The beginning of this year’s Gay Games reminded me of the efforts a small group of dedicated individuals undertook trying to bring the Gay Games to D.C. There were years of hard work and too many 7:30 a.m. meetings to count as we tried to make it happen. We know and respect that there were groups like ours working just as hard to bring the games to their city. Despite not winning the games for D.C. we are immensely proud that there was such a large contingent of athletes from metropolitan Washington at the Games and that they brought home a boatload of medals.
When we incorporated Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Gaymes Inc. in October of 2003 we did so with the idea of making the nation’s capital the home of LGBT sports. We wanted to prepare for an eventual bid for the Gay Games which is the world’s largest sporting and cultural event organized by, and specifically for, LGBT athletes, artists and musicians. The idea was to bring numerous LGBT sporting events to the nation’s capital and prepare for the Gay Games. The initial board of directors of the group included Lynne Brown, Taneen Carvell, Vincent Micone, Brent Minor, Clark Ray and me. Tony Anderson, a partner at Thompson, Coburn LLP was our general counsel. We eventually added another six members to the board and worked closely with Team DC to garner the support of the city, both the mayor and the D.C. Council, to move our vision forward.
As the year a decision to choose the site for the 2014 games approached we felt we had a real chance to make the nation’s capital the host city. The Gay Games is run by a group called the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) and it chooses the host city. By 2008 we were ready and responded to their call for bids. At that time we enlisted the help of the Greater Washington Sports Alliance, the group that had been initially organized to help D.C. prepare a bid for the Olympics. We worked diligently and were excited as we submitted our proposal. At the FGG meeting in Cape Town in October 2008 we were one of five cities selected to make a formal bid. It turned out only three: Cleveland, Boston and D.C. actually submitted final bids.
Preparing a final bid was no easy task. Our bid was well over 60 pages and included everything from a detailed budget to plans for recruiting volunteers; staffing the games; a proposed program and venues; and the ability of the city and surrounding jurisdictions to accommodate the thousands of athletes and guests with hotel rooms, transportation, insurance, interpreter services and more.
As we prepared the final presentation, which was to be made in Cologne, Germany in September of 2009, we had commitments from the District government for $1 million to support the Games. We had confirmed venue sites for all the sports and commitments from surrounding jurisdictions to support the event. A large contingent went to Cologne to make the final presentation of what we proposed to call the FREEDOM GAMES. Putting on a Gay Games is no easy task. The proposed budget for the event was just under $10 million.
Clearly there was major disappointment when it was announced that Cleveland was the chosen city. Then came another little flurry of activity in 2010 when the group that had won the bid for Cleveland appeared to go into bankruptcy and once again it seemed that D.C. had a chance to host the games. But in 2011 all that was settled and Cleveland remained the location for the 2014 Gay Games.
There is one vision of the group that formed Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Gaymes Inc. still alive in some of our hearts and that is to have an LGBT Athletes Hall of Fame here in the District of Columbia. As more professional athletes come out and we understand the impact of sports on the general culture, that is something that could have a direct impact on the lives of many people. Just imagine how different the world will be for young people, both gay and straight, who have LGBT sports heroes as role models.
When heroes like Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova and Greg Louganis won’t be the rarity but more Michael Sams will be out and proud and show the world that we are truly everywhere. A Hall of Fame in the nation’s capital would be the perfect place to honor them.