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.

Chicago Games, Inc. Co-Vice Chair Tracy Baim, who also is publisher and editor of the gay newspaper Windy City Times, doesn't quarrel with much of Montreal's take on the divorce. "We understood that as a Gay Games licensee, there has to be oversight and control," Baim said. "I don't fault Montreal for having an issue with that control.

"It was kind of a Catch-22 for the federation," she said. "They're trying to learn from the past and set boundaries so that the same mistakes are not made again. ... They were being stricter with the 2006 host based on what they learned did not work in previous models. ... They weren't about to feel like they were going to lose control of the brand in another city that was going to run out of control.
© Montréal 2006 Olivier Samson Arcand (OSA Images)
"The federation has to try to evolve and make change for the good," Baim said. "Some board members are jaded and burned out and don't want to change. ... I'm not saying our relationship with the Federation of Gay Games hasn't been a struggle either. To try to deal with them is not an easy task."
The Chicago games have a budget of $10 million and a paid staff of 30. A third of the money is from athletes, a third from ticket sales and a third from fundraising. The only government funding is $125,000 from the state of Illinois.

"The Chicago model is significant resources from corporate America and the donor community in Chicago [and] a tremendous amount of barter," Baim said. The Chicago Cubs donated Wrigley Field to the games. "The minimum is that we will break even," Baim said. "Our goal is to have a surplus. We have a tremendous amount of money in the bank right now, great ticket sales, and registration numbers are beyond what any previous Gay Games has had."

Asked for the federation's take on the messy divorce with Montreal, FGG Vice President of Operations Charlie Carson declined to revisit the issue.

27 November 2004 - Mark Tewksbury returns to competition after 12 years during the 12e Coupe de Montréal organised by À Contre-Courant Aquatic Club. © Montréal 2006 Olivier Samson Arcand (OSA Images)
"We don't have any comment about it," Carson said. "We just don't think it's beneficial at this point to go over it again. Montreal went the direction that they went in, so we just don't have any interest in adding to that. ... They're the ones that made the decision [to go it alone]."


Asked to comment on Baim's statement that Chicago organisers have found it "not an easy task" to work with the federation, Carson said: "It's human relationships. ... It would be naive of anyone to think there aren't going to be areas of discussion between a governing body and a host city. ... The difference here was the willingness to engage in a partnership, and that's been the positive thing we found with Chicago."

Athletes from 109 nations are registered for the Montreal games, organizers said. In Chicago, participants will come from 70 countries, organizers said. "Eighty percent of European participants [in either games] are coming to the Outgames," Montreal's Roy claimed. "If you want to play international, come to Montreal," she urged.

Indeed, the list of nations represented in Montreal contains entries that might surprise some people: Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Congo, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, French Polynesia, Gabon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Lebanon, Morocco, Nepal, New Caledonia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Reunion, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Syria, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe.

The Outgames was able to provide free registration and lodging to 250 participants from poorer nations.


Chicago's Baim said it's not surprising the Montreal games will be more international. "There's a lot of anti-American sentiment and I don't blame the Europeans for that sentiment," she said. "There are certain people that will never come to the United States while we have George Bush in power. "The Gay Games has always been dominated by the United States," she added. "There were more athletes [in 2002] in Sydney from the U.S. than from Australia."

Prior to the Outgames, Montreal organisers are staging an International Conference on LGBT Human Rights, from July 26-29. It is being promoted as the largest gay-rights conference ever. Two thousand delegates are expected to hammer out a "Declaration of Montreal," which will be presented at the games' opening ceremonies and, later, to the United Nations. "The High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations is coming," Roy said. "We'll adopt the Declaration of Montreal and, for the first time in the world, bring it to the United Nations, because they never have had official recognition of the gay-rights movement at the United Nations."

In Chicago, the Gay Games opening ceremonies take place July 15 at the Chicago Bears' Soldier Field and the closing ceremonies will be July 22 at Wrigley Field. Star power comes in the persons of Kate Clinton, Margaret Cho, Greg Louganis, Megan Mullally, Cyndi Lauper and others. The next Outgames is scheduled for 2009 in Copenhagen and the next Gay Games is slated for 2010 in Cologne.



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