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CLEVELAND -- Cleveland, Akron and Northeast Ohio got almost four years to prepare for it.

Lots of work has been done . But lots more remains to be done in eight months to be ready to host the Ninth Gay Games this August.

"it is the same size or bigger than the Olympics. We will have more participants than the Winter Olympics in Sochi," said Rob Smitherman.

He is the director of Sports and Events. He's part of a team that's been on the ground in Cleveland for two years. He's played basketball in four Gay Games and he worked on events in Chicago and Cologne, Germany.

"If the operation runs smoothly, nobody knows my name," he said.

It's an event unlike Cleveland's ever had. It's a global mixture of sports and culture.

"It's a sporting event and a cultural event. It's not just for the LGBT community. It's not just for gays and lesbians. It's for everyone," Smitherman said.

There will be an estimated 10,000 athletes and up to 30,000 visitors spending $40 million.

Unlike this year's Senior Olympics, this will have a global audience. Some ask if Cleveland's cool enough or cosmopolitan enough to handle this.

"We do get some 'why Cleveland and why Akron' " Smitherman said.

The answer?

"We have a great attitude about being welcoming here...We're so friendly and welcoming here," he continued.

The games are well on their way towards reaching a $3 million fundraising goal. Many local and national firms are donating.

The Cleveland Foundation is presenting the event.

There are big logistical challenges. The sporting venues are in and around both Akron and Cleveland. Three bus systems are being put into play.

"Transportation is a challenge because we're trying to get people between Cleveland and Akron, " Smitherman explained.

Of course, a global event must focus on security.

"Our security plan is second to none," involving the FBI, Homeland Security and state and local authorities, according to Smitherman.

Recent crimes against LGBT victims in Cleveland are a cause for concern.

And the Games could wind up being held in the midst of a statewide ballot effort to legalize gay marriage.

"We are focusing on the event. We are not a political organization...We want to change Ohio, but we want to use the event to change Ohio," Smitherman stated.

It's shaping up to be, perhaps, the region's most significant 2014 happening.

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