Chicago website that I simply stopped using it. The stuff I wanted to find was buried within an archaic navigational system and the event schedule left a lot to be desired.

Weather: C

It’s not anybody’s fault, but the heat was brutal and the thunderstorms were fierce

Hydration: C

Gatorade and water would be nice. At my mountain bike race, we didn’t have either. The triathlon ran out of water, ice hockey lacked Gatorade

Medical: A

The staff was topnotch, ready to attend to any emergency. It was comforting also to see ambulances onsite.

Overall: B

This was my first Gay Games, so I had nothing to compare this too. But balancing the disorganization with the positive experience that most folks had, I’d say that Gay Games VII rates a solid B.