"He got away! He got away!"
- Dorothy Gale, of Toto

To be the official witch of the season, ah, what glory (see above). But to be the one who gets shaved, tarred and feathered for shouting the truth, or a version of it, now that is a different fate.

figure skating: the non-event
The setting was appropriate; while gargantuan yellow ducts pumped cool air into the arena, a bouncy rendition of "Brazil" played over the loudspeakers, cheering the audience into submission for what was supposed to be the largest, most-popular competition of all Gay Games events, but which was changed to a "public practice." As it turned out, the skaters were this season's sacrificial lamb, but fresh frozen.

With the calculating neglect of a spider web, caught and then prominently displayed as the cause celebre of the season, queer paired skaters were displayed as the ones breaking down the boundaries of same-sex sport, and doing it beautifully. However, as local Dutch hosts and anyone with a microphone in a large auditorium proclaimed, the International Skating Union refused to sanction the event, supposedly because of the ISU's "homophobia."

But according to a July 29 letter from ISU General Secretary Fredi Schmid to the Gay Games organizers, no application was submitted. Gay Games V never sent the application, and lied to all skaters about having secured sanctioning from the ISU. Following the last minute court case only days before the event, Gay Games V officials turned the tables, portraying themselves as victims of homophobia, when it was actually a calculated case of negligence.

Whatever the reason for the snafu, there were no medals for the figure skaters who toiled for years to show their best. They showed it, all right, but at a "public practice" instead of a real competition.

There were excellent performers, including Thomas Hammond from Minneapolis, who wore a fab black and white unitard during his solo turn. "I think in some respects it was really discouraging," he said between pants after his performance. "But there were some positive aspects."

four years to get it together
"I think that the Dutch Royal Skating Union didn't take the measures they should have taken to regulate an ISU-sanctioned event," Hammond said. "The Federation of Gay Games has four years to do it for Sydney. They really should get it together."

Hello, Feds, are you listening, or have you all flown back to Romula 3? Following the rules are standard for these athletes, but the same rules don't apply to their hosts, and the Federation seems less concerned.

Controversy still lingers after the pompous statement by Media Director Paul van Yperen, who, when asked when people would be reimbursed for the canceled figure skating event, he said that he would think no one would ask for a refund, "in support of our cause."

Which is...lining your pockets with gilder to cover your big-ass debt?

Sure enough, at the door, several burly Friends nearly blocked the door, asking for more money to support "the cause" of the evening, even though most people had already paid for this "public practice" of practicing homos, expecting it to be an actual competition, if you don't mind. At least this time I got to sneak a piss and rob the Toilet Lady wearing Playtex Living Gloves of her hard-earned half gilder.

I avoided the chain-smoking Friends hawking T-shirts and whistles, and managed to get outside to talk with Louis Vachon of San Francisco (but born and raised in Montreal), also a solo figure skater, who looked radiant while holding a bouquet under the glorious full moon.

"It was fine," Vachon said of the evening. "I guess maybe less pressure and more fun, but still disappointing that we didn't get to have a competition. It's great to be here, though. Five friends I was skating for came who had never seen me skate."

But since this was his first and possibly last Gay Games, he said, "It was a let-down that I didn't get to compete."

His take on the problem? "We've been hearing different things, but the Gay Games organization didn't follow through with all the things that needed to be done for the competition."

How did Vachon feel amid the announcements that the event was canceled, after a Gay Games dignitary complimented the skaters for not "running away" (unlike the deposed zakkenrolling Director Marc Janssens, accused of overcontracts by a few million gilders, possibly to those whom he owed money)?

"At one point I felt like we were not part of Gay Games anymore, since we were no longer an official sport," Vachon said. "The whole point is about fun, skating and entertaining our friends." These are the words of a true hero.

But nevertheless, a hero with critiques. "It's silly. They've had four years to get ready, and then a week before, there's no sanctions, when everybody's already trained, paid for planes, costumes. I don't know if someone's going to get to the bottom of it to find out what happened; homophobia from the ISU? I don't think it was that. I think it was mostly the Gay Games not saying the truth. There was no fee paid."

treadmarks on the rainbow
Also attending the figure skating "non-event" was Gilles Pettigrew, co- president of the Federation of Gay Games. When I interviewed him two years ago, he assured me that all of these problems would not happen.

They did.

And like some other Federation members, he was evasive about addressing the Gay Games Amsterdam's failure to do their homework. "It's a beautiful way of solving a solution that is very difficult."

Yes, it's difficult seeing people with whom you've contracted fail to do their job, isn't it? Can you say "breach of contract," in either Dutch, French or perhaps Eurodollars?

Will the Federation do anything to rectify the mistakes and rip-offs the Dutch pulled on us? I don't see Marc Janssens as the only criminal (assuming, of course, that reports are true). I see him as the only one who got caught. So far.

Certainly joyous and fun days were had by thousands, and we all enjoyed sharing bits of cultural jokes, kisses, hugs and souvenirs. But even so, by Closing Ceremonies, the point was quite clear to anyone who stuck around: something was just not right.

By weekend, most of the Europeans had left town. Anyone who trekked to the vacuous ArenA for the extra-tired and tiring Closing Ceremonies was shoved into lines like detainees at Buchenwald, then rushed across the stage, again in separate contingents, with North America on one side and the rest of the world on the other, we all sat and waited for 45 minutes for our evening's entertainment: Bananarama; some obscure Dutch singer; and once again...direct from their last gig at Rumours in Charlotte, North Carolina...the Weather Girls!!

The one truly inspiring sight of the minimalist display (which included about two minutes of actual footage of athletes from the week, but which was of course blocked by the "festive" array of pink triangles that were hung in the ArenA) was of the shimmering Montreal male pairs couple performing a rollerblade version of their routine, with one added visual element that remained a theme for the week: crucifixion. The two silver gods of skating were raised up, arms out, and displayed as the martyrs du jour. Why I and other athletes had accidents with our medals, having been bonked in the head by them and getting bleeding cuts. Stigmata was never so easy.

But yes! More for "you people," as the strange emcee called us, before hopping on her golf cart: a series of bicycles, mopeds, and tiny cars ambled across the strip of stage on a rainbow flag.

Yes, folks, on the rainbow flag. Not with, under, or along. The Dutch rode their cars right over our flag. To make the point even more clear, the robotic drag queen bellowed that it was all a "joke."

That joke, my friends, is on us.