The Gay Games Amsterdam was the first Gay Games to be organized outside of the USA. It lasted a week and touched the hearts of thousands of people: participants, visitors and the inhabitants of the city. And for many lgbtq+ people it was the first time that they experienced the feeling of not being a minority in Amsterdam.


Fascinating overview

A selection of memorabilia from the Gay Games Amsterdam was also exhibited during the Queer History Talk (Archive: Kees Ruyter)

A selection of memorabilia from the Gay Games Amsterdam was also exhibited during the Queer History Talk (Archive: Kees Ruyter)

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This Queer History Talk was held in the auditorium of the museum, where hosts Niek van de Spek and Kees Ruyter – who were respectively deputy director, and marketing manager communications and creative director of Gay Games Amsterdam at the time – provided a fascinating overview of that tremendous week over 20 years ago. The city played host to participants from all over the world. Everyone came together to share in the sportsmanship and friendship which symbolized the spirit of the games.

Niek and Kees screened a moving documentary film (made by Marian Bakker, Gemma Rameckers en Leo Enzlin) about the games which gave an excellent impression of the week’s events – from the build-up of excitement and enthusiasm, the terrific buzz of the opening (and closing!) ceremony in the Amsterdam ArenA (now the Johan Cruiff ArenA), profiles and interviews with the participants, newsreel coverage both in the Netherlands and abroad, tears of joy – and disappointment – and the uplifting support given by Amsterdam’s mayor at the time, Schelto Patijn.


lgbtiq+ newcomer support

Gay Games Amsterdam 1998 - film screening

Gay Games Amsterdam 1998 - film screening By: Kevin Schram

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Most of the audience at the film’s screening had come at the invitation of Cocktail Amsterdam, a social network for lgbtiq+ newcomers. It was an international audience, consisting of asylum status holders, asylum seekers, expats and lgbtiq+ newcomers, among them people from Iran and Uganda. Cocktail aims to reduce the isolation that lgbtiq+ newcomers experience and to introduce them to Dutch society in a safe way. It organizes social or informational event once a month to support newcomers with their integration in the Netherlands, and to help them with their personal empowerment.

Some of the clips in the film were in Dutch, so both Niek and Kees gave a very helpful running commentary in English so that non-Dutch members of the audience could follow the narrative. Niek and Kees had also brought along some of the original medals which were made for the games! The Amsterdam Museum also has various memorabilia from the Amsterdam Gay Games in its collection. See our ‘heart’ here.

Cheers to Cocktail!

Vladimir Chorchordin gave a warm welcome to visitors to the Gay Games Amsterdam Queer History Talk!

Vladimir Chorchordin gave a warm welcome to visitors to the Gay Games Amsterdam Queer History Talk!

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The film was given an enthusiastic applause by the audience in the auditorium and prompted a number of questions about the games. Cocktail’s representatives Janneke Tichelaar and Vladimir Chorchordin made sure that all invitees were fully looked after, and even organized a post-screening borrel at Café Sarrein!

Text: Brian Jones, volunteer lgbtiq+/Queering programme Amsterdam Museum

For a Dutch version of this text, click here / Voor een Nederlanse versie van dit tekst, zie hier


What are the Queer History Talks?

Queer History Talks, together with Sharing Stories, is a monthly recurring programming within the Amsterdam Museum in which (recent) histories that can be related to the various lgbtiq+ communities in Amsterdam are made visible, discussed and researched. They are not lectures, where a speaker tells the story, and there are questions from the audience. It’s about sharing and talking about histories together. It is an interactive setting that matches the subject. For example, time can be made for a panel discussion, viewing of archive material and/or objects. In short, even though the word ’talk’ makes you think differently, the meeting is not a monologue. The public can actively participate in discussions and exchange knowledge.

Queer History Talks normally take place at 3pm in the auditorium of the Amsterdam Museum every last Saturday of the month. This time, an extra special edition was planned, in collaboration with Cocktail Amsterdam on Tuesday 22 October.


Facts and Figures

Participants: 75
Languages: Dutch and English
Topic: Gay Games Amsterdam 1998
Date: October 22 2019
Location: Auditorium, Amsterdam Museum
Speakers: Niek van de Spek, former deputy director Gay Games Amsterdam, Kees Ruyter, former manager marketing communications and creative director Gay Games Amsterdam
Organisation: Janneke Tichelaar (Cocktail Amsterdam), Kevin Schram (editorial team Queer History Talks), Mirjam Sneeuwloper (Amsterdam Museum)