(This story was published in 2003).
The 2006 Gay Games will not be in Montreal after organizers from the city decided to end its relationship with the Federation of Gay Games following a stormy two-year process.
The two sides have been at loggerheads since Montreal won the bid to host Gay Games VII in 2001. A licensing agreement was never signed and last-ditch negotiations the weekend of Nov. 8-9 in Chicago, site of the Federation’s annual meeting, failed to generate an agreement.
Federation delegates on Nov. 10 voted to give Montreal until Nov. 12 to accept the final version of the licensing agreement, the 14th draft of the document. The Federation said it had made several last-minute concessions as an inducement, but Montreal appeared to see it as a take-it-or-leave-it offer and decided to leave it.
“Our event will take place without the FGG” Montreal 2006 Co-President Mark Tewksbury said in a press release. “Our vision remains the same. We will offer the best sport games the gay and lesbian athletes of the world have ever seen.” Montreal said it still intends to hold a gay and lesbian sports event in 2006, even though they can’t legally be called the Gay Games. Tewksbury told the CBC the event might be called the “Rainbow Games, the Freedom Games, whatever they might be, but they will truly be inclusive in nature.”
For its part, the Federation has contingency plans to reopen the bid process and select a new city by next spring. Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles were the other bid cities in 2001, and Atlanta has said it will not bid again. It is unclear if Chicago or Los Angeles will prepare new bids and is also not deteremined whether the Games will be held in 2006 or 2007.
The split between Montreal and the Federation gives a black eye to the organized gay sports movement, coming on the heels of four consecutive Games that have lost money. The last two events, in Amsterdam and Sydney, were both financial busts and in each instance the Games came close to being canceled at the last minute.
Interviews with participants in both camps, public and private, revealed a total lack of trust toward the other. For example, one Federation delegate complained in September that Montreal has “shown over the course of the last two years that they are only interested in doing those items they wish to do, while protesting that they were misunderstood when caught doing things they were not legally allowed to do.” Montreal, for its part, complained that the Federation kept changing the terms of the agreement. “In the almost two years since [the bid was awarded], there have been three contracts that Montreal 2006 was prepared to sign. In each instance an unrecognizable version of the License Agreement has arrived back to us with an entirely new set of onerous and excessive demands," Montreal 2006 said in an October release.
"What is abundantly clear is that there was a major shift in attitudes and trust based upon the progress of the negotiations," Gene Dermody, an influential Federation director, wrote Nov. 17 in a post on the Outsports Discussion Board .
"An anecdote about the signed sponsorship agreements that the Federation was not permitted to see: When Montreal finally agreed to let the Federation lawyer see the agreements (which were in French), they would not allow any translators to be present!" Dermody wrote.
"What was also apparent to me was the division within the Montreal team itself. The Tourism Montreal people were calling the shots, and were purposely being difficult, as if to force the break off. I still wonder if half their team wanted an agreement, and the other half did not."
The key stumbling blocks had been the size and scope of the Games, though both sides said that agreement on the number of registered athletes could have been resolved. The issue of who had the final say once a contract was signed seemed to loom the largest in the end.
After the problems of the last two Games, the Federation said it was important to retain a measure of control lest the Games financially spiral out of control again. “The Federation has a legal obligation to protect its brand. We have successfully defended it twice now from [United States Olympic Committee] challenges.” Dermody wrote last month in an earlier post on the Outsports Discussion Board
Dermody also accused Montreal of not being open with the Federation.
“Why uniquely among Gay Games hosts from New York onwards does Montreal 2006 refuse to make its sponsorship agreements open to scrutiny by the FGG?” Dermody wrote, adding that Montreal’s contention that it had presented these agreements “is patently false. Montreal 2006 has in fact refused to make these documents available to the FGG.”
Montreal countered the Federation wanted too much say over how to run the event, while not sharing in the financial risk. “The deal breaker between Montréal 2006 and the FGG was the issue of financial control of the event,” Montreal 2006 said in its release issued Tuesday. “The FGG insisted on approval rights on budgetary increases and expenditures — yet left all legal responsibility and accountability for the administration of the Games to the Board of Directors of Montréal 2006. Furthermore, the FGG, while not participating in any way in fund-raising for the Games, collects [$655,000] for the license rights to the trademark.”
In the end, the two sides blamed the other for the collapse of the negotiations. The Federation accused Montreal of blowing off a scheduled meeting on Nov. 7 and of angrily walking out of negotiations two days later. Tewksbury disputed this latter contention and the organization decried what it said was the Federation’s “ultimatum.”
“After two years of discussions and a 400-page contract, after 15 hours of negotiations through the night Saturday into Sunday, after being given only 12 minutes to be heard during [Monday’s] all-day assembly, after all those efforts, the FGG found a way to have its members not vote on Montreal 2006’s proposal! The FGG returned with clauses that Montreal 2006 had already repeatedly rejected and, more importantly, the FGG has continued to demand the full financial control of the 2006 Games,” Montreal said.
The Federation disputed Montreal's version of the Monday meeting. "Rendez-Vous Montréal 2006 was given 30 minutes to answer nine questions from the Federation's Board, approximately three minutes each," the Federation said in a statement. "After spokesperson Mark Tewksbury said, 'We won’t need three minutes for each,' the Montréal delegates used a total of only 12 minutes, ending with an ultimatum to accept Montréal's version 13 within one and a half hours or Montréal was walking. Montréal has since claimed that they were given only 12 minutes, which is patently false."
As a parting shot, Montreal threatened the possibility of “taking legal measures necessary with regard to the FGG or any city that agrees to host Gay Games in 2006.”
Montreal’s contention that it intends to go ahead a sports event in the summer of 2006 raises the specter of competing tournaments. Such an occurrence could cause a split among sports teams and organizations over which event to attend and leave potential sponsors leery of supporting either. It’s also likely that public reaction may be of the “pox on both their houses” nature, and was summed up by a post on the Outsports Discussion Board by Paul O’Kane of Vermont’s Green Mountain Gay and Lesbian Hockey.
“Everyone has lost.” O’Kane wrote. “The Federation of Gay Games and the Montreal organizing committee both represent the worst of the gay community. They represent for the most part only themselves.
“The Montreal games have a hard sell. They must show the GLBT sports community a very detailed and convincing argument as to why they walked away from the Gay Games.
“The FGG needs to be reformed; nothing short of a complete change in its leadership and a drastic change in its selective and secretive structure will be acceptable.
“The GLBT Sports community must react with outrage at both of these organizations and demand change! I would like to see the world's gay sports organizations form a union to safeguard and represent GLBT sports!"