August 3, 2010 at 1:09 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay Games ousts organizer, but event stays in Cleveland

The international LGBT sports organization that picked Cleveland over D.C. to host the 2014 Gay Games announced Tuesday that it has revoked its contract with the Cleveland foundation it chose to organize the games.

And in an action questioned by D.C. sports groups, the Federation of Gay Games also said it “remains committed” to keeping the quadrennial event in Cleveland, even though some people believe its rules call for awarding the games to the organization and city whose bid it selected as the runner up.

The FGG selected the Metropolitan Washington Gaymes, Inc., a coalition of D.C.-area LGBT sports groups, as the runner up for the games last year, when it announced it had picked the Cleveland Synergy Foundation as the host for the 2014 event in Cleveland.

“As the runner up city, we expressed our hope that they would follow what we’ve interpreted as the accepted procedure, which is if the contract could not be executed [in Cleveland] they would go to the runner up,” said Brent Minor, president of Team D.C., one of the LGBT sports organizations that’s part of Metropolitan Washington Gaymes.

“So this is news to us,” Minor said. “It’s very disappointing.”

Minor and Vince Micone, president of Metropolitan Washington Gaymes, said the Gaymes group would consider whether to question the decision and possibly seek to reverse it when the FGG General Assembly meets in Cologne, Germany later this month.

The General Assembly is the organization’s full governing body and can overrule action by the FGG board, which is believed to have made the decision to stick with Cleveland for the 2014 Gay Games.

The General Assembly meeting is set to take place after the 2010 Gay Games, now being held in Cologne, concludes Aug. 7.

But Kelly Stevens, a member of the FGG board and spokesperson for the organization, issued a statement from Cologne disputing Minor and Micone’s interpretation of the rules related to runner up status.

“The site selection rules were set up to provide a process in case an original license agreement with a host city could not be reached,” he told the Blade. “They are not written to award the games to another city in case of change of management once planning has begun. The FGG will honor the vote for Cleveland as the host of the 2014 Gay Games.

“Naturally, the FGG will discuss the situation at its annual meeting,” he said. “We will not be issuing any further comments. Our time [now] is devoted to Cologne.”

In announcing its decision to oust the Cleveland Synergy Foundation as the Gay Games organizing entity, the FGG reversed an announcement one week earlier saying it would not disclose its decision on the Synergy Foundation until after the General Assembly meeting.

The decision to revoke Synergy’s license didn’t come as a surprise to Gay Games observers, who have read reports coming from Cleveland about the FGG’s and Cleveland city officials’ dissatisfaction with the foundation. Some press reports have noted Synergy faced problems related to financial “irregularities.”

An official with Cleveland’s Office of Economic Development, which was overseeing Cleveland’s pledge of $700,000 in financial support for the Gay Games, said in a letter leaked to the media that Synergy had failed to meet deadlines for submitting required reports to the city.

“The Federation of Gay Games ended its relationship with Cleveland Synergy Foundation, effective 6 July 2010,” said the FCC in its Aug. 3 statement. “The FGG remains committed to the host city of Cleveland, and the State of Ohio to host Gay Games IX in 2014.

“Cleveland city officials and a delegation of regional organizations and supporters will accept the flag of the Federation of Gay Games in Cologne, Germany on 7 August 2010 at the closing ceremony from the city officials of Cologne, Germany.”

It adds, “The FGG, cooperating with its Cleveland partners, continues to work hard to ensure that planning for the 2014 Gay Games progresses at a satisfactory pace.”

Cleveland city officials said they were scrambling to put together a new entity to organize and operate the games. Many of the officials involved with Synergy Foundation’s initial plans for the games were in Cologne this week attending this year’s Gay Games and taking steps to officially launch plans for the 2014 games.

D.C. activists following the developments said it was unprecedented for the FGG to agree to hold the games in a city without first approving a detailed bid by an organization. Many observers familiar with the Gay Games believe the organizations selected to host the event in nearly all previous years have been LGBT groups or coalitions that were picked to hold both the games and LGBT cultural events that traditionally have accompanied the Gay Games.

“Informed speculation and conventional wisdom is increasingly lining up around the [Greater Cleveland] Sports Commission eventually being awarded the license to hold the 2014 Games,” reported Gay People’s Chronicle, an Ohio LGBT news publication.

The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission is a non-gay group.

Although Cleveland officials were expected to carry forward the plans submitted by Synergy Foundation and approved by the FGG last year, Cleveland spokesperson Andrea Taylor told the Blade on Tuesday that she could not comment on specific plans or details.

Minor said he would not object to a straight organization getting the license. But he noted that historically, gay groups have won the bids to organize the games because FGG leaders determined they were most sensitive to the cultural, social and civil rights goals of the FGG and the LGBT community.

According to Minor, the FGG General Assembly specifically voted at its 2009 meeting to approve the Metropolitan Washington Gaymes as the runner up for the 2014 Gay Games. He said it was “widely understood” that the Games would go to the runner up group and its home city should the organization winning the bid fail to fulfill its obligations under its licensing contract.

“We certainly support the Gay Games movement. And we think it’s important that they abide by their own rules and that they abide by the general principles of fair play and the will of the General Assembly, which was quite clear,” he said.

“So I think the Federation owes Washington and indeed the whole Gay Games community a real explanation on this,” he said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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