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Gay Games Collection

Identifier: MSSP 10070

Scope and Contents

This collection consists primarily of printed material and ephemera related to the first four Gay Games / Gay Olympic Games: San Francisco (1982), San Francisco (1986), Vancouver (1990), and New York City (1990). The materials—including programs, guidebooks, and other publications—document the athletes, the sporting competitions, other events associated with the Gay Games, and fundraising for the events. Formats include. programs, books, posters, advertising fliers, memorabilia, sheet music, and calendars.


  • Creation: 1981-1994

Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright status for collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.

Biographical / Historical

The Gay Games were founded in the early 1980s by former United States Olympian Dr. Tom Waddell (decathlon, 1968 Mexico City) working with other activists. Waddell had long experienced the hostility and prejudice faced by gay athletes in mainstream sports, and he conceived of the Gay Games as an alternative, inclusive sporting and arts festival that encouraged personal acceptance and growth. The first Gay Games, hosted by San Francisco, were widely supported by people from around the country and around the world, who raised money to support participating athletes and to fund the sporting competitions and affiliated arts programs.

Waddell had originally named the event the “Gay Olympic Games,” but, several weeks before the opening ceremonies in 1982, the United States Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee received an injunction from a federal judge prohibiting the event from using the word “Olympic.” Organizers hastily re-named the competition the “Gay Games.”

At the first Gay Games, more than 1,200 competitors participated in 18 sports over nine days. The event reportedly drew more than 10,000 spectators. Due to the success of the inaugural Gay Games, organizers have continued to hold the event on a quadrennial basis. The next three Gay Games were held in San Francisco (1996), Vancouver (1990), and New York City (1994). The Federation of Gay Games, which evolved from the organizers of the first Gay Games in 1982, is the current sanctioning organization for the event.


1.125 Cubic Feet (1 document case (letter); 1 F1 flat box; 4 posters.)

Language of Materials




Arranged in series for each of the first four Gay Games competitions.



Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Notre Dame Rare Books & Special Collections Repository

102 Hesburgh Library
Notre Dame IN 46556