400_300_gg9_International: Six athletes from Israel will be competing in the upcoming Gay Games which they hope will be an opportunity to tell the world what it means to be gay in the only country in West Asia not to criminalize same-sex relations.

“It will be an opportunity for people from all over the world to meet us, Israelis, and to find out more about living in Israel, especial for gays, and to realize that the truth might be different then how it looks in the media,” said Sagi Krispin, who will be taking part in swimming, according to clevelandjewishnews.com.

The Israeli contingent for the 2014 Gay Games Aug.9 -16 in Cleveland and Akron also consists of Elad Strohmayer from the consulate in Philadelphia who will take part in sailing; Carmel Chana, in cycling; Collen Jacov Aviv and Daniel Shalibo in running and Gershon Barak in triathlon.

“I’m very excited and looking forward for the games,” said Chana, who is participating in the games for the first time and who added that she is proud to represent the Israeli gay community.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland is reportedly all set to welcome the Israeli athletes and supporters of Gay Games 9 at an Aug. 7 ceremony and reception.

Cleveland in the US state of Ohio will be painted red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple to welcome the Gay Games participants from over 40 different countries and an estimated crowd of nearly 20,000.

The Gay Games website points out that everyone can be part of the Gay Games, whatever their sexual orientation.

Since 1982, the Gay Games have empowered thousands of LGBT athletes and artists through sport, culture, and fellowship and have been hosted in seven cities in five countries on three continents.

It has built an international legacy of changing cultural, social and political attitudes towards LGBT people, at the same time empowering thousands since the early 1980s when LGBT athletes were a hidden community and being gay and an athlete was an either-or proposition.

Israel is the only country in West Asia that treats the gay community with respect and dignity and where anti-gay sentiments and discrimination are typified by neighboring Iran’s Ayatollah Abdollah Javadi-Amoli an influential cleric and an Islamic scholar who referred to gay people as “inferior to dogs and pigs.”

People in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen can be executed for same-sex-relations while other countries such as Qatar punishes gay people with up to seven years imprisonment.

Israel allows openly gay individuals to serve in the military and without affecting eligibility for promotion and has strict laws to combat anti-gay discrimination.

Source: clevelandjewishnews.com