Saturday, June 3, 2017

Gay Games People Play

Writing Thursday's Qtoon post, I thought I had already posted a Sportsback Saturday retrospective on the Gay Games on this here blog; but it turns out that I was thinking of a post on my long defunct GeoCities site. GeoCities, for those of you too young or attention deficient to remember, was a web hosting service bought out by Yahoo! in 1999. Ten years later, it and its 38 million user-built pages were demolished by the Vogons of the internet in order to make way for a hypertext bypass or something.

I gave a quick summary of the split between the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) and the Gay & Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA) Thursday, and I don't want to hash through all the details here, but some context is necessary in order to present the cartoons I drew about it back in the '00's.

The FGG initially awarded its 2006 Gay Games VII to the city of Montreal in the fall of 2001, accepting the Canadian city's bid over those of three U.S. cities. It was a story of interest only to LGBTQ athletes and media, there being other things dominating the national psyche at the moment.

FGG officials grew worried about Montreal organizers' optimistic predictions of doubling the participants from the 2002 games in Sydney, Australia. More worrisome, given that Gay Games IV, V and VI had all lost money, was Montreal's multi-million dollar budget. Two years after awarding the 2006 games to Montreal, the FGG rescinded their decision and awarded the games to Chicago instead.

In the summer of 2005, the Cook County Board overwhelmingly passed a measure welcoming Gay Games VII to town, after which Republicans on the board suddenly discovered that they didn't want to welcome a bunch of FGGot athletes to town after all and vehemently disassociated themselves from the resolution.

The original links to the Chicago Free Press, Chicago Sun Times and Chicago Tribune reports seem to have disappeared, but Wikipedia still has the details:
Commissioners Gregg Goslin, Liz Gorman, Carl Hansen, Tony Peraica and Peter Silvestri, the only Republicans sitting on the Board of Commissioners, withdrew their names from the proclamation. "I'm a pro-family kind of person and conservative on social issues. That's nothing against the gay and lesbian community, but it's nothing I want to advance as a cause celebre," Peraica told the Chicago Sun-Times. In the same report, Gorman said that she doesn't support "special rights for any group."
Trying to explain his original vote in favor of the proclamation, Peraica fumbled, "I must have been out of the room."

Meanwhile, undeterred by the FGG moving their games to Chicago, Montreal continued with its plans to host what would now be World OutGames I that same summer. From my 2006 GeoCities post:
The Gay Games survived the sweltering heat in Chicago in July, to be followed by the Outgames in Montreal about a week later. 
Again, from my original post:
The Chicago Tribune has been covering the Gay Games, although I've missed any coverage in its sports section. On the other hand, the coverage has made the front page, in spite of eruption of hostilities in Israel and Lebanon, a rush hour train derailment, and the President saying "shit" on an open microphone. The Trib stories have dealt with such topics as corporate sponsorship of Chicago's games and the hurdles some third world contestants have overcome to attend at all. ...
The Chicago Sun Times did a nice job of providing coverage, at least on line, including a photo gallery (the same pictures are also in Yahoo!'s photo gallery). The games got their own full page (The Sun Times is a tabloid), with pictures, toward the back of the news section.
That the Montreal games were a financial disaster is indisputable. But Montreal journalist Richard Burnett has pointed out that if you added the 12,000 athletes who competed in Chicago to the 12,000 who competed in Montreal, you would get the 24,000 originally projected by Montreal organizers. There may have been a few athletes who participated in both events, but most had to choose one or the other. Burnett claimed that Martina Navratilova told him that in the continuing aftermath of 9/11, "Europeans opted to come to Montreal because it's easier to get a visa. America is like a prison with barbed wire. They don't want to let anybody in these days."

Ms. Navratilova's comment notwithstanding, the U.S. can hardly be accused of not accommodating Chicago's games. While airport security measures remained in effect, we weren't yet trying to ban Muslims from the country, and the federal government had issued a blanket waiver of a travel ban in effect since 1987, specifically to allow non-U.S. citizens with HIV/AIDS to travel the United States to participate in or to attend the event. (The ban was completely lifted in 2010, in time for Gay Games VIII.)


Well, just for the sake of ending on a positive note, the one other time I have drawn about either Gay Games or Out Games was in celebration of the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland, which attracted about 9,000 contestants, and netted a $150,000 profit when all was said and done.

Which is pretty impressive, especially when you consider how often the more famous Olympic games turn out to be a white elephant for their hosts.

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