The long and winding road to Gay Games 2010 officially kicked off last weekend in San Francisco with the start of the International Rainbow Memorial Run.

About 50 people braved a cold rain Sunday to attend the run's inaugural leg, including openly gay California State Senator Mark Leno and Gay Games founder Dr. Tom Waddell's wife Sara Waddell Lewinstein and daughter Jessica Waddell Lewinstein.

New York activist Brent Nicholson Earle (pictured) carried a rainbow flag on a symbolic run from the AIDS Memorial Grove located in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park to Kezar Stadium, home of the first Gay Games in 1982.

“In many ways, this is our own 'torch' run,” Earle said referring to the traditional Olympic torch run, “and we begin by renewing our connection with San Francisco, our Athens, the city of our birth.”

“The International Rainbow Memorial Run not only launches the quadrennial Gay Games, but also helps to remind us of the relevance of our movement in a world that still makes it difficult to compete and be openly gay or lesbian,” said Kurt Dahl and Emy Ritt, co-presidents of the Federation of Gay Games.

The flag will travel around the globe before reaching its final destination on July 31: Cologne's RheinEnergieStadion athletic field to lead the parade of athletes during the Gay Games VII's opening ceremony. Gay Games 2010 is expected to draw up to 12,000 athletes and artists from more than 70 countries to participate in a unique sports and cultural festival that takes place once every four years.

The second leg of the International Rainbow Memorial Run will take place Saturday during Sydney's giant Gay Mardi Gras Parade. Sydney's gay & lesbian running club the Frontrunners will carry the flag in the parade.

Gay Games returns to the United States in 2014, when Cleveland will host the Olympic-style sporting event.

On the Net: Gay Games 2010 is at