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October 24, 2008

Cleveland bids to host 2014 Gay Games

Cleveland--If the Cleveland Synergy Foundation has its way, in six years the Gay Games will end as so many rock concerts have, with the iconic shout of “Thank you, Cleveland!”

The newly-formed foundation’s inaugural project is an attempt to bring the 2014 Gay Games to Cleveland.

Other cities bidding on the 2014 Games are Boston and Miami.

The Gay Games have been held every four years since they were founded in 1982 by Olympic athlete Dr. Tom Waddell. Initially held in San Francisco, the Games have rotated among world cities since 1990.

The 2006 event drew 12,500 participants to Chicago for a week in midsummer; a similar number is expected for the 2010 Games in Cologne, Germany.

The Cleveland Synergy Foundation is comprised of North Coast Athletics Volleyball League president W. Douglas Anderson and secretary Brian P. Tavolier, along with their partner Jeff K. Axberg.

They held a press conference at the Hyatt hotel in the Arcade downtown on October 15 to announce their bid, and had some major power in the city backing them.

Anderson outlined some of the reasons why the North Coast would appeal to Gay Games organizers, including a wealth of sports venues, progressive government, international airport and extensive public transportation system. He then introduced Mayor Frank Jackson’s chief of staff, Ken Silliman.

Silliman pointed to the Euclid Corridor, for which the city is currently seeking tenants, noting that it would be a “wonderful greeting environment” for athletes from across the globe.

He also cited the “walkable and compact downtown” as a major draw for the city.

David Gilbert, the president of the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, threw his organization’s weight behind the effort.

“There’s so much programming that can take place that would make Cleveland a better place for having hosted it,” he said of the Gay Games’ sporting competition and the cultural festival that surrounds it.

Positively Cleveland vice president Sharon Kobayashi also endorsed the endeavor. Positively Cleveland is the city’s convention and visitors bureau.

All three organizations offered letters of support for the Cleveland Synergy Foundation to take with them to the Gay Games annual meeting, this week in Cape Town, South Africa.

Anderson and Tavolier are attending the meeting, speaking on behalf of Cleveland’s bid.

Anderson noted the volleyball league’s North Coast Invasion tournament and the rotating Midwest Invitational Softball Tournament as examples of the LGBT community’s embrace of sporting events.

Gilbert noted that the city has already hosted the Children’s Games, the Gravity Games, the AST Dew Tour, NCAA Women’s Final Four and will host the U.S. Figure Skating Championships next year and the Senior Games in 2013.

Following a question about the city’s image with LGBT people nationally, Anderson pointed to North Coast Invasion and MIST.

However, neither he nor Kobayashi noted that the city also hosted an annual convention for the international gay square dancing association this year, the National Assocation of People with AIDS and the National Association of Black and White Men Together.

In addition, the Cleveland Leather Awareness Weekend, which will hold its eighth gathering next April, is one of the premier leather events in the country, and consistently brings international visitors to the city.

This year’s leather weekend filled two large downtown hotels, and the overflow took up many rooms in two more.

The first step in the process of securing the Gay Games, sending in letters of intent, has already taken place. So far, Cleveland is joined by Boston and Miami.

Before the last British election, a number of London’s mayoral candidates said that bringing the Gay Games there in 2014 was a priority, but the victory of conservative candidate Boris Johnson brought a far less gay-friendly face into power, and no committee has yet presented a bid from the U.K. capital.

Final bids are due on March 1, and Federation of Gay Games officials are expected to visit Cleveland next summer to begin assessing the possibilities.




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