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In 1993, Marjo Meijer was the first chairperson of the board of Gay Games Amsterdam 1998 and one of the 12 people in Washington who made sure that not (great odds-on) Sydney or Atlanta, but (great unknown) Amsterdam could organise the Gay Games in 1998. Crucial was the Bid Book.

Marjo: ‘Our initiative group consisted of 15 to 20 volunteers. We had to write a Bid and asked a number of people to write a specific part.

‘The board coordinated this. For example, we asked Jip van Leeuwen to prepare the sports section. Then we discussed the draft, gave our feedback and a final version was produced. That’s how it went with all the components.

‘We had already thought of the Housing project, in which people from Amsterdam would provide accommodation to participants. We also included a canal parade of medal winners and musicians prior to the Closing Ceremony in the Bid.’

Culture didn’t matter to them

‘The Federation of Gay Games was very impressed with the sports facilities. They did not care about the cultural festival, but the Bid already included the Storytelling Festival, attention to AIDS and spiritual ceremonies. At the time we thought that 900 volunteers would be enough, but it turned out to be more… 3000! 

‘We had a large Committee of Recommendation and an international network supporting us. What touched me the most were the expressions of support from gay lesbian organisations in Eastern Europe – the Wall had fallen not so long ago.

‘We also worked well with the EGLSF, the European Gay and Lesbian Sports Federation. The Federation was also very impressed with how strongly our Bid was integrated into Amsterdam society.’

One clear winner

‘In Washington, everyone had an hour to present. Atlanta started. They came up with a presentation that was so long that Federation people ran off to get coffee. That gave us the opportunity to go after them and have a chat.

‘And then we came along.

‘I did the presentation of the bid and Joseph Los, the treasurer, explained the financial planning. The twelve of us ended with the yell: “We’re committed, we’re organised, we’re ready!” That was really what we felt.

‘We received a thunderous applause. At exactly 11 a.m., a written vote was taken and at 10 past 11 a.m. it was announced that there was one clear winner, nothing more. It had been decided earlier that the results would be announced in the afternoon.’

I was lifted into the air

‘After seven nerve-wracking quarters, the hour U arrived. The Amsterdam team stood together as one. Atlanta: 2 votes. Sydney: 14 votes… We stood at the back of the meeting room behind the Federation members.

‘I happened to be standing in front of Jip van Leeuwen and I felt myself being lifted into the air. My glasses broke. It was so insane.

‘A camera crew from Washington had filmed our presentation and half an hour after we won the Bid it was on the news in the Netherlands. At the same time, you could see Marc van den Broek and a group of volunteers on the phone in Amsterdam following the results. It was super.’

until 1 August 2023, exactly 25 years after the start of the Gay Games Amsterdam 1998

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