A public forum discussion on the future of the Gay Games and LGBT sports was held Oct. 2 after the Federation of Gay Games annual meeting in Köln, site of next year’s Gay Games. The session was attended by about three dozen individuals from the Federation of Gay Games member organizations and board, European Gay & Lesbian Sports Federation, the Köln community and representatives of Cleveland Synergy Foundation.
This was the second such public discussion held this year in Europe.
[Administrative update: Official summaries of the two conferences are available here.]
A consensus was reached with the group that it wanted to see the Gay Games be the single global quadrennial LGBT sports and cultural event because that is what it has had the most success with and had the most impact with, and that the Games would benefit from having a conference component smaller in scale associated with it but not necessarily run by it, and that the Games should seek the support of organizations with expertise in the HRC field.In its coverage of the FGG meeting and the public forum, the Bay Area Reporter reported
Six years ago, the LGBT sports world was deeply divided when Montreal organizers walked out on negotiations to host the 2006 Gay Games and said they would launch their own competing global quadrennial event. What they launched was a schism that tore LGBT sports organizations asunder, a money pit in Montreal that lost millions, and calls from thousands of recreational athletes for the political nonsense to end.
Those calls apparently have been answered, and that Grand Canyon of a divide now seems like so last year. What has emerged is a transformed LGBT sports calendar, a reinvigorated and unified Gay Games organization, and the hope of continental games to reach out to would-be LGBT athletes and cultural participants in the furthest stretches of the globe.
The B.A.R. noted the FGG discussed the future of the Gay Games and the online petition regarding that in its meeting:
In a discussion during the regular meeting, assembly members reiterated their belief in the strong focus on sports and culture of past Gay Games as expressed in the 2003 position paper adopted by the FGG and an ongoing online petition that has been signed by more than 300 athletes and artists from 14 countries, including six past FGG presidents or co-presidents, 10 honorary lifetime members, and more than 15 current or former members of the board or assembly.
And from the public forum:
An open letter from Team Berlin to the FGG board noted of the sub-par numbers at the World Outgames, “It is simply different to celebrate the opening party with a 10 or even 18,000 strong enthusiastic crowd than 5,000. It is different to win a gold medal out of 40 teams than out of 10. We missed the extraordinary feeling that something really special surrounded us.” Noting GLISA and the FGG’s efforts to resolve their differences, Team Berlin asked, “What can we do to speed up the process?”
On Tuesday, Sept. 29, the Federation of Gay Games named Cleveland as the host of the 2014 Gay Games, choosing Cleveland Synergy Foundation over bidding organizations from Boston and Washington, D.C. Cleveland and the FGG are expected to sign a final license agreement by the end of the year.
EDGE, which has news portals in both Boston and Washington, D.C., also published an opinion piece saying the Cleveland was the choice:
The entire city got behind the effort. The city even passed a domestic-partner ordinance, in part to attract events like this. The city has been promoting itself as a bastion of diversity. As a native Buckeye, I know that Ohio has not always had that reputation, so this effort should be applauded–and rewarded.
Both Boston and D.C. would have been honored to host the games. But Cleveland is downright thrilled. As Mayor Frank Jackson said, “You couldn’t buy the kind of international public relations we gained there. Every time someone does business in the city of Cleveland, they always leave with a great impression.”
In other words, the city looks at this as a vital tool in its re-invention. A (straight) city councilmember is reported to be tearful in his joy as he told the Plain Dealer that the city won the bid. “It’s so emotional here,” he said.
Discussions and documents on this board have largely focused on the future LGBT sports calendar, the differing roles of the Gay Games and the World Outgames. Arguments have been put for and against an increased presence of conferences in the Gay Games
Roger Brigham, a California sports journalist active in LGBT sports coaching and the elected chair of the international organization Wrestlers WithOut Borders, whose position paper for that organization as well as a chart of what he thinks the sports calendar should look like are among the materials published on this board, launched an online petition this week asking the Federation of Gay Games to keep its “traditional emphasis on sports and culture” and allow conferences only as a “tertiary activity.”
Citing the participant study that was conducted by the FGG after the 2002 Sydney Gay Games which found that constituents did not want increased parties and conferences, the petition says:
We believe that the sports opportunities and experiences provided by the Gay Games effectively advance the cause of LGBT human rights, empower individuals, change cultural perceptions, unite us multinationally, destroy stereotypes and erode the barriers of homophobia. We believe the opportunities provided by the Games as they have existed in the past are unique and life changing and that attempts to integrate an increased preponderance of conferences and parties into the Games would threaten the continuation of the Games, disrespectfully diminish the prestige and value of the sports and cultural components, strain finite available resources and in the long term be to the detriment of the LGBT sports and cultural communities.
More than 100 persons had signed the petition within 24 hours of its launch.
BBC World Radio had an on air-discussion Wednesday on the need for gay global multi-sport event. Kelly Stevens, Communications Officer for the Federation of Gay Games, represented the FGG. Callers from around the world chimed in. Writer-athletes who called in included Dan Woog, Pat Griffin and Roger Brigham, all of whom said the Gay Games are absolutely necessary.
Critics of the Gay Games argued that they were separatist, although they did not say how. Stevens noted that the Games were inclusive, that many straight people are involved in them and that the Games have been able to change the attitudes of mainstream sports officials wherever they have been held.
Some of the best heat of the discussion came when discussion participants challenged Byron Beck of Oregon who said the resources of the LGBT community would be better served through demonstrations, marches and Pride events. Stevens asked him if he was an athlete and Beck replied that he did not need to be an athlete because he lived where sporting goods companies have their headquarters.
Griffin and Woog challenged Beck on the lack of acceptance and visibility of out athletes in sports as evidence of the need for the Gay games. Brigham focused on the sports experience and benefits LGBT people are able to gain through their sports organizations that could not occur without the Gay Games to bring them together with their fellows to share their experiences.
The first day of conferences at the World Outgames in Copenhagen was scheduled to include a panel discussion of the future of LGBT Sports and Culture with a reexamination of the current calendar. SF sports columnist Roger Brigham of the Bay Area Reporter, writing about the conference in advance, reported:
But who will be able to attend the conference was not clear as of press time, because most of the respondents who planned to be in Copenhagen for the Outgames sports competitions were not registered for the conferences. That would be another 1,200 Danish kroner ($230 US), a prohibitive sum for many cash-strapped athletes and organizations.
(Administrator’s note: The column was republished across the United States by EDGE. Interesting to note that in that reprint, the editors used a picture of seven young white men, shirts off. Not necessarily sports related but indicative of a market image).
Anyone who was able to attend the panel discussio is especially invited to post comments here.
Various LGBT sports and cultural groups appear to be formulating their stands regarding the future of LGBT sports and the community division since 2003. When any such position papers become available, they will be posted on this site and listed under the Position Papers heading in the right hand menu. The first two to come in are a one-page resolution from Team SF and a four-page background essay with recommendations from Wrestlers WithOut Borders.
‘Final’ report from 2009 World Outgames
An insightful 92-page report on the challenges, successes and setbacks for staging the 2009 World Outgames is available on the World Outgames web site. It can be accessed by clicking here.
The report discusses the specific challenges faced in trying to market a new and relatively unknown brand with multiple purposes, homophobia within the Danish sports community and relative unwillingness of private enterprise to provide financial support for a gay event, and almost no technical support from the previous host or the sanctioning body. Organizers maintain good humour in the report – “Fortunately, World Outgames has proven itself to be a tough little bee. Because in principle, it shouldn’t be able to fly. But it does anyway,” they wrote – while recounting their struggles.
The report also sheds some light on the degree to which the sanctioning body, GLISA, was or was not able to provide help:
As mentioned earlier, World Outgames is a young brand. A young brand owned by a very young – and therefore inexperienced organization not rich in resources: GLISA. The contract the City of Copenhagen had signed with GLISA included GLISA making their international sponsorship and media contacts available to the World Outgames secretariat in Copenhagen. The secretariat has never received this specialist and organizational support. Primarily because it became apparent that GLISA did not have these contacts. Neither globally nor regionally.
Welcome to the Future of LGBT Sports & Culture blog
This site is an independent forum for views on the state of LGBT Sports and the calendar scheduling of LGBT sports and cultural festivals. The administrator will not make any endorsement of any LGBT sports and cultural festivals. Commentators, however, are free to do so, subject to standards of common courtesy and the spirit of good sportsmanship.