As the sun begins to rise on Saturday, August 4th people dressed in rainbows and for the brutal European heat weave begin to descend toward the city hall of Paris. City Hall is host to the Gay Games village, which at this time is relatively still quiet as the vendors are setting up. Surrounded by several (sexy0 French police officers, a line begins to form as Gay Games participants wait to get checked in through security and into the village.

This morning isn’t like any other morning of the Gay Games, for all these people are coming to take part in the Rainbow Run. While the Opening Ceremony officially “opens” the games, the Rainbow Run always happens first and is a signature event of the Gay Games. First held in the 1990 Gay Games in Vancouver, the Rainbow Run (although it was more of a march) honors artist Keith Haring, lesbian activist Rikki Streicher, Dr. Tom Waddell, the founder of the Gay Games, and to all family members whom the Gay Games have lost, especially due to AIDS and breast cancer. In addition, this year the committee officially added Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag and recently passed away, to the list of honorees.

Prior to each Gay Games, a series of special Rainbow Run events are held in the cities that have previously hosted the Gay Games in the lead up to the current one, it’s a unique version of the Olympic Torch Relay.

Prior to the start of the run (march), an official ceremony was held that included appearances from the French Ministry of Sport, Minister of Health and the Mayor of Paris who welcomed us to the city and reminded us to stay safe through prevention (while she said to stay “hydrated” but we all know what she really meant.) At the conclusion of the speeches, a powerful moment was held when the newest patch for the Aids Memorial Quilt from the Names Foundation which has had a long history and connection with Gay Games. People stepped forward to add the names of their friends and family as we all took a moment to memorialize them. The quilt will be on display all throughout the games.

Then, it was time to march! 1400 people all gathered behind a giant rainbow flag, as we took to the streets of Paris and marched with supporters and confused tourists as we celebrated our legacy and history, From City Hall, to the Louvre and on the banks of the Sein, there was lots of cheers and excitement as we baked in the hot sun and kicked off the unofficial start of the Gay Games!

By Dirk Smith