June 29, 2017 at 10:43 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. Gay Games bid rally draws 1,200
Muriel Bowser, gay news, Washington Blade, Gay Games

About 1,200 people, including Mayor Muriel Bowser, packed the National Museum of the American Indian Wednesday night for a rally in support of D.C.’s bid to host the 2022 Gay Games. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 1,200 people, including Mayor Muriel Bowser and dozens of LGBT athletes, packed the grand entrance hall of the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall Wednesday night for a rally in support of D.C.’s bid to host the 2022 Gay Games.

The rally took place one day after the Site Selection Committee of the Federation of Gay Games arrived in D.C. to visit more than two-dozen sites in the District and suburban Maryland and Virginia where a wide range of competitive sporting events would take place if D.C. were to be selected to host the Games.

The committee just completed site visits in Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico, the two cities competing with D.C. to host the 2022 Games in the final round of the selection process.

Officials with the Federation of Gay Games, which will make its final decision on a host city later this year, have said the quadrennial LGBT athletic competition draws between 12,000 and 15,000 athletes and more than 10,000 spectators to the city hosting the Games.

“I am so proud to be here as mayor of Washington, D.C. – 681,000 people strong – to strongly endorse our bid for the 2022 Gay Games,” Bowser told the rally.

“This is Washington, D.C., one of the largest LGBT communities in the United States,” she said. “This is Washington, D.C., one of the most active and strong and getting stronger transgender communities in the entire world.”

Amid loud applause and cheers, Bowser added, “So this is what I want to leave you with. We have what it takes in 2022 to be the most inclusive Gay Games ever. And hosting the Gay Games in Washington, D.C. would also show our leadership to the world that we lead on inclusiveness and diversity.”

Brent Minor, chair of the Washington, D.C. Gay Games XI Bid Committee, told the rally that D.C.’s longstanding LGBT sports community has sent contingents to compete in the Gay Games since its founding in 1984. He said a sizable D.C. contingent of athletes and spectators was expected to attend the 2018 Gay Games in Paris.

Pointing to the large turnout of LGBT athletes and sports enthusiasts attending the rally from the D.C. area, Minor said, “The heart of this bid is you – the 34 sports clubs that are members of Team D.C. This is an amazing group that raises literally hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities every year,” he said.

“These clubs engage over 6,000 people in all kinds of sports and they build and strengthen our community,” he said. “You are what makes the difference between simply another sports tournament and our experience and the legacy of a movement – the Gay Games.”

Minor and others on the D.C. Gay Games Bid Committee have said the D.C. government has committed to provide $2 million to help finance the Games if D.C. is selected as the 2022 host city. He has noted that the two city agencies that promote D.C. as a tourist destination, Events D.C. and Destination D.C., have helped to prepare the city’s bid for the Gay Games.

According to Minor, representatives of the two agencies attending the rally estimated the turnout to be about 1,200 based on their experience in crowd estimates of other events.

“Based on previous Gay Games, it is estimated that this event could generate between $120 million to $140 million for the region,” Minor said in a statement released prior to the rally.

Dave Killian, chair of the Federation of Gay Games Site Committee, told the rally the Gay Games are the world’s largest sporting and cultural event that’s open to everyone throughout the world.

“And hosting the Gay Games is a very big challenge that requires mobilization of resources from the LGBT community as well as from the allied communities,” he said. “So I guess the message that we want to send is the Gay Games offers the message of solidarity and hope for a bright future and promotes personal development for sports and culture.”

Others who spoke at the rally were Briana Scurry, an Olympic gold medalist and former member of the Women’s World Cup Soccer Team; Kris Pritchard, a local gay athlete and member of D.C.’s LGBT water polo team, the Washington Wet Skins, who has competed in previous Gay Games; and Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner of the National Football League.

Tagliabue said that as a D.C. resident of 50 years and as someone who has been involved in sports all his life, he is certain that D.C. would be the perfect host for the Gay Games. He also noted that his son and son-in-law are gay and active supporters of the LGBT rights movement.

“So they know and we know in our family the importance of the Gay Games,” Tagliabue said. “It’s not just about sport. It’s about human dignity. It’s about respect. It’s about not rolling things back to the past. It’s about the future becoming brighter and brighter.”

Minor said Tagliabue has joined famed tennis star Billie Jean King, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and transgender U.S. Olympic Committee member Chris Mosher as honorary co-chairs of the D.C. bid committee.

Prior to the start of the rally, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) expressed their support for D.C.’s bid for the Gay Games at a reception at the museum.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and D.C.’s Different Drummers, an LGBT marching band, performed at the rally. Also appearing at the event were the D.C. chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a group that describes itself as a satirical “order of queer nuns” that uses “humor and irreverent wit” to expose bigotry and promote equality.

Bill Horton, a member of the local LGBT outdoors group Adventuring, called the rally an uplifting display of support and solidarity among the D.C.-area LGBT community for hosting the Gay Games.

“It was wonderful,” he said. “I was so proud of so many people that turned out from D.C. and the help of the D.C. government as well.”

Asked what he thinks the chances are of D.C. being picked to host the Games, Horton appeared to reflect the views of many of those attending the rally.

“I’m very hopeful,” he said. “We’re definitely the best place in the United States if not the world. So I’ve got my fingers crossed. I believe it’s going to happen.”

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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