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History: Gay Games 1998


August 1-8, 1998

In 1998, the fifth edition of the Gay Games was held in Amsterdam. This large LGBT sports event is being held in a different city every four years.

The Gay Games of 1998 coincided with the third edition of the Amsterdam Pride. With almost 12.000 athletes and some 200.000 visitors from all around the world, this was the largest gay event that had ever been held in the Netherlands.

During the Gay Games Amsterdam had an atmosphere of freedom and solidarity, with gay people feeling themselves as a mayority for the first time - a feeling that for many people remains unchallenged until the present day.

updated: 01-08-2023


Canal Parade

During the Canal Parade of 1997, one year before the Gay Games, the gay venues of bar tycoon Sjoerd Kooistra (April, Exit and Havana) participated with a large boat that anticipated to the Gay Games of 1998.

The boat had three flat circular winner podiums with dancing men who were body painted in gold, silver and bronze. It made the Kooistra places winning the price for Best Large Boat for the first time:

Boat of Havana, April at Exit during the 1997 Canal Parade
(photo: Bert Gerlagh/Stadsarchief A'dam - click to enlarge)

On Saturday, August 1, 1998, the Canal Parade marked the start of the Gay Games, which were officially opened that evening by mayor Schelto Patijn during a big ceremony in the brand new Amsterdam ArenA.

The famous gay cafe April participated in the parade with a boat decorated with ancient Greek ruins and sexy dancers with collars in rainbow colors and the olympic rings on their head. For this, they won the price for Best Large Boat for the second time:

Boat of Cafe April during the Canal Parade of the 1998 Gay Games
(photo: - click to enlarge)

The Canal Parade for the start of the 1998 Gay Games


Besides the actual competitions in 29 official and 4 demonstration sports, there were also a wide range of other gay related activities all around the city.

The concert hall and various squares in the city were the scene of a choir festival featuring some 850 choir members. Additionally there were more than 40 other cultural events, including exhibitions, discussions and performances.

At the Nieuwmarkt square there was an open air cinema with gay and lesbian movies and of course street parties were organised by the gay bars in Halvemaansteeg, Warmoesstraat and Reguliersdwarsstraat.

Video impressions of the Gay Games 1998 (in Dutch)
(compilation by IHLIA LGBTI Heritage)


For the street party in the western part of Reguliersdwarsstraat, a stage had been built opposite lunchroom Downtown which the artists could reach through the emergency exit of the Gouden Bocht car parking.

The gate of this parking acted as the artist's entrance. One of the artists for this party was Paul de Leeuw, after he was apparently denied to perform at the large main stage at Dam square.

Street party celebrating the Gay Games of 1998
with the stage opposite Coffeeshop Downtown
(photo: Facebook Havanareünie - click to enlarge)

In the office space above gay café April a call center was set up where visitors could obtain information about the Gay Games by telephone. The opening of this call center was performed downstairs in the café by Member of Parliament Peter Rehwinkel:

Opening of the callcenter in café April by Peter Rehwinkel
(photo: Marian Bakker - click to enlarge)

Volunteers of the callcenter at the opening in café April
(photo: Marian Bakker - click to enlarge)

More pictures of the 1998 Gay Games, the Canal Parade and the street parties can be found at an old website titled Gay Games Amsterdam 1998. This site has some unique photos of the street party that was held in the western part of Reguliersdwarsstraat.

They provide an impression of the visitors of the street party between Downtown and the small square of Geelvinckssteeg with the still empty space on which a few years later the appartment building De Regulier with Bar ARC would be built:

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Finally, an impression of an almost empty Reguliersdwarsstraat during daytime, with at the left Club Havana, which in 1997 succeeded the notorious club Richter, and on the opposite side of the street café-dancing Blitz:

Reguliersdwarsstraat during the 1998 Gay Games
(photo: Stadsarchief Amsterdam)

In 2012 there was an effort to get the 2018 Gay Games held in Amsterdam again, 20 years after the edition of 1998. This time however, Amsterdam didn't make it to the final and the 10th edition of the event was awarded to Paris.


- Wikipedia: Gay Games
- Amsterdam Museum: Exhibition Gay Games 1998
- Former homepage:
- Eye witness report: Friendship '98 - Gay Games V
- Photos and posters of the Gay Games in Amsterdam:
   - Beeldbank Amsterdam
   - Geheugen van Nederland
   - Gay Games Amsterdam 1998 © 2007/2020