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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Tempers flare as World OutGames Miami is cancelled hours before opening ceremonies
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2017-05-26

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The quadrennial World OutGames was cancelled May 26—the day before the opening ceremonies were to be held—with hundreds or thousands of participants en route or already in South Florida.

The board of directors for World OutGames Miami issued a statement:

"It is with deep regret that due to financial burdens, World OutGames must cancel opening and closing ceremonies and sports programming with the exception of aquatics, country western dance and soccer. The Human Rights Conference and cultural programs will continue as planned. We thank everyone who has supported the effort and apologize to those who will be impacted by this difficult decision."

The 10-day event was to begin May 26 and run through June 4, with multiple sporting events, culture events, and a human rights conference. This would have been the first-ever World OutGames in the United States, the fourth overall edition of multi-sport showcase for the LGBT community.

World OutGames are licensed by the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA) and debuted in Montreal in 2006, weeks after the Gay Games VII culminated in Chicago. In 2009, the event was held in Copenhagen and then in Antwerp, Belgium, in 2013.

"This is the official end of the OutGames," said Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of Outsports.com .

Miami Beach police and the state attorney's office announced they were opening a fraud investigation "due to the potential misappropriation of funds," the Miami Herald reported.

Windy City Times is not aware of any Chicagoans who were directly impacted by the cancelation of the World OutGames. Steven Figg, of Chicago, has participated in diving events, which are being run by the International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics (IGLA).

Organizers predicted in videos to promote the OutGames that 15,000 would participate, but it is believed that less than 2,000 were registered.

Social media was, naturally, abuzz with irate, profanity-spewing participants from around the world now in Miami without a gold medal to pursue. Lawsuits are, no doubt, pending as registrants wonder if they will ever receive refunds.

Yannick Asselin, who lives in Hong Kong, said on Facebook that it was "shameful" of organizers to wait until the last minute to cancel the majority of the event. "In April you said that some sports were cancelled, but that otherwise everything else was on track," he added. "Some of us traveled from halfway around the world and incurred great expense which could have been avoided if you had been more honest. Very disappointed."

Asselin added, "[I am] feeling disappointed and a little betrayed that most #OutGames sports competitions have been cancelled mere hours before scheduled starts. I hope the board can find a way to redeem themselves and do something for the thousands of athletes that trained for months and traveled so far to compete. This is a sad day for the LGBT Sports Movement."

Joey Tai, of Toronto, didn't mince any words on Facebook. He wrote, "Are you fucking people kidding me right now?! Do you have any idea how much money we dropped to attend?! Not to mention uniforms, loss of wages, loss of vacation time, etc. Expect to be sued if we do not get at least our registration money back."

Tai had updated his Facebook profile photo this week and wrote, "Looking forward to playing in the 2017 World OutGames … ."

Bobi Dea King said on Facebook that she spent $6,000 to attend the OutGames, coming from Australia—and had been planning the trip for two years.

Iain Ohkura traveled to Miami from New York City and, of course, was livid that the OutGames had been cancelled. But he seemed to take a positive approach on Facebook: "We will turn Miami/Fort Lauderdale into a gaytastic time by ourselves. Pick up beach volleyball, sand soccer, kite flying, Frisbee, whatever. Let's unite and do our own opening on the ceremonies etc. We are too good to let it get us down."

Also, a 2017 World OutGames Alternative page has been started on Facebook.

The first OutGames in Montreal got off to a controversial and rocky start. The event was a break off from Gay Games when the host city declined to sign the Federal of Gay Games contract and cancelled their relationship just two-and-a-half years before the 2006 event. Chicago submitted another bid and won the right to host Gay Games VII, and Montreal launched GLISA and OutGames. The Montreal event ultimately lost millions of dollars, while the Chicago event broken even and had larger participation. Nonetheless, OutGames continued, but did switch to being held the year prior to Gay Games, and in recent years there were negotiations happening to attempt to merge the two quadrennial events. Those negotiations broke down, and now it would appear that they would be done.


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