As the Federation of Gay Games meets this weekend in Toronto, the hot topic will be the potential merger* of quadrennial events between the Gay Games and Outgames in 2018. While a combination of events is being discussed, no merger of organizations is on the table.
Eight years after the Outgames separated from the Gay Games and formed GLISA, the two organizations are internally discussing the creation of one quadrennial event, instead of each hosting their own event one year apart. One key organization, Team San Francisco, is drawing a line in the sand, requesting that the Federation of Gay Games maintain control over its quadrennial event and relegate the Outgames to regional events in South America, Asia and Africa. Team SF said in a letter last week to the FGG:
In 2009, the General Assembly discussions and the town hall discussions that followed clearly indicated a desire for a continuation of the Gay Games sports and cultural program as is, retention of site selection, and exploration of a possible small external conference component. That should have been the blueprint for the 1QE working group mandated in 2010. And yet, one year later, we have seen and heard little to indicate that it is.
Team SF and other groups like Wrestlers Without Borders adamantly oppose other Outgames initiatives like a human rights conference as a part of the one quadrennial event (though there could be some leeway for a simultaneous, separately organized conference). They also want to see only Federation of Gay Games General Assembly and Board members have a vote on site selection.
FGG spokesperson Kel Stevens said a letter from an FGG member group does not speak for the entire General Assembly:
The FGG 1QE [one quadrennial event] working group is committed to a united 2018 event with our friends in GLISA. We are still very active in our work together.
The FGG General Assembly convenes in Toronto Oct. 23-25. The General Assembly will consider 10 motions regarding the one quadrennial event, most of which aim to limit the impact GLISA can have on the event and reaffirm the Gay Games as the premier global quadrennial LGBT sports event brand. The motions range from the forced naming of the event, the core sports of the event, the scope of the opening and closing ceremonies, and exclusive site selection for the FGG. The majority of the proposals are brought by FGG, Team SF and Wrestling Without Borders stalwart Gene Dermody and former FGG co-president Sion O'Connor.
Here is the full text of Team SF's letter to the FGG:
Dear Federation of Gay Games Colleagues,
We are writing to urge you to retain the Gay Games name, program, and mission in 2018 and beyond; and to state our organizational opposition to any talks or actions to change the Gay Games name, or add a major conference or non-sports or arts component to the quadrennial Gay Games sports and cultural festival.
Team San Francisco (which, like the Federation of Gay Games itself, was born out of the legacy of the first two Gay Games in San Francisco) has actively participated in the discussions regarding the future of LGBT sports and the Gay Games that have engaged our global community for the past decade. We have shared our views and concerns with our fellow athletes and artists as the dialogue regarding the 2018 Gay Games has evolved. We have on numerous occasions made support statements on a number of issues which we believe help advance the goals of continuing a strong Gay Games and helping the fractured global LGBT sports community achieve a stronger, saner calendar. Those previously advocated positions include:
• Restoration of the original EuroGames schedule to strengthen LGBT sports unity and branding in Western Europe
• Enthusiastic support of the development of GLISA's continental Outgames in the under-served areas outside North America and Western Europe
• Encouragement of organizations to utilize the FGG's membership options to join and help us all steer the future, and of individuals to step up in volunteer and board capacities to help shoulder the burden
• Possible establishment of an external, partnered conference event on LGBT sports issues to supplement the inestimable human rights mission inherent in the Gay Games sports and cultural program that over the course of time could grow organically as a self-sustaining enterprise
But what we have seen in the past two years is a sapping of collective resources in a Quixotic quest for appeasement in the name of One Quadrennial Event. Resources that could have been used to bolster host organizations and global advocacy of the Gay Games principles of Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best. Money and time that could have been used on fine-tuning our operations, building our brand and generating scholarship funds to reach more LGBT athletes and artists.
The Gay Games have an extraordinary human rights legacy deep felt by all of us whose lives have been changed by the quadrennial coming together of artists and athletes to perform and compete. It is a unique legacy created through recreational athletes and artists, poor and rich, ordinary people striving to do something extraordinary together.
The sustainability of that legacy is deeply imperiled by the continued speculation over a "merged" event, discussions of handing over a portion of the site selection process, figuring out how to put on a mass conference program that is financially dicey at best and other such matters. Our supporters are being burned out on a quest for something they never requested.
In 2009, the General Assembly discussions and the town hall discussions that followed clearly indicated a desire for a continuation of the Gay Games sports and cultural program as is, retention of site selection, and exploration of a possible small external conference component. That should have been the blueprint for the 1QE working group mandated in 2010. And yet, one year later, we have seen and heard little to indicate that it is. Quite the contrary. The Federation was engaged in similar talks not so long ago and was fortunate to survive. Negotiations with Montreal dragged on for two years over disagreements in size and scope of the Games, and at the end of that we were asked to change entirely what we wanted in the event. We held firm and history has proven we made the right choice. Let's not re-invent a battle already settled.
The Board of Team SF asks the Federation to:
• Move forward with the Gay Games RFP and site selection process, keeping the sports, ceremony and cultural programs intact and telling the prospective hosts conferences will not be part of the formula.
• Discuss through the 1QE working group or whatever other vehicle seems appropriate whether GLISA is interested in working on a sports-issue conference to be put on separately but in conjunction with Gay games XII and explore other potential partners whom might be interested in organizing it.
• Ask EGLSF what the FGG and its members can do to help promote the EuroGames in their original schedule of non-Gay Games years.
• Discuss with GLISA what the FGG can do to help promote continental Outgames outside of Western Europe and North America in non-Gay Games years.
Please hear what we, artists and athletes devoted to the Gay Games, are saying. Our best hope for sustaining the Gay Games human rights legacy is to continue to work to produce an affordable and diversely inclusive sports and cultural event, offering the best competition in the LGBT sports world, that breaks even.
It was a difference maker when Tom and his friends created it. Thirty years later, it still is.
Tyler Cole, President, Team San Francisco
On behalf of the Team SF Board
* The writer uses the term 'merger' as a short cut (though some may balk at the term); It's also used several times specifically in the General Assembly motions.