October 19, 2010 at 1:47 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
New Cleveland group picked for 2014 Gay Games

Organizers of the Gay Games this week reconfirmed their decision to keep the international LGBT athletic event in Cleveland in 2014 by naming a new Cleveland-based organization to operate the games.

The development raises further doubts about whether the 2014 games could be moved to D.C., which submitted a bid for the event through an LGBT sports coalition.

The Federation of Gay Games announced Monday that it has awarded Cleveland Special Events Group Corp., a non-profit entity, an exclusive license to host and run the 2014 games in the Cleveland-Akron area. The new group consists of LGBT and non-LGBT organizations and individuals from the Cleveland area.

The action comes less than two months after the Cleveland Synergy Foundation filed a lawsuit against the FGG, charging it with breach of contract and defamation for ousting Synergy as the operator of the 2014 Gay Games. FGG officials said they terminated the license agreement they awarded Synergy Foundation in 2009 because Synergy failed to meet its obligations under the agreement.

In its lawsuit, Synergy disputes that claim, saying it was the FGG that violated the terms of the license.

An attorney for Synergy told the Blade Tuesday that Synergy officials expect the court overseeing the lawsuit to declare the new licensing agreement with Cleveland Special Events Group “null and void” and to force the FGG to return the license to Synergy.

“We believe that the evidence will clearly show that they…are in breach of the license agreement with us and that they have no authority to award the license to another entity,” said Synergy attorney Richard Haber.

According to Haber, FGG’s bidding rules, which he said were part of the agreement with Synergy, prevent the FGG from awarding the license to an entity other than the ones who submitted bids for the games last year. Cleveland Synergy was the only Cleveland area group to submit a bid.

Organizations representing LGBT sporting groups in Washington and Boston submitted competing bids but were passed over in favor of Cleveland Synergy in October 2009, when the FGG first announced the 2014 games would be held in Cleveland.

The D.C. group, Metropolitan Washington Gaymes, Inc. was named the runner up bidder by the FGG, placing D.C. as the city that should host the games if the Cleveland hosting group was unable to fulfill its licensing agreement. Officials with the D.C. group have said they, too, believe FGG rules prevent FGG from awarding the license to another group in Cleveland that did not submit an original bid for the games in 2009.

Haber said Cleveland Synergy will ask the court to expedite court action on his client’s lawsuit against the FGG. FGG and other parties named as defendants in the lawsuit, including the City of Cleveland, must file their response to the lawsuit by Nov. 12 under a deadline set by the judge in the case. The judge scheduled a pre-trial hearing for Nov. 15.

In a Saturday statement announcing the selection of the new Cleveland group to operate the games, FGG officials made no mention of the pending lawsuit.

“The new organization represents the LGBT community and high quality civic leaders of Cleveland,” the statement says. “The City of Cleveland will continue to be very involved in assisting the world’s largest sports and cultural event to come to Cleveland-Akron, Ohio.”

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, who has pledged to provide city financing for the games, issued his own statement praising the FGG’s decision to keep the games in Cleveland.

“The Gay Games in 2014 will shine a national and international spotlight on the City of Cleveland,” he said. “Our representatives either lead or are a part of some of Cleveland’s and the region’s most dynamic institutions and will help show the world our greatness.”

At the time it ousted Cleveland Synergy from its role as operator of the games, sources familiar with the FGG said FGG officials would consider moving the event to D.C. or Boston if Cleveland failed to put together a qualified new LGBT oriented entity to operate the games in Cleveland by Dec. 15. LGBT sports ethusiasts in D.C. were hopeful that D.C. would be selected to host the games in its status as the runner up city. But this week’s action by the FGG makes a change in location unlikely unless the court rules against the FGG and Synergy Foundation is deemed unable to host the games.

Some observers say the court case could drag on for a year or more, making it difficult for D.C.’s group to make arrangements to host the Gay Games even if the FGG eventually offers it the license.

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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