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July 30 , 2010

With Synergy out, who will host the Games?

Federation says 2014 event will stay in Cleveland and Akron

Cleveland--It is nearly certain that the 2014 Gay Games will be held in Cleveland and Akron as planned. It is not certain who the Federation of Gay Games will license to put them on.

“We don’t know who will get the license,” said Valarie McCall, Cleveland’s chief of government affairs. “All the partners are still at the table, except for Synergy.”

The Federation of Gay Games terminated the license agreement it had with the Cleveland Synergy Foundation on July 6.

The site cities of Cleveland and Akron have no written contract with FGG. The site selection is part of the license agreement.

McCall said FGG notified Cleveland that Synergy’s license was revoked, but she has not seen the termination notice.

“FGG wanted to know if Cleveland still wanted to host the Games,” McCall said. “Of course the answer was yes.”

Synergy’s partners in the license arrangement are the cities of Cleveland and Akron, Positively Cleveland, the Akron-Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission.

Those partners have FGG’s commitment that the Games will be held in their communities and that a new licensee will be found.

On July 23, FGG issued a statement that, though not iron-clad, is a near certain commitment to the Cleveland and Akron area. It reads:

“The FGG, cooperating with its Cleveland partners, continues to work hard to ensure that planning for the 2014 Cleveland Gay Games progresses at a satisfactory pace. All parties continue to meet to ensure a smooth path forward to a successful 2014 Gay Games and we appreciate patience as these sensitive discussions take place.”

This follows their earlier statement: “We can say: ‘We look forward to coming to Cleveland-Akron for Gay Games IX in 2014.’ ”

Delegation goes to Cologne

A delegation of the partners is going to Cologne, Germany on July 30 for the ceremonial transfer of the Gay Games flag from Cologne to Cleveland, to learn more about how the Games work, and to promote Cleveland and Akron.

“We’re going to Cologne to see what needs to be done,” McCall said. She was also part of the delegation that went to Cologne in October when the Games were awarded.

The new delegation is McCall and Cleveland’s executive for small business development Kevin Schmotzer, Greater Cleveland Sports Commission president David Gilbert and vice president of event management Meredith Scerba.

Also going are Rock and Roll Hall of Fame president Terry Stewart, Positively Cleveland board vice president Jon J. Pinney, Convention and Visitors vice president Sharon Gronowski, and from the Akron Summit CVB, president Susan Hamo and vice president of sales Dirk Breiding.

Breiding and Schmotzer are openly gay.

Joining the official delegation are Marcus Pender, Joy LaFrance and Anthony DiMarco of Equal Assurance Holdings, which is a prospective major corporate sponsor of the 2014 Gay Games.

Travel for McCall, Schmotzer and the Sports Commission representatives will be paid for from the $700,000 the city authorized to cover the costs of bringing the event to Cleveland.

Positively Cleveland, Akron Summit CVB and the Rock Hall are paying for their representatives to go.

Synergy will not be going, and its activities continue to be a mystery.

Is Frivolity still on?

It is not known whether or not the Frivolity event scheduled for August 20 at the Rock Hall and the Great Lakes Science Center will occur or who it will benefit if it does.

Frivolity, which was heavily promoted at Cleveland Pride, was to benefit Synergy and promote the 2014 event. It was the second such event under that name. The first Frivolity, last year, drew more than 7,000 people.

Synergy has not officially cancelled the event, nor will they confirm its status to the press, its partner Positively Cleveland, or the venues.

“Right now I have it on hold,” said Rock and Roll Hall of Fame vice president of marketing Todd Mesek. “If we have an event, we’ll be ready.”

The Great Lakes Science Center did not return the Chronicle’s calls or e‑mails.

Mesek said he has not been told whether Frivolity will happen or not, but he remains flexible. He added that the Rock Hall can accommodate last-minute events.

Synergy founder and spokesperson Jeff Axberg has not responded to numerous e‑mail and phone requests on this matter.

Council members kept in the dark

Members of the Synergy Foundation Council, an advisory committee, have not been told the status of Frivolity, nor that Synergy’s license to hold the Games has been revoked.

Council members sign a confidentiality agreement, but two have talked to a reporter.

Akron Stonewall Democrats president Chip Clupper, who has only been on the council a few weeks, said he’s considering resigning, and hasn’t been there long enough to know anything.

Positively Cleveland’s Gronowski received a letter from Synergy July 23 notifying her that she is being excluded from the council. According to Positively Cleveland president Dennis Roche, the letter tells Gronowski she is “no longer suitable” to be on the council. So, her confidentiality agreement no longer applies.

Through Roche, Gronowski said Synergy never told members of the council about the license revocation, nor has it said anything about Frivolity.

Clupper said Frivolity is “on my calendar” but he doesn’t know whether it will happen. Clupper was also not told about the license by Synergy.

The Chronicle has obtained a copy of an e‑mail sent to council members by colleague Sheila Patterson calling press reports about Synergy “erroneous.” Patterson did not respond for comment for this report.

Roche has also not been told about Frivolity, even though Positively Cleveland is listed as an event partner.

“At this stage, we don’t know if it is on or off,” Roche said.

Sports Commission may host Games

Positively Cleveland and the Sports Commission announced July 26 that they are forming a joint partnership and will start to act more as a single entity.

Informed speculation and conventional wisdom is increasingly lining up around the Sports Commission eventually being awarded the license to hold the 2014 Games.

Roche said the agreement, which was in the works before the Gay Games, would allow the Sports Commission to leverage more resources toward it. Positively Cleveland is a much larger organization with a bigger staff and budget.

FGG spokesperson Kelley Stevens said non-LGBT organizations can be licensed to hold Gay Games, and that it has been done before.

Blogs were not the cause of problems

Other documents obtained by the Chronicle and interviews with sources close to events show that bloggers in Washington, D.C. and Boston were not the genesis of Synergy’s problems with FGG. They just reacted to it.

This is contrary to the narrative being advanced by Cleveland Ward 3 Councilor Joe Cimperman.

Cimperman, who sponsored the ordinance appropriating the $700,000 and who traveled to Cologne in the fall, told WKSU 89.7 FM reporter Vivian Goodman on July 22, “Look at where the initial blogs came from. This conversation started about a week and a half ago in Boston and Washington. Why is that? If I’m in those cities, the answer to that question is, if Cleveland doesn’t get it, we might.”

People in the two competing cities are bitter that Cleveland beat them for the Games last year, and media in both cities have reported alleged foul play by Synergy.

However, the blogging only started because people in those cities were tipped “as a courtesy” by an FGG official when the license was pulled from Synergy on July 6. The bloggers may have known before Cleveland did. Their subsequent allegations had nothing to do with FGG’s decision.

It appears that Synergy lost the license due to financial and reporting irregularities and over poor relationships and conflicts with FGG and partners.

FGG’s statement concludes by saying that discussions will be held in Cologne concerning the 2014 license and that a decision will be announced “later in August.”

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