Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 46 / 16 November 2017
 

Outgames’ ceremonies and sports canceled at last minute

by Roger Brigham

Organizers of the 2017 World Outgames canceled the opening and closing ceremonies and almost all of the sports competitions Friday, May 26, the day the event was scheduled to begin, angering athletes en route to or already in Florida.

(A sign at Outgames registration Friday, May 26 taken by runner Andrea Hermann)

(A sign at Outgames registration Friday, May 26 taken by runner Andrea Hermann)

“Athletes found out about the cancellation via an email message sent at 12:02 p.m. (EDT) on Friday,” distance runner Andrea Hermann told the Bay Area Reporter. “Many athletes had already arrived and checked into their hotels. I found out after arriving in Florida while heading to the host hotel. When I arrived at the hotel, we immediately asked about leaving early as we would not be staying the whole week for events that were not taking place. The Marriott Stanton South Beach staff were not told about the cancellation. They told us they had already checked in 90 rooms of people here for the games.”

Although the Outgames, which were set to start on Friday in Miami, had been plagued by fundraising failures and poor registrations for more than a year, had previously canceled eight scheduled sports, and had reportedly not paid any of the permit fees required for individual events, organizers were reassuring city officials and registrants up until the final moments that everything was in order. The Miami Herald reports that now the event faces a city audit of its financial records.

Most athletes had already arrived or were en route when they received a one-paragraph email from the Outgames board of directors telling them of the cancellations.

“It is with deep regret that due to financial challenges, World Outgames must cancel opening and closing ceremonies and sports programming with the exception of aquatics, country western dance, and soccer,” the Outgames statement read. “The human rights conference and cultural programs will continue as planned. We thank everyone who has supported the effort and apologize to those who will be impacted by this difficult decision.”

Miami organizers originally said they expected their 10-day event would draw 15,000 participants – a number none of the previous three World Outgames had come even close to attaining. In the end, they had just about 2,000 registrants for sports, the bulk of those in the three sports that are continuing and which have their own conventions and celebrations not dependent on the Outgames.

“For the board to cancel everything on the first day of the actual event is unforgivable,” runner Colin Bodels wrote South Florida Gay News in an email. “I have friends in the air over the Atlantic flying in from Sweden, Belgium, the U.K., and elsewhere. This is unconscionable and smacks of greed and reading more and more like a scam to get $$.”

Cyd Zeigler, the co-founder of Outsports.com, wrote that he thought the cancellation two months after organizers had promised the event would go on meant there will be no more Outgames.

“It is incredibly disappointing that organizers would guarantee the public they would not cancel the event, then wait until hours before the opening ceremony to cancel it,” Zeigler wrote. “Athletes are now stuck with vacation time they may not want and travel costs they will never recover. What the Outgames just did to LGBT athletes is horrible. While there will still be tournaments for soccer players, aquatics athletes, and dancers, the news today will have one lasting international impact: This is the end of the World Outgames.”

Australian tennis player Rowen D’Souza told the Miami Herald he spent about $3,000 in travel expense to play in the event but had been bothered by the lack of information given to athletes.

“The communication has been poor from the start,” D’Souza said. “I suspect they knew there were problems but did nothing.”

Belgium’s Peter Clancy, expecting to compete in track and field, and his partner, who was going to run the half marathon, was en route to Miami when he learned their events were canceled.

“This just displays bad management that has a serious financial impact on many people,” said Clancy. “Last minute notice also shows a complete lack of respect for the participants and especially those of us traveling from other continents.”

This would have been the first time the World Outgames were held in the United States. Last year a continental version of the Outgames set to take place in St. Louis was similarly canceled on short notice because of lack of registrations.

— Cynthia Laird, May 26, 2017 @ 1:10 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized


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