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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
June 2, 2006

The year of athletics

Not one, but two international LGBT sporting and cultural events are coming in July

The summer of 2006 should go a long way to finally dispelling the stereotype of gay men as wan, fey creatures who avoid physical exertion at all costs.

Of course, it probably won�t help the stereotype of lesbians playing football, rugby, field hockey and basketball, but then sacrifices must be made. After all, you cannot make an omelet without breaking a few clich�d eggs.

Yes, this July not only sees the seventh quadrennial Gay Games, held this year in Chicago, but also the debut of the World Outgames, which will follow in Montr�al days later.

The Chicago Gay Games mark the first time in a dozen years that the event will be held in North America.

The genesis of the two not-quite-competing athletic and cultural festivals stems from events in 2003, when the Federation of Gay Games rejected the bid of Montr�al�s organizing committee, two years after having chosen the city over Chicago.

Rendez-Vous Montr�al, the organizing committee who submitted the winning bid for the 2006 Gay Games, and the Federation of Gay Games came to loggerheads over financial control and decision-making responsibilities for the festival.

The Federation of Gay Games, whose name had been tarnished by a series of successful but financially disappointing events, worried that another Games operating in the red would mean an end to what started in 1982 as the Gay Olympics.

The Montr�al organizers felt that, since they would be responsible for any financial shortfalls, they should be responsible for the scale and scope of the event. The Federation wanted an event with about 12,000 athletes, while Montr�al believed that 16,000 was at the low end of what was possible. They had sponsorships and assistance from corporations and federal, provincial and city governments to back them up.

Ultimately, the two sides could not reach an agreement, and the Federation went to their second choice, Chicago, while Montr�al forged ahead with their plans, since the majority of their sponsors were willing to stay on board even without the Federation backing them up.

Montr�al 2006 aligned with the newly created Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association, which designated its event the inaugural World Outgames.

While the history is fascinating, what everyone really cares about are the events themselves.

Gay Games VII will be held from July 15 to 22, with opening ceremonies in Soldier Field and closing ceremonies at Wrigley Field bringing in hundreds of celebrities.

The opening ceremony features headliner Margaret Cho, while Cyndi Lauper leads the festivities at the closing ceremony.

One phenomenal achievement that the Chicago Gay Games already has under its belt is the United States government�s temporary waiver of the ban on entry into the country by HIV-positive non-U.S. citizens.

The blanket waiver was announced in February, and came as a surprise to the LGBT community, unused to the Bush administration making positive decisions.

�Achieving �designated event� status demonstrates our dedication to the Gay Games principles of Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best, and to our mission advocating for full acceptance of and recognition of all LGBT people,� said former executive director Brian McGuiness when the order came down. �We are grateful to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and the CGI and FGG board, staff, volunteers and allies for helping us meet this important commitment to the HIV community.�

Championed by celebrities Judith Light, Amanda Bearse, Melissa Etheridge, Elton John, James Hormel and athletes like Esera Tuaolo, Greg Louganis, David Kopay, Billie Jean King, Rudy Galindo and Billy Bean, 12,000 people have already registered for the games, which will take place across Chicago, with rowing events in the suburb of Crystal Lake.

The sporting and cultural festival comes just a year after the debut of Take the Flame!, a documentary about the two dozen years of Gay Games. Narrated by Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, the film is available on DVD from the Gay Games website, www.gaygames.com, and wraps up with a look at this summer�s event.

Interestingly, while Martina Navratilova is in Take the Flame!, she will be at the World Outgames on July 29 to present the �Declaration of Montr�al,� a manifesto created for the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights, held right in conjunction with the Outgames.

Navratilova and Mark Tewksbury, Olympic gold medal swimmer and co-chair of the Outgames, will read the declaration, which will then be sent to political leaders across the globe.

The International Conference on LGBT Human Rights will take place from July 26 to 29, and presenters include judges from the U.S., France, Argentina, South Africa and Australia, as well as human rights officials from the European Union, the United Nations and other bodies.

The Outgames will then continue until August 5, deliberately scheduled so that athletes and fans could attend both the Gay Games and the Outgames if they chose.

The opening ceremony on July 29, in addition to Tewksbury and Navratilova, will feature twangstress k.d. lang, disco diva Martha Wash, Deborah Cox, and a performance by Cirque du Soleil, in addition to Qu�b�cois Jonas, Sylvie Desgroseilliers and Diane Dufresne.

The line-up for the closing ceremony was not announced by press time.

There will be 35 sports played at the World Outgames, and all but figure skating, dancesport and physique are free to the public.

This exceptional international event that brings sports and human rights together will further enhance Montr�al�s image as a tolerant, open and inclusive city,� said Mayor G�rald Tremblay. �We would also like to affirm that Montr�al is a welcoming city, one where differences may be freely expressed and respected.�

He continued, �Here, all our citizens can live together in harmony, each respecting the others� individual rights. In hosting an event like this, Montr�al will continue to be associated with the advancement of human rights.�

Outgames also worked out a deal with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; many competitions will be played on Radio Canada across the country. Radio Canada broadcasts can also be heard online.

Over two months before the start of the Outgames, organizers reported that 12,000 people had already signed up to compete, and they were expecting at least 4,000 more, making it the city�s largest event since the 1976 Summer Olympics.

More information about the Outgames is available at www.montreal2006.org, while information about the Gay Games can be found at www.gaygameschicago.org.

After this year, the two international LGBT athletic events will be a year apart, with the 2009 World Outgames in Copenhagen, Denmark and the 2010 Gay Games set for Cologne, Germany. |

A note to athletes from Ohio who are going to compete in the Gay Games in Chicago or the Outgames in Montr�al: We would love to know how you fared in your quest for the gold! Please keep us apprised of your efforts by emailing us at chronicle@chronohio.com. Perhaps you will be featured in the Gay People's Chronicle when you return.

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