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September 5, 2001
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Crushing the Gay Olympics
The USOC's homophobic past

THE UNITED STATES Olympic Committee has left an open wound in San Francisco's queer community. The committee's 1982 decision to sue a nationally renowned competition featuring gay athletes for using the word "Olympics" in its title was seen as a gratuitous act of homophobia by many queer activists.

The suit against the Gay Olympics, filed less than three weeks before the event's scheduled opening at Kezar Stadium, was successful – which is why the event is now known as the Gay Games.

The suit wreaked havoc on the life of Dr. Tom Waddell, a doctor and former Olympian who helped found the Gay Games. Waddell nearly lost his home as a result of the suit while he was suffering from the effects of AIDS.

"[The committee] basically kicked us when we were down," said Jeff Sheehy, coauthor of San Francisco's domestic partner legislation and former president of the Harvey Milk Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgendered Democratic Club. Sheehy points out that the USOC didn't choose to sue the Special Olympics, the Nude Olympics, the Police Olympics, the Dog Olympics, or other groups that use the word "Olympics" in their titles.

BASOC representatives are treading gingerly around the issue. "We realize that those wounds haven't healed," Cribbs said. She pointed out that Olympics authorities are now cracking down on any infringing uses of the term.

"This is not about politics, nor was it about being against the Olympics per se," Sheehy said. "It's about unwanted and unwarranted behavior against a community."

Savannah Blackwell



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