World National
©World National / Roger-Luc Chayer

Montreal hints at rival Gay Games if deal falls

SUMMARY: If Montreal's deal to host the Gay Games in 2006 falls apart, organizers in the city say they will stage their own competition for gay athletes.


If the Federation of Gay Games revokes its invitation to Montreal next week to host the 2006 Gay Games and chooses another host city, Montreal will stage its own competition for gay athletes, a spokesman for that city's organizing committee said on Friday.

That would set the stage for rival gay athletic competitions, an unprecedented development.

Although negotiations continue between Montreal 2006, the event's organizing committee, and the Federation of Gay Games (FGG), which oversees the event, Montreal 2006 says it is "too far down the road" financially to turn back now.

"It's a hypothetical question at this point, but if you want a hypothetical answer, Montreal will hold games regardless," said Tom Czerniecki, spokesman for Montreal 2006. Czerniecki spoke to the Network from Montreal on Friday.

Meanwhile, an informal survey hinted that many gay athletes would attend the Montreal event, even if it is not sanctioned by the FGG.

According to Equipe Montreal, a non-profit organization representing athletes in the Montreal area, 91 percent of respondents to its e-mail survey indicated they would participate in a separate event planned by the Montreal organizing committee.

Equipe Montreal, says it surveyed 675 gay and lesbian sports teams from around the world from Oct. 24 to 27, with a response rate of 21 percent.

Cities around the world vie to host the Gay Games because, like the Olympics, the weeklong event attracts thousands and creates a boon for the city's tourism industry.

Although the games are still three years off, there is plenty of urgency. The FGG is days away from its annual meeting in Chicago, Nov. 10-14, where the federation would likely discuss options for moving the games to another city, if the Montreal deal collapses.

The FGG told that if it can't agree on terms and sign a contract by Nov. 7, thea different city for the 2006 games.

One possible alternative host city for the 2006 Gay Games is Los Angeles, which bid to host the 2006 games but lost. Los Angeles is now pursuing the 2010 Gay Games.

According to Shamey Cramer, head of the Los Angeles Games Exploratory Bid Committee, Los Angeles remains interested in hosting the 2006 games if negotiations with Montreal fall through.

"We hope an amicable solution can be reached," said Cramer. "In the event that does not occur, the Federation knows how to contact us, and we would be happy to discuss any alternatives and/or solutions with them at that time."

In a press release issued Oct. 17, Montreal 2006 declared a "crisis situation" in contract negotiations with the FGG, over the budget and the number of athletes.

Montreal 2006 said it wants at least 16,000 athletes to participate, which is scaled down from its earlier projection of 24,000, while the FGG is projecting athletic participation at only 12,000. The press release claimed the lower number would lead to "financial disaster."

The San Francisco-based FGG released a response on Oct. 22, saying it was not imposing a ceiling on the number of participants, but preferred a "conservatively sized" initial plan that has "built-in flexibility to grow" when additional income is secured.

The FGG has its reputation on the line after the last three Gay Games ended in deficits. According to the FGG's press release: "It is the Federation's ethical duty and part of our core mission to ensure that this pattern stops."

On Friday, Jake Stafford, a spokesman for the FGG, said his organization is no longer commenting on the negotiations, after agreeing during an Oct. 28 conference call with Montreal 2006 to "keep private" details of the license agreement that are still pending.

"We want to present a resolution for our participants, not a play-by-play of negotiations," said Stafford.