(This story was published in 2003).
Less than three years from Gay Games VII, the location of those games may suddenly be up in the air.
Two years ago, Montréal won the right to host the event, scheduled for summer of 2006, beating out Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles. However, no contract presently exists between the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) and Montréal 2006.
In a letter dated December 2001, FGG Co-Presidents Kathleen P. Webster and Roberto Mantaci wrote, “…the FGG expects that the Licence Agreement between us will be formally concluded before the middle of 2002.” Over a year after that soft deadline, the FGG is still waiting.
“We’re still negotiating with [Montréal 2006],” says Charlie Carson, Secretary for the Federation of Gay Games, “and that’s important to keep in mind. We will continue negotiating until early November, and we’ve set a deadline of November 7. By then, we will have reached a decision to move forward with Montréal or not.”
At the heart of the matter seems to be the scope of the Gay Games and, in particular, the budget total for Montréal 2006 and the amount of scheduled participants. Montréal’s original budget included an elaborate cultural program to the Games and planned for 24,000 participants.
“Montréal 2006 agrees to a revised project,” says Montréal 2006 Marketing – Communication Director Tom Czerniecki, “and accepts to reduce the number of participants from an original 24,000 to 16,000, with the possibility to go up to 19,000, if guaranteed revenues follow.”
Even that number of 16,000, according to some in the Federation, is far too high. The final total number of participants at the Sydney Gay Games hovers around 11,000. The Olympic Games, considered the finest of all multisport events, entertains approximately 10,000 participants every four years. These should be the basis of a budget, say many in the Federation, not the lofty aspirations of some in Montréal.
The Federation of Gay Games is particularly sensitive to the financial issues surrounding the hosting of the Gay Games. Each of the last three Games, in New York, Amsterdam and Sydney, has encountered serious financial hardship, including bankruptcy.
“We have every intention of working closely with the FGG to deliver the best Gay Games ever,” Czerniecki says. “That being said, it is entirely inappropriate that the FGG substitute itself for the Montréal 2006 Gay Games VII Organising Committee in the daily management and preparation of the Games.”
While Montréal 2006 maintains that it is trying to broaden the scope and reach of the Gay Games, budgeting for even 16,000 in Montréal, say some, is asking for another financially unsuccessful Gay Games – another black eye the event can ill afford.
While the Federation and Montréal are trying to move forward with negotiations, both are also setting the groundwork for undisclosed alternative options.
“If negotiations are unsuccessful, we’re talking about our own plan B right now,” says Carson.
Montréal is prepared to move forward with a sports festival in 2006 without the Federation and, ostensibly, without the name, “Gay Games.”
“Montréal 2006 would prefer to come to a negotiated agreement with the FGG rather then hold alternative Sports and Cultural Games,” says Czerniecki. “However . . . we do think we can hold successful Games without the FGG if obliged to do so. Everything is already in place to hold successful Games in Montréal in 2006.
If Montréal does not sign a contract by November 7, the Federation will begin to turn to another city to host the Gay Games, possibly targeting a 2007 date. The Federation's annual meeting in Chicago begins on November 9 and there the Federation will announce which city finished second in the voting to host the 2006 Games. In previous years, the bid, given an unsigned contract by Montréal, would have gone directly to the second place city.
“That was set up with faulty reasoning,” says Carson. “You really need to take out a second ballot.” The International Olympic Committee uses a second ballot process in the final round of voting; the Federation of Gay Games, as of yet, does not.
Thus far, Atlanta has already openly expressed an interest in hosting Gay Games VII.