364 days and counting…

Think you’re busy? Try organizing a 10,000-person, eight-day party, raise the money to pay for it and provide the location and entertainment — and you’re the only designated driver. One year from now, organizers in Cleveland/Akron present the opening ceremonies for Gay Games 9, and Northeast Ohio will be flooded with LGBTQA athletes from around the world. They are anticipating 10,000-plus participants and thousands more spectators, who will eat, sleep, party and compete from Aug. 9-15, 2014. I enjoyed a great conversation with Tom Nobbe, executive director of the games, and events coordinator Rob Smitherman this past week, and I know these guys are busting one to make GG9 spectacular in every sense. For the month of August, as the Philly sports scene regroups for fall, I’ll be writing about the GG9 and the Cleveland area, so clip and save! Starting from the top, Nobbe said they recently completed the paperwork to hold the opening ceremonies at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians. “We’re having a year-out kickoff party at Progressive Stadium this year on Aug. 9 to promote the Gay Games,” Nobbe said. “It’s our gay night out and this starts the countdown right where the opening ceremonies are going to be.” Smitherman added that organizers are still working on booking entertainment for the opening. “We’ve talked to a number of people, but most are telling us that it’s too far out to make a commitment,” he said. “But there is still plenty of time to get entertainment lined up.” No names are being released as potential performers at this time. When asked about the closing ceremonies, the pair was enthusiastic, but cautious. “We have a great potential site for the closing ceremonies but we can’t say anything until we get all the details worked out on paper,” Nobbe said. “Once we do that, I think people will be excited for the closing location as well.” The announcement for the closing ceremonies is expected very soon. To keep current on that and other announcements, the pair encouraged everyone to sign up for the news blasts at gg9cle.com/contact/ and follow them on Facebook. So far just about 10 percent of the anticipated 11,000 participants have registered. Nobbe says that’s about what they expected. “Our projections for attendance and where we should be in registration numbers are based on previous games,” he said. “Ten percent, a little under 10 percent, is pretty good. Of course we’d like to see more registered this summer.” If you are not registered yet, get online now (gg9cle.org) before the registration goes up $30 on Sept. 1. You can register for your competition later; there is no price break on that. If you’re just going for the hot athletes and want to be at the opening ceremonies, you need this initial registration as well. Think of it as having that saved money in Cleveland for a lunch or dinner. As for travel and lodging, Team Philadelphia gets a break because Cleveland is easily reachable in seven or eight hours of driving. This gives us a great opportunity to rally as many people as we can to participate one or more days. You could easily go for the weekends and still hit work in between. Those planning on staying for several days or the entire run of eight should get onto the website and check out the lodging options. When asked if the area was ready for 11,000 athletes plus friends, fans and others, both Nobbe and Smitherman were enthusiastic about the opportunities. “We have partnered with a number of hotels and we’re comfortable that everyone should be able to stay very close to where they compete,” Nobbe said. “Plus, there are dorms available, so there is that option. We got some great hotels and it is definitely not too early to book rooms.” So no one is going to have to stay in Youngstown and commute, and you can even stay on a campus if you like. Both agreed that with only a year to go, there is still much to be done. The week leading into the games through the day after closing ceremonies, there are many opportunities to get involved. If you want to become a GG9 champion, you can promote the games with posters, fliers and outreach that organizers will assist with. Most of all, they are looking for volunteers. “We need a lot of help to do this. Volunteers are one of the ways people can get involved and be a part of this,” Smitherman said. “We are working out a way to let people have some way of volunteering in an area they want to. There will be some benefits, yes. For one, every volunteer gets a commemorative T-shirt. We haven’t set up other perks yet.” There will be a number of announcements in the very near future. Additional sponsor announcements and the closing ceremonies news are imminent. I asked if there was a vodka sponsor yet. They both answered with a long “nooo” and Nobbe added, “But you can be sure that we won’t get a Russian one. That’s a very hot subject here right now.” Perhaps even sooner than those announcements, the gg9cle.com site is about to get a whole lot friendlier. “We’ve been getting feedback and input on the website so it is in the process of being reworked,” Nobbe said. “It is going to be much more user-friendly, more intuitive and have more information and updates. Watch for it the next week or so.” We will! Next column, there will be more about the eating, drinking, playing and shopping in Cleveland. Here’s a teaser: What well-known Food Network chef calls Cleveland home?

Short stops • The first gay day at the Reading Phillies is Aug. 14. PGN has a bunch of free tickets! If you want to go, hit me up through email, my work phone or online. • The LGBT national volleyball tournament is Aug. 10-11 at Competitive Edge Sports, 320 S. Henderson Road, King of Prussia.

Countdown to Gay Games 9: 364 days. Send your information, questions and miscellaneous thoughts about vodka to [email protected].