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Gay Games IX still set for Cleveland
by Ross Forman

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Gay Games IX still will be held in Cleveland in 2014 … or so it appears.

There is, though, plenty of controversy lingering about the next quadrennial sports and cultural extravaganza, and no answers from the event's governing body, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG).

Cleveland was awarded the 2014 Games in October 2009, when the FGG selected the Ohio city over bids from Boston and Washington, D.C. The Cleveland Synergy Foundation was the winning host organization.

But then last summer—ironically on the heels of Gay Games VIII in Cologne, Germany—rumors started that there were "issues" between the Synergy Foundation and FGG. Ultimately, FGG officials terminated the license agreement they awarded to the Synergy Foundation because, according to the FGG, the Synergy Foundation failed to meet its obligations under the agreement.

FGG then announced that the Games would remain in Cleveland in 2014, with a new Cleveland-based local organizing group.

FGG awarded the 2014 Games to the Cleveland Special Events Group Corp., a non-profit entity that consists of both LGBT and non-LGBT organizations and individuals from the Cleveland and Akron area.

And what about the Cleveland Synergy Foundation?

Well, it is not going away quietly. The foundation filed a lawsuit against the FGG, charging it with breach of contract and defamation for ousting Synergy as the operator of the 2014 Games.

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

Officials with the Synergy Foundation went the legal route, hoping a judge will declare FGG's new licensing agreement with the Cleveland Special Events Corp. "null and void," thus forcing 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," Synergy attorney Richard Haber told the Washington Blade.

Haber added that FGG's bidding rules, which he said were part of the agreement with the Synergy Foundation, prevent the FGG from awarding the license to an entity other than the ones who submitted bids for the Games—and the Cleveland Synergy Foundation was the lone Cleveland-area group to submit a bid.

So what's the FGG take on the 2014 Games?

That's anyone's guess. Windy City Times has repeatedly reached out to FGG officials since October, but no one has replied to these requests.

And that's not it on the 2014 controversy.

The new organizing committee, the Cleveland Special Events Corp., was, apparently, formed to bid for and run the Republican National Convention in 2008 and has since changed its name. (Minneapolis ended up as host for the GOP convention.)

The chairman of the Cleveland Special Events Corp., is, in fact, the mayor of Cleveland, Frank G. Jackson—and the group's board of directors includes many other political personnel from Cleveland and Akron.

And there are not enough LGBT personnel, many have noted and questioned.

The 2014 Games appear to be headed to Cleveland, but who will be the local organizing committee? And how will the controversies over the past six-plus months affect the 2014 event? How will the events be changed by being hosted, for the first time, by a non-LGBT community entity?

There are questions, questions, questions—just not a lot of answers.

The Washington, D.C. group, Metropolitan Washington Gaymes, Inc., was named the runner-up bidder by the FGG in 2009, so D.C. would, apparently, be the city that should host the Games if the Cleveland hosting group proved unable to fulfill its licensing agreement—and officials with the D.C. group have said they, too, believe FGG rules prevent the federation from awarding the license to another group in Cleveland that did not submit an original bid for the Games in 2009.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson issued this statement when FGG announced the Games were staying in Cleveland:

"The Gay Games in 2014 will shine a national and international spotlight on the City of Cleveland. 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."

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