Two weeks after the Federation of Gay Games announced it had selected Hong Kong over D.C. and Guadalajara, Mexico to host the 2022 Gay Games, officials with the D.C. bid committee said they don’t begrudge Hong Kong winning the bid.
But bid committee chair Brent Minor joined D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and City Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) in saying issues beyond what they called D.C.’s extraordinarily comprehensive bid were at play in the selection of Hong Kong.
Minor, Bowser and Evans were among the city’s 32-member contingent that traveled to Paris last month to advocate for D.C.’s bid in the final round of the FGG’s site selection process during its annual General Assembly meeting.
All three said they believe the FGG clearly had been leaning heavily toward bringing the quadrennial international LGBT sports event, which attracts thousands of athletes and thousands more spectators, to Asia where it had never been since the Gay Games’ founding in 1982.
“I would only be telling you what my feeling is,” Bowser told the Washington Blade on Monday. “And my feeling is that they were set to go to Asia. That is what I would surmise.”
Bowser has said D.C.’s presentation in Paris, among other things, made it clear that Washington, D.C., is a supportive and welcoming city for LGBT people.
“As I said in my statement, I hope their kind of gamble is right,” she said. “I think the gamble is the Gay Games can change minds in Hong Kong” to bring about further advances in LGBT equality.
Minor agrees with that assessment and says he also agrees with others involved in D.C.’s effort to host the 2022 Games that a dislike for President Donald Trump by at least some of the Europeans and Australians who were among those who voted on the selection placed D.C. at a disadvantage.
“I think that was a factor, absolutely,” Minor said. “I think that was part of it. I think there is kind of a natural bias against the U.S. by some folks. We heard from some folks that the Games are going to come back to the United States at some point and that was just not going to be this time around,” he said.
Since its founding in 1982 with the first Gay Games taking place in San Francisco, U.S. cities served as host for the Games during most of the early years followed by Europe and Australia.
“I’m trying not to sound like sore losers and I hope people don’t interpret it that way at all,” Minor said. “I understand why people would have voted for Hong Kong. They wanted to move the Gay Games into an area where they haven’t been before,” he said. “And they felt that’s going to grow the Games movement. And it may.”
Minor said that although the Trump factor played a role in the decision not to select D.C. for the Games he sees a parallel between D.C.’s bid for the Games and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“I often referred to us as the Hillary Clinton of the race here,” he told the Blade. “We were the established, well researched, well-funded, well represented. We had all kinds of big names behind us,” he continued.
“We had Billie Jean King speaking for us and [former U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder speaking for us,” he said. “We had Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner, speaking for us. We had Briana Scurry, a two-time Olympic gold medalist there in person. We had Chris Mosier who’s probably the world’s most notable trans athlete as part of Team USA,” said Minor.
“And despite all of that – it was kind of like Hillary Clinton – despite all of that there was this overriding feeling of wanting change, of just wanting to do something different,” he said, with Hong Kong and Asia representing that change.
“I was very disappointed in the decision not to select Washington, D.C.,” said Evans, whose ward includes large numbers of LGBT residents. “Our presentation was by far the best,” he said. “And frankly we had a great delegation and our venues – everything about Washington, D.C. lends itself to hosting the Gay Games.”
Evans said he, too, understands that part of the decision was the desire to bring the Games to Asia and that the unpopularity of President Trump could have hurt D.C.’s chances. But he said he thought the D.C. delegation “dispelled that notion because Hong Kong is not British Hong Kong. It is communist China Hong Kong. So I think we’re more welcoming than Hong Kong would be.”
R. Tony Smith, an FGG spokesperson, told the Blade in an email that the FGG General Assembly, which selects the Gay Games’ host cities, “is comprised of an international community of delegate members and board of directors” that makes up the “governing and voting body” for the FGG.
“The voting for Gay Games host cities is a private individual process, and the information provided to help our voting members is a comprehensive process including site selection analysis, transparent question and answer opportunities, incredible presentations from potential host cities, and more,” he said.
He said voting members are “encouraged to simply vote for the host city that best serves the FGG’s mission of promoting equality in and through sport and culture and upholds the FGG ideals of Participation, Inclusion and Personal Best.”
Asked if a dislike for Trump or a desire to bring the Games to Asia for the first time played a role in the delegates’ decision to pick Hong Kong, Smith said, “It’s a private individual decision and these votes are secret.”
Vince Micone, a D.C. LGBT rights advocate and sports enthusiast, served as chair of the D.C. Gay Games bid committee seeking to bring the Games to D.C. in 2014. D.C. lost that competition to Cleveland. Micone said he agrees that the FGG and its voting members most likely selected Hong Kong to bring the Games to Asia for the first time.
He notes that as a former bid committee chair he knows the effort to prepare a competitive bid for the Gay Games is a long, difficult, time-consuming and costly process.
“Based on what I’ve read it sounds like they wanted to get the Games to a part of the world where they’ve never been before,” Micone said. “And frankly if that’s what their criteria is going to be they ought to be transparent about those issues so that places that are not in their desired location don’t spend the time and effort putting together a bid,” he said.
Minor points out that the bids appear to be a source of revenue for the FGG. He said the FGG charged a bidding fee of $15,000 to eight cities that submitted bids for the 2022 Gay Games last year in the first round of bidding. When D.C., Hong Kong and Guadalajara were selected earlier this year as the three finalist cities in the bidding competition they were charged an additional $15,000 each for the processing of their final bids, Minor said, bringing the total cost for the three cities to $30,000 each.
He said that under FGG rules, Hong Kong as the winning city will be required to pay an additional $15,000 fee in January.
The FGG’s Site Inspection Report, which the voting delegates used to assess the sporting venues and other factors associated with the three finalist cities, gave Hong Kong a slightly higher rating than D.C. and Guadalajara. On a scale of zero to 5, Hong Kong received a 4.5 score compared to a 4.0 score for D.C. and a 3.0 score for Guadalajara.
The 323-page report goes into great details on the findings of the three-member inspection team that traveled to each of the three cities earlier this year.
Minor said he thought some of the report’s ratings for D.C. and the other two cities on individual venues such as playing fields and accessibility to and from the venues appeared to be “subjective.”
Despite these concerns, Minor said he and other members of the D.C. bid committee, including city officials, remain supportive of the Gay Games.
“We are not sore losers,” he said. “Team D.C. is going to remain in the Federation as members.”