With a lot of water under the bridge and many issues resolved some six years after Outgames held its first event, the two organisations are now extending the olive branch in an effort to hold a joint event in 2018. While 2018 seems a long time away, the two organisations need to move swiftly so that potential host cities can get proposals together; the host city needs to be chosen by Gay Games’ 2014 closing ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. So how do you solve a problem like a joint GLBT sports event? Hannah JV added a couple of phone calls to the to-do list FGG and GLISA have every night to ask them a few questions about the future.
Neither FGG nor GLISA went on record about the events that transpired before one organisation became two, but the basic history is understood to be a schism that occurred around the organisation of the 2006 Gay Games, originally awarded to Montreal, Canada. Disputes over the financial transparency, the size of the event and the size of the budget erupted – there were concerns that in a post-9/11 world, Montreal’s estimate that 24,000 competitors would come was ostentatious. These claims angered the Montreal organisers, who broke off talks at the 2003 FGG annual meeting in Chicago.
The 2006 Gay Games were ultimately awarded to Chicago, and a new organisation, GLISA, ran the 2006 World Outgames in Montreal that same year. GLISA continued to run events – including the successful regional sporting events such as last year’s Asia Pacific Outgames in New Zealand – and included a human rights conference as part of their events.
With two organisations now running events, GLBT sports teams around the world now had to decide where to send their teams. GLISA changed the year Outgames were run, but questions have remained as to whether the two events need exist seperately. By 2009, these questions had got past the point where they could be ignored, and so representatives of both organisations met for a drink.
Raise your glass
Wessel Van Kampen, co-president of GLISA, and Emy Ritt, co-president of FGG, were both at a European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation meeting at the Hague in the Netherlands in 2009 when they decided to go for a drink together.
On the phone from Geneva, Wessel tells express, “This was the first semi-official meeting the two organisations had had in a very long time. We both said, ‘We know the other exists and can’t deny that – let’s at least talk to each other’.
“Then in 2010, at the EGLSF annual meeting, the four co-presidents met in Manchester and discussed how hard it is to attend both events, both financially and simply geographically. We agreed that we do not want to create an event that only people who can afford it can attend – we want an all-inclusive event. So we asked, ‘Could we create one event based on the legacy of best practices of both organisations?’ So during that meeting we decided that we should try and do an event together in 2018.”
A line in the sand
Both organisations agree there are elements of both events that make them special. For Outgames, it’s the human rights conference, which Wessel says is non-negotiable on the road to a joint event in 2018.
“For me it’s a no-brainer. Human rights are the foundation with which we are able to have sporting and cultural events. We have a duty to make sure that human rights for the GLBT community are taken care of – and there is a lot that needs to be done in that area in many countries. We have to do something about that by getting experts to talk to each other and to the communities at something like the human rights conference.
“I know there’s opposition from a small vocal group within the FGG who think human rights events take away from the sporting events; they are sport focused. If you look at the difference between GLISA and FGG, the FGG is more sport-focused with a bit of culture; we may be less competitive but we have cultural and human rights elements. When you bring both groups’ talents together, for me, it can’t be better.”
Paul White, officer of international development at the FGG agrees, but says, “I don’t think there’s necessarily an objection to the conference, but I think there are some people within the sport community that see the Gay Games is founded in sport and there’s no need to take away from that.”
Site selection and deadline
White says although a deadline to decide on the quadrennial event is imminent, putting the finishing touches on the agreement isn’t so simple.
“We have a process of site selection to follow and we have to put the best three proposals together at the 2013 general assembly. What happens is we take all the bids and then our site selection team visits each one. From there, we break that number down to three, and these three present at our general assembly. The assembly then votes to choose a host city. If the winner doesn’t sign contracts within six months, it goes to the next country in line.”
What about a merge?
There have been discussions about joining the two organisations, but Wessel says collaborating for 2018 seemed the most viable.
Paul says, “Part of the discussions has been to keep the organisations separate or to bring them together. A merger would resolve a lot of issues, but whether or not that is the best way to resolve them is moot, as the decision to merge was not accepted.”
Now, we wait
“We know how long site selection takes and how long it takes to negotiate contracts,” says Wessel. “We don’t have much time to continue negotiations. There are good intentions on both sides, there is a small opposition on the FGG side and both organisations work to protect their events, so it’s a delicate process. We know we need to have a resolution in the next half-year.
“We know what needs to be done, we’re all committed and I think we are close to a resolution.”
Article | Hannah JV.
Photos | Alex Efimoff
Anita is a 39-year old runner who has completed several half-marathons, and two full marathons. Her favourite runs are the late-afternoon excursions into the Wellington hills with two dogs for company and no time limit. The smaller photos are of the opening parade of the 2011 Asia Pacific Outgames.