Openly gay politician Guido Westerwelle will open Gay Games 2010 in Cologne, Germany, the Federation of Gay Games announced Thursday.

Westerwelle, 47, who was appointed Germany's foreign minister last year, will preside over the games' opening ceremony on July 31.

“We are so pleased to have found a prominent advocate,” Annette Wachter, chief executive officer of Games Cologne, said in a statement. “With this commitment Dr. Guido Westerwelle sends an important signal for more tolerance and acceptance of gays and lesbians in our society.”

The road to Gay Games 2010 officially kicked off in February in San Francisco with the start of the International Rainbow Memorial Run. In the run's first leg, New York activist Brent Nicholson Earle 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.

The flag will travel around the globe before reaching its final destination on July 31: Cologne's RheinEnergie athletic field to lead the parade of athletes during the Gay Games VIII'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.

Over the last couple of years, Westerwelle has become increasing open about his sexual orientation. He often appears publicly with his 42-year-old partner, event manager Michael Mronz, by his side. The pair have been crowned Germany's new “power couple” by the media.

“The overwhelming acceptance of Dr. Westerwelle's openness is an excellent example of the ability of people with different sexual orientations to live and work together,” Wachter said. “His support of Gay Games VIII Cologne 2010 is a significant contribution that should allow the participants to experience even greater acceptance throughout the competition and in their everyday lives.”

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

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