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Outgames '17 in Miami Beach
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times

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The quadrennial World Outgames will return to North America in 2017, making its U.S. debut in the process, the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA) announced Feb. 28.

The 2017 Outgames was awarded to Miami Beach, Florida—and the city's mayor, Matti Bower, was in Antwerp, Belgium, where the announcement was made.

The 2013 Outgames—a multi-sport extravaganza, mixed with a human-rights conference—will be held this summer in Antwerp, marking the third-ever, week-long LGBT event that draws thousands of attendees from around the world. The first World Outgames was held in 2006 in Montreal, and then in 2009 in Copenhagen.

"We are doing cartwheels; we're so thrilled" with the announcement, said Richard Murry, a board member of the Miami Beach/Miami LGBT Sports and Cultural League Inc.

"We think we won the bid because Miami Beach and Miami have become a world-class destination for travelers and tourists. We've really become a world-class city, and people from around the world want to come here; they want to experience our culture and nightlife, and all we have to offer."

The city of Reykjavik, Iceland, was runner-up—and its mayor, Jon Gnarr, also was in Antwerp for the announcement.

"We thought it was really important as the Outgames grew in importance and popularity as a worldwide sporting and human rights event that a U.S. city host it," said Murry, 52, who lives in Miami Beach and runs a PR firm. "We thought it was really important that Miami Beach step up to the plate and represent the U.S. on this global stage, and show the world about our LGBT inclusiveness and the power of the LGBT movement here."

Hours after the GLISA announcement, the Federation of Gay Games announced it had received bid books from groups in Amsterdam, Limerick, London, Orlando, and Paris, each vying to be chosen to host Gay Games X in 2018.

"Bidding is an intensive and costly process, mobilizing dozens of volunteers in each bidding city," FGG officer of site selection Dennis Sneyers said in a statement. "We began this process with over 20 expressions of interest. Groups from seven cities submitted letters of intent to bid. Five responded to our Request for Proposals. Now all five groups have completed this most recent major step on the road to Cleveland, [host of the 2014 Gay Games,] where our site selection meeting will take place in October."

So how will Miami Beach impact Orlando's bid for the 2018 Gay Games, which is the lone U.S. bid?

"I don't know how this [announcement] is going to impact Orlando. The Gay Games and the World Outgames are two completely different organizations, run by different staffs, etc. Of course we'd love for both [events] to come to Florida," Murry said.

Roger Brigham, a wrestling coach and longtime volunteer/activist associated with the Gay Games, said, "I do not think [the Miami Beach announcement] would have any effect on the Orlando bid for [the 2018] Gay Games. It is too far out to be able to gauge anything about any of the prospective bids for 2018. Each will be judged on its own merits."

Kurt Dahl, the FGG co-president, did not reply to Windy City Times' request for comment about how the 2017 World Outgames announcement will impact Orlando's bid. "We congratulate Miami on being selected to host [Outgames] 2017," Dahl said.

Daniel Vaudrin, the GLISA co-president, said he "cannot comment" about the FGG selection for 2018. He did say that all GLISA voting members were aware that Orlando is a candidate for 2018, though it was not mentioned during discussion about the Outgames' site selection or the presentations.

"Miami had a strong bid with many elements that are new for global Outgames," said Julia Applegate, the co-president of GLISA. "As a bilingual, multicultural American city with a large and influential LGBT community, Miami can offer a unique environment for Outgames participants from all over the world, with a special appeal for people from Spanish-speaking countries. The organizing committee also has strong ties to the activist community and youth populations, both of which will contribute to a well-rounded Outgames that encompass the three GLISA pillars: sport, culture and human rights."

There were, reportedly, 86 votes cast on the 2017 site, although the exact results won't be released until later this spring, Vaudrin said.

GLISA officials are expecting 10,000 attendees for the 2017 Games.

"Miami Beach is very well prepared; they have amazing support from the mayor and other [local politicians,] and they really have some brilliant ideas and an amazing local community ready to support them," Vaudrin said. "At GLISA, we have been trying to penetrate [into] Latin America and Central America countries. Miami has a lot of Latino flavor, so I think [local organizers] will really be able to outreach to that community. That definitely was a positive point to their [bid.]

"Bringing the Outgames back to North America was very important to our members. We saw during their presentation that there was a lot of openness to the rest of the world, so it's not just going to be a U.S. event. It really is going to be an amazing international event.

"Coming to the U.S. for the first time is a really important first step for GLISA."

Vaudrin said Reykjavik, Iceland, was a "very real" contender for the 2017 event. Iceland's prime minister, J�"hanna Sigur��ard�"ttir, is a lesbian.

Brigham said Miami Beach is "an interesting choice."

"In its previous incarnations, the World Outgames have had what could be viewed as weak participation from the United States and built around European marketing," Brigham said. "Combined with the expressed community desire not to have a second quadrennial event and with the Federation of Gay Games having the offer out there for GLISA to partner in a conference for 2018, it is hard to project 2017 in Florida as a viable prospect."

Still, many are excited for the 2017 event hitting U.S. soil, such as Brian Kupersmit, president of the predominantly gay Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA).

"It's incredibly exciting to see the Outgames coming to the U.S. in 2017, especially in a fun, diverse city like Miami," Kupersmit said. "Events like this are so critical to continuing to strengthen and inspire our ever-growing LGBT community worldwide. I look forward to a very strong contingent representing Chicago in Miami in 2017."

Vaudrin confirmed that Miami Beach representatives will be in Antwerp this summer for the 2013 Outgames to promote the 2017 event.

Murry said the outdoors will have a key role in the 2017 event. "[Due to] the weather here, we can really showcase sporting events in an outdoor environment more so than the other host cities have really been able to."

Murry added, "Because Miami Beach is such a progressive city, our human rights conference is going to take a very prominent, very center-stage role in the whole Outgames process because Miami Beach is really progressive in its stage toward inclusiveness and incorporating the LGBT community into the fabric of the community at large."

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