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Dr. Tom Waddell (November 1, 1937 - July 11, 1987) was a gay American sportsman and competitor at the 1968 Summer Olympics who founded the Gay Olympics in 1982 in San Francisco. The international sporting event was later renamed the Gay Games after the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) sued Waddell for using the word "Olympic" in the original name. The Gay Games are held every four years.
Soon after returning to San Francisco in 1972, Waddell joined a gay bowling league. It inspired him to consider organizing a gay sporting event modeled on the Olympics. He followed through with the idea in the early 1980s. The first "Gay Olympics" was to take place in San Francisco in 1982 in the form of a sports competition and arts festival. But a few weeks before the event was to begin, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) sued Waddell's organization over its use of the word "Olympic."
Despite the fact that the USOC had not previously protested when other groups had used the name, they alleged that allowing "Gay Olympics" would injure them. They succeeded in securing an injunction just nineteen days before the first games were to begin.
Nevertheless, the games, now re-christened the "Gay Games," went forward. They were a great success, perhaps because they emphasized sportsmanship, personal achievement, and inclusiveness to a far greater degree than the Olympics. In 1987, the United States Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, ruled in favor of the USOC. The court affirmed the USOC's right to collect legal fees from Waddell and it placed a lien on his home. In 1987, a few weeks before Waddell died, the USOC waived its legal fees and removed the lien.
While Waddell worked at Stanford in 1970, he met Lee Brian, with whom he had a five-year relationship.
In 1975, Waddell met landscape designer Charles Deaton, 12 years his senior, and they became lovers. An October 11, 1976 issue of People magazine featured the couple in a cover article. They were the first gay couple to appear on the cover of a major national magazine.
Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA
In 1981, while founding the Gay Games, Waddell met two people with whom he formed major relationships. One was public relations man and fundraiser Zohn Artman, with whom he fell in love and began a relationship. The other was lesbian athlete Sara Lewinstein. Both Tom and Sara had longed to have a child, and they decided to have a child together. Their daughter, Jessica, was born in 1983. To protect Jessica's and her mother's legal rights, Tom and Sara married in 1985.
In 1985, Waddell was diagnosed with AIDS. Although dogged by the USOC's lawsuit, Waddell lived to see the success of Gay Games II in 1986, and even participated, winning the gold medal in the javelin event.
Tom Waddell died from AIDS on July 11, 1987, aged 49, in San Francisco, California. His last words were "Well, this should be interesting." His battle against HIV/AIDS is one of the subjects of the award-winning documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. With sports writer Dick Schaap, Waddell wrote an autobiography titled Gay Olympian.
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