World Outgames

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The World Outgames are a sporting and cultural event hosted by the gay community. The Outgames are open to all who wish to participate, without regard to sexual orientation. There are no qualifying standards, although competitions are arranged according to the skill levels of the competitors. The Outgames bring together athletes and artists from all over the world, many from countries where homosexuality remains illegal and hidden. The World Outgames are sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association. Host cities intentionally switch between North America and Europe. The Outgames are not to be confused with the Gay Games.

2009 World Outgames held in Copenhagen

Origins[edit]

The seventh edition of the Gay Games was supposed to take place in Montreal in 2006, but the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) removed their sanction after it and Montreal 2006 were unable to agree on the size of the games and the demand for external control of the Montreal 2006 budget by the FGG. The official Gay Games for 2006 were awarded to Chicago. Montreal 2006 announced its intentions to continue organizing the games without the sanction of the FGG based on an informal survey sent to several organizations. This strategy developed into the first edition of the World Outgames, licensed by the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association, the city of Montreal, the Province of Quebec, the Government of Canada, GlaxoSmithKline, Air Canada, Labatt Brewing Company, Bell Canada, as well as dozens of other national and international businesses and media organisations.

With 18,599 participants,[1] the 1st World Outgames, held in 2006, was the largest international sports event to be held in Montreal, Quebec, Canada since the 1976 Summer Olympiad. These first Outgames were a success on several aspects, although the organization ended up with a deficit of just under $1 million. Many suppliers were left unpaid after the various governments refused to cover the debt.[2] The human rights conference was a first and attracted high profile LGBT activists and professionals from every continent.

# Year City Country
I 2006 Montreal (Montréal)  Canada
II 2009 Copenhagen (København)  Denmark
III 2013 Antwerp (Antwerpen)  Belgium
IV 2017 Miami Beach (Miami Beach)  United States
1st World Outgames 2006

For the first World Outgames, the organization, as well as officials from the City of Montreal, the Province of Quebec and the Government of Canada welcomed representatives from 111 countries: 10,248 athletes to participate in games from 29 July to 5 August, alongside 1516 participants for an international conference on lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender (LGBT) human rights, including Workers Out. Workers Out is the third international gathering of LGBT trade unionists. Approximately 5,200 volunteers worked at the events.

2nd World Outgames 2009

The second edition of World Outgames started in Copenhagen on 25 July and ended on 2 August 2009. The opening ceremony took place at City Hall Square.

3rd World Outgames 2013

The third edition of the World Outgames were held in Antwerp in 2013.

4th World Outgames 2017

The fourth edition of World Outgames will be held in Miami Beach in 2017.

Schism in LGBT sports communities over Gay Games VII[edit]

In 2001, the bidding organization from Montréal, Canada won the right to negotiate with Federation of Gay Games (FGG) for a licensing agreement to host the 2006 Gay Games, but after two years of failed negotiations FGG members rejected a proposal agreed to by the negotiating committee during the 2003 FGG annual meeting in Chicago. There were three main points of contention, over which neither party could agree:

  • Size of the event
  • Size of the budget — especially the planned break-even participation point
  • Financial transparency and control[3]

In a weakening global economy following international terrorist attacks, including 9/11, the FGG wanted Montréal to be able to plan for a successful Gay Games even if participation did not meet Montréal's optimistic projection of 24,000 participants, twice the level of participation of the previous Gay Games in 2002. Due to financial problems in previous events, the FGG also asked for control over Montréal 2006's financial activities, however the FGG did not want to reduce their nearly $1M in licensing rights to help alleviate the financial pressure on the organizing committee. After 2 years of negotiation and with a shrinking timeline, Montreal decided to establish a deadline to reach an agreement. After the failed negotiations the FGG held a second round of bidding in which Chicago and Los Angeles bidders, who had put forth bids to host the 2006 games in the first round along with Montréal and Atlanta, chose to bid. Ultimately, the FGG awarded Gay Games VII to Chicago Games, Inc.

Based on a survey LGBT sports enthusiasts and the support of several financial partners, the Montréal organizing committee decided to proceed to hold an athletic and cultural event, with a human rights conference, without the sanction of the FGG. This plan developed into the first edition of the World Outgames, and the creation of its sanctioning body, the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association.

Because the FGG were inflexible in setting their dates for the 7th edition of the Gay Games, many individual and team participants were forced to choose between Gay Games Chicago and World Outgames Montréal, a situation exacerbated by the two events being a week apart. The closing ceremony of Gay Games Chicago on 22 July 2006 was only 7 days before the opening ceremony of World Outgames Montréal on 29 July 2006. This meant that those who competed or performed in Chicago would have little recovery time before Montréal. The split resulted in a lower quality of athletic competition at both events because neither could claim the whole field of competitors. Team and individual sports were hurt alike. Few teams were able to field complete squads for both events; In wrestling, 100 wrestlers competed in Chicago (comparable to previous Gay Games), but only 22 competed in Montréal, by far the lowest number for any major international tournament. On the other hand, certain sports that had never had a chance to be presented in Gay Games were presented in Montreal and participants were very satisfied with the opportunity to compete. There was some advantages to the games being so close together time wise and location wise. For some overseas participants who had to travel far, the convenience of the two events being only a week apart and not far from each other enabled them to attend both. Many did not attend at all. After Chicago drew approximately 12,000 participants, Montréal 10,248 athletes, 1,516 Conference Attendees and 835 people to the cultural component of the games.[4] Organizers later recognized that if only one option would have been presented, Montreal's goal of 24,000 participants could have become a reality.

Since 2006, the need for a secondary global multi-sport event has been the subject of much debate, especially after the final financial figures for 2006 were released. The Chicago Gay Games VII ended with no debt and all bills paid. In contrast, the Montréal World Outgames ended with less than $1M Canadian dollars of debt.

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