On your marks, get set, GO! Gay Games 2010  kicked off in Cologne, Germany on Saturday, with an explosive Opening Ceremony featuring the parade of athletes from 66 participating countries, speeches by German political leaders and performances by pop divas Taylor Dayne and Agnes . The 9,500 participating athletes are competing in 34 different sports through August 7, and striving to fulfill the Gay Games principles of “Inclusion, Participation and Personal Best.” First held in 1982 in San Francisco, the Games were founded by American Olympic decathlete Dr. Tom Waddell under his idea that “doing one’s personal best should be the paramount goal in any athletic endeavor.”

Twenty-eight years later, Cologne is exceeding its best as the host city of the 8th international Games. Sited as “the gayest city in Germany after Berlin” by our parent publication, OutTraveler.com, Cologne is indeed an inclusive city, reveling in the celebration of sport and LGBT pride. It’s a big party and you’re invited: these Games are open to everyone regardless of sexual orientation or ability. It is not only a fantastic sight to see the 2,955 participants from Germany and 2,219 from the United Sates (the two most represented countries), but also extremely moving to behold the one proud athlete from countries such as Angola, Sri Lanka, and United Arab Emirates where homosexuality is criminalized. At the Gay Games Cologne, our entire community wins.

*This article was originally published in Out Traveler

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