Let the Games Go On!
The Gay Games in Chicago, July 15-22, and the Outgames in Montreal, July 26-August 5, are finally happening and Kansas City will be part of at least one of them.
According to Dave Anders of Team Kansas City, over 50 athletes from greater Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka and surrounding areas in Kansas and Missouri will be at the Gay Games. They have signed up for beach volleyball, the bench press, bowling, darts, golf, the marathon, mountain biking, physique, power lifting, softball, swimming, tennis, track and field, the triathalon and the 5k and 10k races.
Softball is not in the mix. “They’re geared more to the Gay World Series of Softball ” in Ft. Lauderdale in August, Anders said. The highest number of athletes from Team Kansas City are in the running and swimming competitions.
Team Kansas City is an informal group pulled together by KC Waves swimmer Dan Melton (see Sports Complex article on page 26), Brock Boyd, and Dave Anders. It’s an informal organization with no board of directors or elected officials. Though they got off to a late start, Anders, who also has managed the athletic activities for Kansas City Gay Pride, is pleased with the turnout of athletes. St. Louis also has its own team.
The last Games were held in Sydney, Australia, in 2002. Those games were controversial for several reasons including accusations of financial mismanagement. Discussions between Montreal and the Federation of Gay Games for this year’s Games broke down and it was eventually decided to award the bid to Chicago. Since Montreal was already committed to doing an athletic event with contracts and agreements in place, they decided to proceed with their own Outgames. That’s why the two events are happening only one week apart. In future they will be in different years.
Libby Post, who writes the syndicated column, Lesbian Notions featured in Camp is managing marketing for the Outgames through her marketing company, OutMarketing.biz. “We’re doing a lot of different things to get people to register,” she said. They are offering a low cost $75 activity only entry fee for athletes with limited availability and a $20 “all access” bracelet that allows spectators to see the majority of the 52 events. “We’re more cost-effective” said Post.
Celebrities will be a big draw at both events. Both the Chicago Gay Games and Montreal Outgames sell tickets to the opening and closing ceremonies independent of the entry fees charged to athletes. Chicago Gay Games has Megan Mullally of TV’s Will & Grace, comedian Margaret Cho, British rocker Andy Bell of Erasure, and many other entertainers for the opening ceremonies. The closing ceremony features Cindy Lauper along with others; Heartland Men’s Chorus conductor Joseph Nadeau will be directing. The Outgames boasts singers k.d. lang, Martha Wash, Deborah Cox, and entertainment from Cirque du Soleil for the opening ceremony. Liza Minelli tops the list for the closing ceremonies, along with International performers Marjo, Mélanie Renaud, Marie-Chantal Toupin, and Tracy Young.
As expected, the Outgames seem to be drawing more international attendance—16,000 athletes registered from 120 countries—but with 12,000 athletes from 70 countries, the Chicago Gay Games is also doing well. The Chicago Tribune reports that “Local businesses, which stand to land an estimated $50 million to $80 million from the influx of visitors, are pumped.” The Tribune also reports that Gay Games media spokesman Kevin Boyer is estimating they will finish $250,000 in the black. The Chicago games have ignited controversy from conservatives who claim the city is advocating the homosexual lifestyle.
Many tried to organize boycotts of Games sponsors Kraft Foods and Walgreens, both based in Chicago, but had no impact. The suburb of Crystal Lake tried to force its Park District to prohibit use of its lake for the rowing event but eventually permission was given. Conservatives once again protested the waiver of HIV-positive athletes and visitors, claiming it would be a public health threat. Five Republican Cook County Board of Commissioners withdrew their name from the Chicago proclamation that welcomes the Gay Games.
Team Kansas City has been holding numerous fundraisers to cover their expenses. The final one is a send-off party on July 9 at Tootsies. Most athletes have been making their own accommodation arrangements over the last several months. “They have so many different areas for people to stay, hostels, dorm rooms and housing offered by area residents,” said Anders. “Most people in the swim team got together and pooled their money for a condo.”
Age groups vary said Anders. “It’s pretty diverse, we have young ones, 21 or 22, and a couple probably in their ‘40s or ‘50s. For example, my sport is bowling and they have different classes of whether you’re a league bowler, social bowler, and within that are age groups.”
Some area athletes will stay the entire five days; others are coming up for the opening ceremonies, returning to Kansas City, and then going back for their events. “They’re very strict about the rules for the opening and closing ceremonies,” Anders said. For example, the Team Kansas City banner has to be free of corporate logos and the marchers have to wear team uniforms. He reports that even the T-Shirts have rules of only one corporate logo can be used and there are specific rules about size and placement of the logo.