Sunday marks first day of competition at Gay Games

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Let the games begin.

Cleveland and Akron are playing host to the Gay Games. The international sporting and cultural event brings some 9,000 athletes and 20,000 spectators from around the world to the area.

It’s like the Summer Olympics with competition in 35 different sports.

"I participated in the Olympic distance triathlon. That is a 1,500-meter swim, a 26-mile bike and a 10K run,” said Lesia Wasio, of Lakewood.

This is one of the largest rowing events in the history of the Gay Games.

“We currently have 172 participants in 70 shells racing on the Cuyahoga today, in over 15 different events," said Kirk Lang, of the Cleveland Rowing Foundation.

The Gay Games is about inclusion, self-expression and personal best.

"Initially I thought this is a play-play game.  But, in fact, these athletes take it very, very serious. They are well prepared, they practice, practice, practice. And they are very disciplined,” said Michael Yates, a spectator from D.C.

Wasio achieved a personal best and has a silver medal to show for it.

“I placed second in my age group bringing home the silver," said Wasio, who racked up points for Team Cleveland.

Kristen Elechko, of North Hampton, Mass., holds the honor as the women’s overall triathlon winner.

"This was absolutely the most amazing thing I have ever done in my entire life," she said.

The athletes aren't the only winners here. The week-long Gay Games is expected to give the local economy a $40 million boost.

Todd Roark, an athlete from Detroit, said the city is deserving of a gold medal.

"Cleveland has been an amazing host city.  I think that they have gone above and beyond to make everybody whether you're from the United States or from another country just feel welcome and accepted,” he said.

Events include an open swim, triathlon, tennis and ice hockey.

The Gay Games officially kicked off Saturday night with an opening ceremony at the Q filled with music, dancing and other entertainment.

There’s a long list of events and competitions leading up to closing ceremonies on Saturday, Aug. 16. Monday's events include golf, badminton, ice hockey, swimming and track and field.

Safety precautions are in place for the events. Officials also encourage people to keep their eyes open and report anything that looks suspicious to police. There will also be a few road closures.

For extended coverage on the 2014 Gay Games, click here.

CLICK HERE for a complete list of road closings.

CLICK HERE for a complete schedule of events.

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