Pictured: Volleyball players at the 2006 Gay Games. Photo by Ryan Kolodziej
The countdown to Cologne is at the one-year mark … and Team Chicago is ready to celebrate
On Wed., Aug. 5, Team Chicago is co-sponsoring a party, highlighted by on-site registration at a discounted prize.
There already are about 1,500 registrants, including about 800 from the United States, with as many as 10,000 expected, said Ingo Schneider of Games Cologne.
"Each of the past four Gay Games have had around 11,000 to 12,000 registrants. Because of the economy, we are planning for 10,000, but budgeting for 8,000. We can scale up as required," Schneider said.
Windy City Times: The Games are a year away. Thoughts?
Ingo Schneider: It is amazing how quickly time passes. Six years ago we started planning for the 2010 Gay Games and today we have less than 400 days until our Opening Ceremony. Fortunately, our planning is all on-target and several sub-projects are ahead of schedule. We are therefore confident that Gay Games VIII in 2010 will be a great event.
WCT: At this point, what pleases you and what worries you?
IS: The connections we have made with LGBT sports people worldwide have been inspiring. Everyone has been so supportive and helpful. There are many Chicago 2006 organizers who have been very active and this has made our job much easier.
The global economic crisis has impacted us, of course. The advertising budgets of many well-known companies have been reduced, so with less sponsorship money our initial marketing strategies have had to change. We have also changed our fundraising focus from pure sponsorship to also now ask for donations from the public. This change is being successful and so we are confident that we will achieve our overall budget.
WCT: What's the marketing plan for the next year?
IS: We will continue to do outreach to sports and culture organizers throughout the world. In North America, we are beginning to focus more strongly on the city teams, especially larger cities, where the city teams will require more support. Several cities are holding "one year to go" parties the first week of August, including Chicago.
WCT: Where can you register?
IS: Registration is available exclusively at www.games-cologne.com
WCT: Are there any registration goals of note? For instance, by Sept. 1, you want to have [ a certain ] number registered?
IS: By the end of 2009, we hope to have 3,000 registered participants.
WCT: What are you doing to encourage participation during a tough economic period?
IS: We have identified lower-cost housing and encourage people to reserve hotels soon to save money. We also have done some registration discounts at events and with city teams to encourage earlier registration.
WCT: What are some different things planned that did not happen or were not done in Chicago in 2006?
IS: One example of a change is a new volunteer communications system. Modern-communications technology is progressing rapidly, so even just four years later this Internet-based system will create many benefits. Details about this communication system will be published in the autumn of 2009.
WCT: What are your plans for the Outgames in Copenhagen?
IS: We have had a friendly relationship with the Copenhagen organizers of the Outgames from the very beginning. We will have a strong presence on behalf of Cologne in 2010 in Copenhagen, of course. We will have an information booth in their [ Outgames ] Village and will distribute our flyers at each sport venue.
WCT: Do you foresee the Outgames and Gay Games ever merging?
IS: This is a question for the organizers of the Federation of Gay Games. Our mission is to present a successful Gay Games VIII in Cologne next year.
WCT: Please talk about the Eastern European scholarship program.
IS: Our goal is to support those artists and athletes who cannot live their life as freely in their native countries as they can in Germany. We will concentrate primarily on the eastern neighbors of Germany. Around 20 applications have already been received by us, but we know there will be many other applications before the deadline, which is Oct. 1, 2009. A jury will then review the applications and allocate the available funds among the candidates. Information is online at www.games-cologne.com . Select "Gay Games" and then "Outreach."
WCT: Is there a scholarship program for potential participants from the U.S.?
IS: Each Gay Games host is asked to set its own outreach zone. Chicago's was Latin America, and Sydney 2002 focused on Asia, for example. We will prioritize our Eastern European neighbors for scholarships, but Americans are welcome to apply as well as there may be further funds available.
WCT: Are there any sports planned for Cologne that were not offered in Chicago?
IS: The Federation of Gay Games requires core sports be offered, and we have added 12 sports. For the first time ever, we offer sport shooting in the Gay Games, as it is very popular in Europe, especially in Germany. Other Cologne 2010 sports not offered in Chicago include table tennis, field hockey, handball, inline speed skating, and sport climbing. We also offer chess, something that allows for mixed-gender competition. The full list of sports is at www.games-cologne.com, and then select 'Sports.'
WCT: What do you predict will be the No. 1 draw sports-wise?
IS: Gay Games sports that typically draw the most athletes are the running sports ( track & field, road races and marathon ) , aquatics ( swimming, diving, water polo and synchronized swimming ) , tennis and volleyball. Some sports will see significant increases over Chicago's numbers because of their popularity in Europe, especially dance sport, soccer and badminton. Team handball and table tennis also will be very popular.
WCT: The Gay Games had a very strong presence at NAGVA, the North American Gay Volleyball Association Championship, held in Chicago in May. What other U.S. events will the Games be represented at?
IS: We've had some kind of a presence at 100 sports and pride events in the USA and Canada over the past year, primarily by sending materials to sports organizers. We had an active presence at championships for bowling ( IGBO ) , soccer ( IGLFA ) , volleyball ( NAGVA in Chicago ) , NAGAAA Softball World Series ( Seattle in 2008 and Milwaukee in 2009 ) and aquatics ( IGLA ) . Cologne representatives will be coming to the USA later in the year to a few events, and I'm sure we'll make a stop in Chicago.
WCT: Anything else about the Gay Games that you'd like to addanything else I have not asked that you thought I would?
IS: Simply put, now is the time to register. As many from Chicago will no doubt remember, having early registrations helps the organizing committee tremendously. It gives us a boost psychologically to see people register, and it also helps us with cash flowalways a challenge for an event this large and far away.
The Cologne 2010 Gay Games: One Year To Go Countdown Party will take place Wed., Aug. 5, 7-9 p.m., at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted.