The ticking of those balls

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She was the coordinator of Squash, Judith van Cleeff (photo, with co-ordinator tape). Not that it was a big deal for her, but someone had to do it. Together with colleague Sjak de Jong, she organised the four-day squash tournament with about 230 participants in the old Frans Otten Stadium.

Judith: ‘I had played squash before, but had never played an official match. Fortunately, we were greatly assisted by the Squash Association of the Netherlands, which also provided a match director, head coach and referees.

‘We decided to ‘cultivate’ participants and volunteers, just like in tennis. A weekly squash evening was set up by Bob van der Mark and Marcel van Huet: Rainbow Squash. It still exists. That’s how it came to life in the years before the Games.’

Not such a nice phone call

‘I did have sleepless nights because of it. We had to make a budget for example, I had no idea what a squash ball cost… And that Saturday of the Canal Parade, just before the Games started. I was supposed to receive all the stuff for the stadium – the office supplies, the parasols, the decorations, but nothing came.

‘I started to panic slightly, so I phoned the office. There sat Nanda. It was not a nice phone call. Afterwards, it turned out that the figure skating thing was going on at the time, so Nanda’s head was not really in the office. It did turn out all right, though.’

This is what we did it for

‘We had come up with our own opening and closing programme. Opera singer Wiebke Goëtjes, whom I met by chance in a café, sang two arias in a Bianca Castafiore dress. Wonderful! And at the closing ceremony there was a dance demonstration by two women on the centre court.

‘Ger Koopman, director of the Frans Otten Stadium, was very helpful, together with his son Patrick. He arranged for a demonstration squash match to be played at the start of the tournament. The numbers 1 and 2 of the Netherlands (men) played a mixed doubles with two Australian champions (ladies) who participated in the Games.

‘A goose-bump moment for me was when I walked through the building afterwards and heard the balls tapping against the walls in all those rooms, with the squeak of the shoes on the floor. Gosh, it’s started, we’ve done it, this is what we did it for!’

That Gay Games feeling

‘Afterwards I had a very satisfied feeling and many friends. What a happening, I had never experienced anything so big. I had hardly been in the city that week, but one evening I was there and I saw that the whole city was blocked by Gay Games partygoers, there was no way through. I was totally overwhelmed. We have done something!

‘That Gay Games feeling stays with you, even now, I really enjoy being able to share it with people. You can imagine that I am looking forward to the reunion next year.’

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

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