IN THE BEGINNING: A DREAM
In 1982, when U.S. Olympian Thomas F. Waddell, M.D. founded the Gay Games, he and others could only imagine where their journey would lead over the course of the next four decades. Those who dedicate themselves to donating their time, expertise, and funds to benefit the administrative growth and development of the Gay Games Movement have seen the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat; the joy of success, and the disappointment of failure.
The first three Gay Games were produced by local organizations without the benefit of an international governing body to assist in the very difficult task of producing the event. Not only must the event satisfy the needs of the participants, it should also be beneficial to the community, with sound financial management. In short, a transformational experience that brings the LGBT+ community to a new level of excellence. That is what Tom Waddell envisioned. That is what the Federation of Gay Games has been entrusted to do since its inception in 1989.
FACING GROWTH & CHALLENGES
At times, those working behind the scenes have been just as frustrated as the general public when things go awry. There are many challenges for a local, community organization to come together and produce a global event without the benefit of major corporate sponsors and media partners, as is the case with the Olympics. When these challenges arise, it is how we, in our commitment to the community, learn from this, and work to improve our efforts.
Over the years, the Gay Games have had their share of successes and missed opportunities. Given what we have learned from our own thirty-five year history, it was extremely sad to witness the difficulties that transpired at Stockholm EuroGames 2015 and the recent cancellations at the World OutGames Miami 2017. For our part, the Federation of Gay Games is confident that our Host Organization producing Paris 2018 – Gay Games 10 will build upon the success of Gay Games 9: Cleveland+Akron 2014 (where a significant financial legacy was left for the local community) to deliver what will be the best execution of our event ever.
CLEARING THE AIR ABOUT TWO EVENTS
Unfortunately, many people think the Gay Games and the World OutGames are all part of one organization. They’re not. Although our two organizations have discussed a joint venture in the past, those efforts never came to fruition, officially ending in February 2016. GLISA is a Canada-based corporation that has licensed its brand as the World OutGames since 2006. Miami 2017 was their fourth quadrennial event. Their governing body also includes continental associations that have produced several continental OutGames with widely varying degrees of success in North America, South America, and Asia/Pacific.
The first Gay Games were held in San Francisco in 1982, then held every four years in San Francisco 1986, Vancouver 1990, New York City 1994, Amsterdam 1998, Sydney 2002, Chicago 2006, Cologne 2010 and Cleveland+Akron 2014. Paris 2018 – Gay Games 10 will take place 4-12 August 2018. Registrations for this event opened in May 2016 at www.paris2018.com.
WE KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOING
The Federation of Gay Games governing body is a 501c3 not-for-profit incorporated in San Francisco, California, and consists of a 25-person all-volunteer international Board of Directors. There are more than fifty Assembly Member Organizations representing sport and culture-specific international governing bodies and multi-sport team representatives from across the globe.
In the past few years, the FGG has also begun to provide sponsorship to various international events and activities that align with the Gay Games principles of Participation Inclusion Personal Best ™. A few examples include The Straits Games, an annual, multisport festival held in different locations in Southeast Asia, with their 16th annual event taking place in Bali this coming September; the 2nd National Sexual Diversity in Sport Festival produced by FGG Assembly Member Didesex (Diversidad Deporte y Sexualidad) in conjunction with Mexico City Pride this June; and the Rio 2016 Olympic Pride House produced by our Member Organization Comité Desportivo LGBT Brasileiro (CDG Brasil). And our International Development representatives have travelled to China, Taiwan, Cambodia, and Colombia in the past year in an effort to expand Gay Games awareness and have impact at the local and regional levels.
TAKING THE FLAME TO PARIS
At present, our main focus is on our partnership with our Host Organization. The FGG has a six-person Steering Committee that works closely with Paris 2018 in a very robust and interactive process. The combined experience of our two teams is unparalleled in our history. Among these two teams, a well-balanced combination of professional skills is being brought to the table, with more than 100 years of experience developing community sports and culture organizations, as well as producing the Gay Games.
Although we are still fourteen months away from the Opening Ceremony, Paris 2018 – Gay Games 10 already has secured nearly every sport and cultural venue. An official signing ceremony with the City of Paris will take place at the Annual General Assembly (AGA) in October to confirm the remaining venues. Our Member Organization in Paris, Fédération Sportive Gaie et Lesbienne (FSGL), just produced its 15th annual TIP event (Tournoi International de Paris) with 21 sports and 2,300 participants. French Olympian Laura Flessel, who became an Honorary Patron for Paris 2018 during its bid cycle four years ago, was just installed as the French Minister of Sport. Newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron has publicly voiced his support for Gay Games 10, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and her staff work with Paris 2018 on a daily basis, with Mayor Hidalgo registered to participate in table tennis. Paris 2018 also has ongoing conversations and meetings with the Prefecture of Police and the Ministry of the Interior to ensure a safe and secure experience for everyone in Paris in August, 2018.
PASSING THE FLAME – AFTER PARIS
Looking well beyond 2018, we are confident that our host for Gay Games XI in 2022 will also deliver a successful event. Our rigorous Site Selection process formally began in March 2016. Seventeen cities requested our detailed Request For Proposal for Gay Games XI. Nine of those cities submitted a Letter of Intent to bid, and eight cities produced 200-300-page bid documents with details on every aspect of production. These bid documents are currently available for review on our website gaygames.org.
In February, 2017, the FGG Board and Assembly voted and selected three finalists for Gay Games XI: Guadalajara, Hong Kong, and Washington D.C. At present, our Site Selection Committee is preparing to do a four-day Site Visit to each city during June. Our team of three independent (i.e. non-voting) Site Inspectors has a very exhausting task to perform, given that they must visit each venue, observe community support, including from local and/or federal government, and be objective in their reporting to our organization. They will be accompanied by two FGG Site Selection Committee members for each visit.
The three finalists for Gay Games XI will give a final round of presentations at our Annual General Assembly, which will take place in Paris 26 October – 1 November of this year. Each finalist will make a 45-minute multimedia presentation, followed by a 45-minute question and answer period. The next day will include a follow-up question and answer session with representatives from all three finalists together.
After these elements have been completed, the FGG Board and Assembly will convene in private to review the various documents that have been produced, including the Site Inspection reports. Budgets are compared, SWOT analyses are produced and discussed, and the voting members get to share their individual thoughts before each member submits a private ballot. In total, there will be well over 100 votes cast by the Board and delegates assembled in the room. The selection of the Gay Games XI host for 2022 will be announced at a gala dinner at the close of our AGA.
OUR PLEDGE – STRONGER THAN EVER
If events such as the Gay Games wish to remain relevant as a movement to use sport and culture to transform global perceptions, then it is critical that they are produced with transparency and a selfless commitment to enriching the community as a whole. That is why, beginning in July, and every three months for the next year, the Federation of Gay Games (in conjunction with our Host Organization), will release a financial update so the community can see that we have their best interests at heart.
The FGG has been very diligent in protecting our brand so that it remains as true to its founding principles as possible. Given where the world was with LGBT+ rights in the early 1980s, at the start of the AIDS crisis, compared to where we are now, we’ve seen major shifts in social attitudes across the globe. Most of these changes have been for the better, but some have been for the worse.
In today’s evolving world, many LGBT+ people are more integrated into society in beautiful ways — but there are those who seem to be further marginalized as well. What can we do to bridge those barriers? How do we reach a younger and more diverse population, or those marginalized by financial restraints? And, what can we do be more vigilant in our goal to achieve gender equity? These are critical questions facing the FGG, as well as our community at large.
In our never-ending mission to promote equality in sport and culture, the FGG recognizes these challenges. It is up to us to find the solutions so that the opportunity for full participation has no boundaries.
The motto for Paris 2018 – Gay Games 10 is “All Equal.” The FGG has pledged to raise US $100,000, while Paris 2018 – Gay Games 10 has pledged to raise on their own 200,000 €. This is our combined effort to continue with the scholarship program first established through the Roy M. Coe Endowment Fund in 1995, and expanded with each subsequent quadrennial. The FGG is very proud of its Gay Games scholarship recipient alumni, more than 800 to date, and what they have done when they return to their communities. They become the sparks in small towns across our planet, creating opportunities when none previously existed. It is their passion that burns brightest, and although we are unable to assist every applicant, we are committed to doing what we can for as many as possible.
The lessons of the past and present have not been wasted on the future of the Gay Games. The Federation of Gay Games has an obligation to our 35-year history and the community at large. It is our responsibility to ensure our event keeps the focus where it belongs: on the individual participant to achieve their highest potential. Today, we recommit to that pledge, and look forward to seeing everyone next year for Paris 2018 – Gay Games 10.
On behalf of the Federation of Gay Games Board,
Joanie Evans Sean Fitzgerald