First Published: July 2006
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
Is French flair grandiose? Or is it magical? Gay sports aficionados will have their answer in a few weeks. OutUK correspondent Rex Wockner checks out Montreal's OutGames, supported by OutUK, and Chicago's Gay Games.

The Gay Games were supposed to be in Montreal this summer.

But the Federation of Gay Games and Montreal organizers couldn't agree on size, scope, vision and control of money. An acrimonious, public divorce ensued. The Gay Games moved to Chicago and will roll July 15-22 with more than 12,000 athletes competing in 30 sports. But Montreal organizers plunged ahead after the divorce, refusing to throw in the towel. Montréal's Olympic Stadium ©Tourisme Montréal
The result: The 1st World Outgames will roll here July 29-August 5 with more than 12,000 athletes competing in 35 sports. And with a budget of $16 million (US$14.4 million), offices in the Olympic Stadium and 59 full-time employees, the Montreal games appear good to go. The opening ceremonies at the stadium will feature Martina Navratilova, k.d. lang and Weather Girl Martha Wash.

While the Gay Games have a history of ending in debt, Outgames General Director Louise Roy says that won't happen in Montreal. "We'll break even," she said. "And we'd like to have some legacy." "There's no way we're going to lose money," agreed Outgames Press Secretary Pascal Dessureault. "Our budget forecasts a small surplus. Our financial statements are being audited every month by the federal and provincial governments. We're really conscious not to have any deficits at all," he said.


Openly gay Olympic gold medalist Mark Tewksbury, the Outgames' co-president, said it is critical that the Montreal games not end up in the hole financially.

"There's much riding on our success -- the Outgames future and, I would argue, maybe LGBT sport future," he said.

"If everybody keeps coming up with these models that leave deficits and destruction in their path, I don't see much future there. ... I've been enormously preoccupied with delivering a successful games -- not just a great games, but a legacy."

On 20 June 2004, Montréal was the last stopover for the Olympic Flame in North America which was carried by Mark Tewksbury. © Montréal 2006 Olivier Samson Arcand (OSA Images)
More than a quarter of the Outgames budget has come from governments -- $1.4 million from the Canadian government, $1.6 million from the Quebec government and $2.2 million from the city of Montreal, organizers said. The remainder flows from registration fees, from what French-speakers call "commercial exploitation" (sale of merchandise, for example), and from corporate sponsorship from the likes of Labatt, Bell Canada, VIA Rail, CGI, Air Canada and others.


Control of that $5.2 million of taxpayer money, Outgames organisers explained, was one of their sticking points with the Federation of Gay Games.
"It was about budget control and the scope of the games -- those are the two most big reasons [for the split]," Roy said. "We could not accept people controlling the budget of Montreal because we are subsidized by the Canadian, Quebec and Montreal governments.

"Also, we know it wasn't so easy for [past Gay Games host cities] Amsterdam, for New York and for Sydney to work with this organization," she said. "They wrote to me and were very understanding of what happened [to us]."

"The Montreal organization had a difference of vision," echoed Dessureault. "There are two different ways to tackle organizing an event that has had financial difficulties in the past.

Beaudry métro station in Montréal's Gay Village ©Tourisme Québec, Linda Turgeon.
"You can either downsize it ... or you can go the way Montreal is going, with more participants, a different business model, and create a movement that reaches to the entire community and the entire host community as well.

"The FGG didn't want to evolve, or adapt itself from its traditional model," he said.

Tewksbury, who has been involved since day one, agreed that financial control was a key disagreement with the federation, but he said the disconnect didn't stop there.


"There was a fear of Montreal as a host city," he suggested. "There was a fear of our business plan, of financial-monetary competence. There was a fear of partnering with tourism and government. There was a fear that we were just one big party. There was a fear that we didn't know sports, and there was a fear that we were just going to be lost within a pride celebration [taking place the same time].

"There was a fear on our numbers [of participants]," he said. "I think we've now been able to debunk every one of those fears. And it makes me still a bit sad. I think we could have been the greatest Gay Games host city ever, that would have fulfilled the federation's dream of what the games could be and leave such a positive legacy for the future in terms of the business model.

"Given the history that the federation inherited ... when you have city after city making promises that don't get delivered, I guess it erodes your sense of trust pretty heavily," Tewksbury said. "I think between Montreal's incredible enthusiasm and support coupled with a very cynical, distrustful organisation, based on history, there was a real disconnect. It's a real shame."



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