(This story was published in 2003).
The 2006 Gay Games will almost certainly not be held in Montreal after negotiators for the Montreal organizers and the Federation of Gay Games failed to reach an agreement this weekend.
“It looks like we’re prepared to go our own separate ways,” Montreal 2006 Co-President Mark Tewksbury told Outsports on Sunday. A Federation spokesman said it "was heartbreaking [for FGG directors] for it to come to this point."
Montreal had won the bid for Gay Games VII two years ago, but a formal licensing agreement with the Federation has never been signed. The two sides met in Chicago this weekend at the annual meeting of the Federation, but the talks broke off early Sunday. The contract the two sides discussed this weekend was the 14th draft (technically Version 13.5) of the proposed agreement.
The Federation’s negotiating committee will present a report to the full voting membership of 58 delegates today. Montreal has asked to be able to present a report. However, with no signed agreement, it seems inconceivable that Montreal will be allowed to keep the Games. If this happens, it is expected that the Federation will reopen bidding for Gay Games VII, to be held in either 2006 or 2007. Montreal has stated publicly that it intends to go ahead with some sort of sports tournament in 2006 without calling them the Gay Games, a trademark owned by the Federation.
The Federation, in a press release, said that Montreal had walked away from the talks. Tewksbury disputed this assessment, but conceded that no agreement was reached and negotiations had ended. Each side sought to blame the other for the talks collapsing.
“In Montréal 2006’s opinion, it remains unacceptable that the FGG still wants to impose unbelievable financial controls while they have no responsibilities, nor on gathering the money, nor legally, because these two matters belong to the Montréal 2006 Board of Directors,” the group stated in a release. “The FGG, as Montréal 2006 is now used to, also suddenly put forward new demands.”
The Federation saw it differently. “We deeply regret that Montréal 2006 made the decision to walk away from these negotiations which were planned with the best interests of future Gay Games participants in mind,” said Federation Co-President Roberto Mantaci. “The Federation made multiple concessions to Montréal 2006, and we are confident that we tried everything we could to reach an agreement with them while remaining true to our stated obligation towards safeguarding the fiscal responsibility by Gay Games hosts. Despite Montréal 2006’s unilateral action, the Federation reaffirms our commitment to the continuation of future Gay Games.”
The major unresolved issues concerned the size and scope of Montreal’s proposal, along with issues of control. The Federation, burned by four consecutive Games that have lost money, has insisted that Montreal scale back the proposed base of registered athletes from 16,000 to 12,000. Montreal balked at this lower number, saying much of its budget is planned around a higher number of registrants.
Tewksbury said on Sunday that he thought the numbers issue could have been hammered out, and Federation spokesman Jake Stafford said FGG had conceded a higher number of registrants with some conditions. Tewksbury said the biggest stumbling block was the level of control he said the Federation wanted once Montreal signed a contract.
“We very much wanted to give [the Federation] a right of review,” Tewksbury said, “but keep the decision-making in Montreal, especially over budget issues. It was really the major sticking point.” He was not specific on how “control” was defined in the proposed agreement.
The last two cities, Amsterdam and Sydney, mismanaged the Games to the point of each nearly having to cancel the event at the last minute. Directors have said that another financially failed Games might torpedo the event and they have been adamant that Montreal's proposal be fiscally sound.
If Montreal is out of the picture, the Federation is set to reopen the bid process, with tentative plans to select another city by next spring. Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles were the other bid cities in 2001, but it is unclear if they will re-bid or be joined by other cities.
Tewksbury said it was premature to say whether Montreal would still go ahead with a gay sports and cultural event from July 26-Aug. 5, 2006, even if it couldn’t call it the Gay Games. However, on Friday, the Montreal Gazette reported that organizers “say a major international competition for masters-class gay athletes will be held here in 2006--with or without the governing federation's OK.” Montreal’s Web site boasts of plans to host “Games Rendez-Vous Montréal 2006;” all mention of the “Gay Games” has been removed from the site’s home page.
In return for the right to host and market the Gay Games, Montreal would have owed the Federation a $655,000 licensing fee, plus 50% of any post-Games surplus.