Summer went out with a bang in northern Ohio, as one of the most inclusive sports and cultural festivals in the world visited Cleveland and Akron in mid-August.

The 2014 Gay Games, presented by the Cleveland Foundation, offered a little something for everyone. Athletes, regardless of sexual orientation or ability, competed in 35 sporting events ranging from tennis and swimming to ice skating and flag football. Visitors from every corner of the world celebrated the weeklong festivities. More than 20,000 people from 50-plus countries went “all out” (the official tagline for the ninth Gay Games) to cheer on their families and friends.

Coca-Cola Welcome Sign

“The atmosphere was remarkable,” said Jay McMinn, client relationship manager, president of Coke's LGBTA Business Resource Group and Gay Games attendee. “To attend an event where the camaraderie and sheer sense of community were palpable doesn’t happen often. I’m so proud that Coca-Cola wanted to be a part of this.”

As the exclusive sparkling beverage provider in Festival Village – the hub for the Gay Games – Coca-Cola brought its brands to life. The area hosted Coca-Cola’s Recycling Education Vehicle. Teams provided daily samples of Honest Tea, vitaminwater Drops, Coca-Cola and Diet Coke.

“As a business, it is our responsibility to embrace and foster diversity, unity and respect among all people,” said Allan Vineyard, sports marketing assets manager, who organized the company’s involvement in the Games. “For Coca-Cola and our associates to show that we value and celebrate diversity through our partnership and volunteerism speaks volumes." 

Opening Festivities at Gay Games

Marcus Hood, a Dallas-based Coca-Cola employee, traveled to Akron with his partner and won silver medals in both softball and rodeo at the Games. "Coca-Cola was loud and proud," he said. "The volunteers represented the company and the brand proudly. It made me proud to be a part of this Coke family and allowed me to be the best ambassador I could be while I was there."
He adds, "The other athletes that came to compete were just amazing. The stories we shared amd the tears we cried will never be forgotten and will always be treasured. This was a wonderful experience, and I am working on building another team for the 2018 games."

In the end, thousands of medals were awarded to competitors from across the globe. Cheers to the athletes, volunteers and spectators who raised a bottle of ice-cold Coca-Cola refreshment in the name of equality, friendship and respect at the 2014 Games! The next Gay Games are slated for Paris in 2018.