‘Nobody had a mobile phone back then, but we had organised everything down to the last detail.’ Mart Kingma and Tineke Kras speak. Together with a number of other members of Netzo, they formed the core group that organised the volleyball.
Volleyball was a popular sport among gays. 1700 men and women participated – 220 teams in 8 halls. It was the biggest sport and it brought in a lot of money for the organisation. Tineke was coordinator of volleyball and Mart was sector manager.
‘We had location managers in every hall and a tournament director. All on a voluntary basis. The managers were given one of those big mobile phones so we could communicate with each other. Results were faxed and processed centrally, we had written a programme for that ourselves.’
‘In 1990 we went to the Gay Games in Vancouver with a small club: a women’s and a men’s volleyball team, some football players, tennis players and swimmers. That is where the idea for Gay Games Amsterdam originated. The moment you entered the stadium: we were flabbergasted! At a press conference, John Avis, chairman of Netzo, shouted that we should organise the games in Amsterdam as well.
‘We started with the organisation in 1995. Everyone ran a part of the project. Now that we look back and rummage through the old papers, we see how impressive it was what we put together. A well-oiled machine. Our aim of having an equal number of women’s teams has also largely succeeded.’
‘In the middle of the week we made the schedule for the rest of the tournament. It turned out that a couple of American teams had registered at a lower level – they wanted to win medals… We rectified that. The Americans were not amused: “Where is your director?” We had a Red Desk where people could go with problems. And there was Mart – they had expected a man – who got all angry. That was a tough evening. Then we started drinking beer.’
The tournament took the whole week with nine finals on different levels on Saturday in the Apollohal.
‘We had the women’s final played last. Usually that is the men, but the Dutch Dream Team with the Lust sisters was of such a high level that we reversed the roles. They played against a Canadian team. But now we don’t know who won…’
‘For us personally, it was great, from cycling past the Bijenkorf and then seeing those Gay Games flags flying to the prize-giving ceremony – how do you do that so quickly – and knowing that it all went well.
‘Mayor Patijn and his speech. So moving.
‘For many people it has been a shift, realising that you are now suddenly the majority or – for heterosexuals – how it feels to be in the minority. And yes, it remains an issue today, two steps forward and one step back, but things have changed.’
until 1 August 2023, exactly 25 years after the start of the Gay Games Amsterdam 1998