Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Power play


Who decides where athletes compete?

Members of Cologne's bid committee, standing, and FGG site selection co-chairs, including Roberto Mantaci, lower right, at the FGG
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With plans for the two largest LGBT multi-sport events of 2006 well under way, organizations representing both Gay Games and OutGames have announced the host cities for their next events.

OutGames II is scheduled to take place in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2009, and Gay Games VIII will be held in Cologne, Germany in 2010. But how these decisions were made shows a marked contrast between the two organizations.

Traditionally, cities that want to host the Gay Games submit proposals and make presentations before the delegates of the Federation of Gay Games at its annual meeting. (Paris and Johannesburg had also bid on Gay Games VIII.)

Mark Tewksbury, Montreal 2006 co-president and board member of the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association, admits that choosing the host city for the second OutGames "wasn't a GLISA decision. Copenhagen decided to bid," he said. "The mayor got everything organized very rapidly and submitted a bid of intention. GLISA accepted it."

Roberto Mantaci, co-president of FGG, said such private decisions undermine the democratic process, and warns of "groups not related to LGBT sport who are taking strong interest in influencing the organization of multi-sport events and in being part of the host organization's boards."

GLISA and OutGames' attempt to secure Berlin for its second event fell through last year when two Berlin sports groups couldn't agree on proposals. Even the mayor of Berlin got into the fray, refusing to endorse any event until the LGBT groups reached an accord.

Montreal's previous proposal for the 2006 Gay Games had been that city's third bid, having also bid for the fifth and sixth Games. Contract disputes in 2003 led to Montreal creating its own multi-sport event, and GLISA, its governing body.

Since the break between Montreal and FGG in 2003, FGG representatives have criticized what they see as corporate influence over OutGames. With over $1 million invested, Tourism Montreal has an understandably strong interest in the success of OutGames. Tourism Montreal has co-hosted booths at Pride events around the world and flown GLISA and OutGames representatives to events. FGG reps charge that Tourism Montreal even influenced the decision to start the OutGames.

"No one with whom we have spoken really understands what happened to result in Copenhagen's selection," said Kevin Boyer, vice co-chair of the Chicago Games and its marketing communications committee chair. "The announcement was made in Copenhagen by the Danish government before the [November 2005] GLISA Assembly calendar showed that debate or a vote was scheduled to take place. The press announcements seemed to emanate from quasi-governmental agencies in Montreal rather than from LGBT sports organizations or leaders. From appearances, the government agencies controlling the event in Montreal seems to have chosen another governmental agency as its successor without the opportunity for any review or analysis of a bid document or qualifications by the worldwide LGBT sports and culture community."

Boyer said the Copenhagen decision shows a "government-tourism" model versus a "community" model. "The Gay Games are designed to be controlled by the community from which they have grown, with an emphasis on the quality of the experience," he said.

While Boyer admitted that corporate, government, and tourism partnerships are crucial to the success of any large event, he warned that "If the event's model doesn't have built-in LGBT community control and management, there is significantly less assurance that the event will achieve its crucial values."

FGG's Mantaci critiqued the structure of OutGames and GLISA. "Montreal 2006 established, created, and entirely funded a licensing body [GLISA], and therefore ended up being the parent of the organization to which it should be accountable," he said. "Their model als

OutGames Co-President Mark Tewksbury
o includes GLISA staff paid by funds from M2006." Mantaci sees this as a conflict of interest.

Tewksbury said his organizations simply work under a different process. "Because GLISA is a new organization, the traditional bidding process that people are accustomed to through the Federation of Gay Games didn't quite fit," he said.

For over a year, the three cities bidding on the eighth Gay Games had Web sites and bid proposals available to the public. Regional Gay Games delegates requested input from local teams and athletes. Annual FGG meetings are open to the public, with voting restricted to delegates with one year of experience.

Not so with GLISA and their OutGames II bids. GLISA board members were privately selected when the organization formed. The OutGames decision with Copenhagen, announced November 16, was announced by the city of Copenhagen hours before GLISA held a meeting claiming to vote on the bid.

Mantaci questions whether there were even any other bids. While Sao Paolo, Brazil was mentioned as a potential bidder, that city's LGBT community has no substantial sports organizations. No proposal from that city was made public.

Tewksbury defends including Sao Paolo as a potential bidder, citing the growth process of developing potential Games hosts. "In Sao Paolo's case, they had two amazing parts of [their bid], but the third wasn't there yet," he said. "We realized that until we get that, we've created a city that will want to bid on [OutGames III] 2013."

Despite critiques of how the decision was made, Tewksbury said choosing Copenhagen makes good business sense. The city has a surplus of funds from an unsuccessful bid to host another 2009 sports tournament, and has offered free use of its sports facilities.

As to the OutGames selection, Tewksbury said, "It's not unprecedented, just like Tom Waddell's shaking hands [with a Vancouver representative] to say 'You have the third Gay Games.'" Tewksbury also compared the Copenhagen decision with the 1984 Olympics. "The International Olympic Committee chose Los Angeles because there weren't other bids. That was a time of crisis when people didn't want the Olympics Games."

Mantaci sees the Copenhagen choice as another example of large-scale events being determined by few people in power. He defends the controversial decision to hold this summer's Chicago's Games a week before OutGames, since it was voted on by FGG's 60 delegates, each of whom, he said, represent thousands of athletes.

Mantaci says the OutGames/GLISA structure "reduces the degree of ownership of the LGBT sports community over these events: no control over the selection of the host, no voice on the format of the event, and no oversight on its implementation. In the end, such a model seems to only accomplish one goal: to allow cities and groups who have an interest in organizing such large and lucrative events to do so without going through a serious and democratic site selection process and without having to be accountable to a community."


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