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Chicago Gets Gay Games VII
by Jim Provenzano
Bay Area Reporter
Sports Complex
March 4, 2004

Chicago was selected on Tuesday as the prospective site for Gay Games VII in 2006. Chicago Games, Inc.’s successful bid was celebrated in the Windy City.

In a conference call Tuesday morning, Federation of Gay Games officials congratulated members of Chicago Games Inc. and leaders of both groups expressed excitement at the promise of a productive and constructive partnership.

Delegates of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) voted Tuesday, March 2, in an online ballot, to select Chicago over Los Angeles, the other finalist in the bidding process that began with 8 cities in 1999.

"Chicago Games Inc. put together an extraordinary proposal that demonstrates significant community support, a sound financial plan, and an international vision for Gay Games VII," said Kathleen Webster, Federation co-president, from her home in Philadelphia. "We look forward to working closely with them to make the next Gay Games an outstanding event for all our participants."

This announcement follows a second round of bidding for the quadrennial sports and culture event after Montreal and the Federation did not agree over contracts.

Following the rancorous arguments between the Federation and representatives of Montreal, at the now infamous Chicago 2003 meeting, the FGG board decided to hold the official Games anyway, after Montreal announced that it will hold their own games event, called Rendez-Vous 2006.

With the two large-scale sports events taking place in one summer (July 15-22 in Chicago, and July 29 - Aug. 5 in Montreal), many athletes and teams may have to choose one event over the other, or double their financial and athletic efforts to attend both events.

Dozens of international and regional sports groups have already shown support for one or the other event.

Montreal issued a March 1 press release attacking the federation for holding the official Games.

"The decision to hold the Gay Games two weeks before the games in Montréal is an irresponsible one, coming from an organization that alleges to have the viability and future of gay and lesbian sport around the world as its core concerns," said a release issued by Tom Czerniecki, Montreal 2006’s Marketing Communications Director.

"Though the market may be able to support two events of this kind in the same year, holding them so close together will deliberately divide the American Gay and Lesbian sporting community."

But critics of Montreal are questioning where the fault for that divide lies, and whether Montreal seriously intended to sign the licensing contracts in Chicago (see Playing Games).

Montreal reps even went to far as to "warn the city chosen by the FGG that it is being lured into a trap and will find itself left to its own devices by the FGG, bearing the financial and ethical consequences entirely on its own."

One of the disagreements about the contracts was Montreal’s refusal to allow the federation to have budgetary oversight and limitations on the amount of participants. Montreal reps said that oversight demanded complete financial control.

With less than 100 days until its event’s registration begins, and a new sponsor, LaBatts Beer, having been announced, the Quebec city has re-ignited its PR war on a day when residents in Chicago were celebrating at a victory party.

"We are elated by the FGG's decision," said Kevin Boyer, former co-chair of the Chicago Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and a member of the CGI Board of Directors.

"In addition to the remarkable economic boon to the city and local businesses, the Gay Games will showcase Chicago as a great LGBT destination, building on our reputation as an exciting and friendly place for international LGBT tourists through global marketing efforts and international media attention. We look forward to welcoming our new friends from across the world."

Representatives of the FGG will travel to Chicago in the next few weeks to meet with organizations and conclude negotiations. Worldwide Gay Games VII launch parties will take place in the next two months.

Forced to Choose
Some potential participants are taking a hopeful viewpoint, that the doubling of events will expand opportunities for GLBT athletes.

Montreal had recently demanded that the Federation move its own event to 2007. Their March 1 statement focused on undermining Chicago’s efforts.

"It is the American gay and lesbian community that will be placed in an intolerable and ethically difficult situation, forced to choose between two games," said Czerniecki’s statement. "Many American teams appear to have already chosen Montréal. Will they be unfairly frowned upon in their own country?"

Actually, what "appears" to be true is that several teams are showing support for both events. Only a few Canadian teams have declared sole support for Rendez-Vous 2006.

Montreal reps claim more sports (32 to Chicago's 24), more time to prepare, and what they call a more "democratic" process, with the formation of a new sports organization composed of 30 people privately chosen to attend its first "think tank" two months ago.

"Neither of the American cities in line for the Games have the comparative advantage of Montréal as a host city," boasted Czerniecki’s statement. "The battle for market share will be a tough one and under the circumstances the FGG has placed the GLBT sporting community in a very difficult position indeed."

Montreal even resorted to using politics to sell itself, obliquely referencing the highly argued issue of gay and lesbian marriages.

"At a time when American gays and lesbians are being subjected to unprecedented attacks on their civil rights," they claimed, "the FGG, as an organization claiming to have the best interests of the gay and lesbian community at heart, should have had the decency and foresight not to deliberately divide the American community against itself."

Montreal’s statement did not mention the recent news of Chicago’s Mayor Daly as having been quoted extensively in support of gay marriage. Months before, Daly also voiced support for his city’s bid to host Gay Games VII.

"The Chicago team has demonstrated they understand that the Gay Games is first and foremost about the LGBT community and sports," said Roberto Mantaci, Paris-based Federation co-president. "The Gay Games provides many opportunities to spotlight cultural diversity and other aspects of the host community, but a Gay Games that runs the sports well and provides a chance for every participant to do his or her personal best will be true to the founding principles of Gay Games I in 1982."

The last Gay Games held in the United States took place in New York in 1994. That event was a landmark in U.S. immigration history in that entry barriers to those who were HIV+ were waived specifically for participation in Gay Games IV.

Federation and Chicago officials said they would begin work immediately to ensure that HIV+ individuals and others with immigration concerns can participate freely at the 2006 Gay Games.

Previous Games have suffered from increasing debt, but growing popularity as well. Chicago will be the 6th city to host the Gay Games following San Francisco (1982 and 1986), Vancouver, Canada (1990), New York (1994), Amsterdam (1998) and Sydney (2002).

The Gay Games was created in 1982 by Dr. Tom Waddell, an Olympic athlete who envisioned an international gay and lesbian event based upon the principles of inclusion, participation, and personal best.

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