a forum for the open discussion of the future of the Gay Games
Where the Games began
To: Federation of Gay Games Board and Assembly
Re: One World Event Proposal and Continuation of the Gay Games
Dear Fellow Artists and Athletes,
Team San Francisco received the One World Event Cologne Report from the joint FGG-GLISA 1WE Working Group on 28 February 2015. We thank the six members of the working group who were tasked with filing the report with their recommendations. As requested, we made the proposal available to our membership, discussed in person and online with our board, and formally discussed the proposal with our membership at an open Town Hall Meeting on 11 April 2015. It was attended by roughly 40 Gay Games supporters and was addressed by working group members Shamey Cramer (FGG) and Greg Larocque (GLISA), and by FGG Co- President Kurt Dahl of Chicago. In addition to participants in track and field, running, swimming, water polo, wrestling, figure skating, sailing and martial arts, several local FGG Honorary Lifetime Members also took part in the discussions. The following day, several of our HLM members as well as the FGG and GLISA board representatives met in the home of Sara Waddell Lewinstein to hold a final review of the birth and evolution of the Gay Games, the concerns they were designed to address, critique the degree to which the Gay Games were or were not meeting those goals, and consider whether adopting the 1WE working group recommendation was the best way forward.
In preparation for those meetings and in response to the working group proposal, the board of Team SF met and revisited our published resolution from July 2009 as well our resolution from May 2010 reaffirming that previous resolution. We also considered the published positions from those years of the European Same-Sex Dance Association, Wrestlers WithOut Borders, Team Seattle, and Team Berlin.
We also went back as a point of reference to the mission statement of the Gay Games — the cause which has brought all of us together in our efforts and the one we are all in agreement of furthering. According to Article 1 of the FGG bylaws, the purpose of the Federation is “to foster and augment the self-respect of gay men and women throughout the world and to engender respect and understanding from the non-gay world, primarily through an organized, international athletic and cultural event held every four years commonly known as the ‘Gay Games,’” and the mission “is to promote equality through the organization of the
premiere international LGBT and gay-friendly sports and cultural event known as the Gay Games” based on the guiding principles of “Participation, Inclusion, and Personal Best.”
Lastly, we reviewed the history of the Gay Games and World Outgames as well of the FGG and GLISA; and the global LGBT sports calendar in recent years. We talked about the things that might be done to improve what we are doing to achieve our mission goals.
After all of the deliberations and community comment, which was marked by its passion, knowledge, experience and logic, the Board of Directors of Team San Francisco must reject the report’s recommendations as being too complicated; not addressing the core mission of the Gay Games; and being politically impractical. We offer a counterproposal that reflects the considerations which shaped our previous 2009 proposal but adds in elements which have come to light in more recent years. It continues the distinctly different missions of the FGG and GLISA, it ends the tense “rivalry” between the Gay Games and World Outgames which has been a drain on everyone’s resources and loyalties, it “de-clogs” the global sports calendar, and it offers an uncomplicated and inexpensive way of doing so.
Team SF recommends that the FGG:
❏ Continue to hold its quadrennial LGBT sports and cultural festival known as the Gay Games under the mechanism and methods (e.g., active cooperative collaboration with selected hosts) the membership and participants have come to expect.
❏ Invite GLISA International to host a World Outgames human rights conference and workshop program to be held in conjunction with the Gay Games but funded and organized externally from the FGG and its host organizations.
❏ Support the development of continental-scale events in non-Gay Games years such as the Continental Outgames, the EuroGames and the Sin City Shootout.
❏ Prioritize ways to reduce participant costs and inconvenience. Reducing the scope of Opening and Closing Ceremonies to make them more focused on participants rather than spectators and possibly trimming the total length of the Gay Games are two highly recommended areas to consider.
❏ Concentrate on the mission of human rights through the staging of inclusive and diverse sports and cultural participatory events and improving the engagement of women, persons of color, underrepresented minorities and persons of lower income not just in the Gay Games, but the FGG itself.
There are multiple goals we believe this proposal meets that the Cologne recommendation does not. It ensures that sports and cultural decisions remain in the hands of the artists’ and athletes’ organizations rather than leaving decisions such as event cancellations, bracket collapsing or tournament elimination to relatively inexperienced hosts. It avoids dragging on talks for several more years and having to create and maintain new caucuses, congresses and committees trying to “reinvent the wheel” as the FGG and GLISA try to reconcile differing views on the value of inclusive participation as a prime means of advancing LGBT rights. It tasks both the FGG and GLISA with concentrating on doing what they do best (the FGG on delivering a participatory sports and cultural festival, GLISA on bringing together critical masses for conferences at the continental level in repressed parts of the globe) — and challenges them to do their jobs even better not by competing against each other, but by supporting each other in their different missions.
Here were key concerns expressed by membership, the board, and attending HLMs:
❏ Retention of diversity of sports options and sports control. There are a host of opportunities for participants in the big number sports (soccer, road running, swimming, etc.) to compete, but relatively few for individual sports (such as sailing, figure skating, martial arts) which have more trouble drawing “critical mass” and can be expensive for hosts to stage. Past events indicate that if decisions are left in the hands of previously inexperienced hosts and mainstream sports officials who are used to exclusive “elite” models rather than inclusive models striving for diversity, the overall diversity of the sports offerings and the preservation of competition brackets are often sacrificed. This diminishes the participatory human rights component of the sports mission.
❏ Failure to meet demographics goals: gender, age, race, economic class, sexual identity. More attention needs to be placed on how the events are staged, what the costs are, how the events are marketed, and who the organizations have on their boards. Our energies should be devoted to those challenges — not years more of talks to develop an entirely new event, organization and brand name.
❏ Saturation of the LGBT sports calendar. Thanks in good part to the critical masses brought together in the early Gay Games and the rise of LGBT single-sport international or national championships, as well as regional sports festivals such as the EuroGames, Paris TIPS and Sin City Shootout, LGBT sports participants now have many more options to choose from — often less expensive and more convenient than either the Gay Games or World Outgames — than they did in the Gay Games’ early years. And the advent of the World Outgames “bumped” one-third of the pre-existing EuroGames schedule, reducing the opportunities for FGG member EGLSF to stage its signature event. Eliminating the sports and cultural component of the World Outgames while staging its conference component alongside the Gay Games declutters the calendar, restores the previous EuroGames schedule, encourages the growth of continental events, and makes planning on quadrennial global gathering easier for all.
❏ Brand confusion. The official 2009 final status report for World Outgames 2 discusses the challenges Copenhagen organizers faced not just in trying to get the word out about a relatively new brand — but in trying to make consumers understand that it was a broad combination of products: sports festival, cultural festival, conference program.
We already have trouble educating the public on why there is need and value in having a quadrennial sports festival that is not the Olympics, or why there is a need for LGBT sports at all. The marketing task with a new event that is less tightly focused on sports creates unneeded challenges and would consume marketing resources that can be better devoted to educating the public on what we already have going.
In conclusion, we join our fellow members in wishing GLISA the best of fortunes in determining its optimal role in the global LGBT sports calendar. We, too, are exhausted by the time that has been devoted the past few years to fruitless, tense discussions. We hope that the notion that we must either be locked in mortal combat or fused into one organization can be rejected and we can each pursue our core missions: the FGG with global sports and culture, GLISA with conferences and continental events.
As always, we invite all LGBT sports or cultural organization that believe in the participatory mission of the Gay Games and want to see them do better to join us in the FGG and work to make it so. Nothing we do could make founder Tom Waddell prouder — or the lives of our participants fuller.
Team San Francisco Board of Directors
Tyler Cole, president