What are the Gay Games?
Ranked by number of competitors, the Gay Games are the largest sporting and cultural event, open to all, in the world. Unlike the Olympic Games and other elite sporting events, they enable all kinds of people to compete, regardless of skill level, age or physical challenge. People can compete in sports from swimming, athletics, tennis to bridge and ballroom dancing.
The Games define winning as achieving one’s personal best. Anyone can participate, regardless of ability, age, sexual orientation, race, gender, nationality, political or religious beliefs, ethnic origins or HIV status. Athletes represent their country, their city, their club, or just themselves.
The first Gay Games took place in 1982 in San Francisco, bringing together 1,350 athletes from a dozen countries. Since then, the Games have been held every four years, in world-class cities. Gay Games VIII in Cologne in 2010 attracted over 10,000 participants from some 70 countries. The London Gay Games in 2018 would likely attract over 12,000 participants – compared to approximately 10,500 at the London 2012 Olympics.
The Gay Games were originally conceived by Dr Tom Waddell, a decathlon competitor for the USA in the 1968 Olympics. Today, the Gay Games are managed by the Federation of Gay Games (FGG), an umbrella organisation which counts international sport organisations and cultural organisations among its members. Member organisations – including lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) sports organisations from the UK – send delegates to the FGG general assembly, which in turn elects a governing board.
What is the point of the Gay Games?
The mission of the FGG is to promote equality through the organisation of the premiere international LGBT and gay-friendly sports and cultural event known as the Gay Games. Dr Waddell conceived of the Games as an opportunity for gays and lesbians to show the world that their skills and competitive spirit were equal to the rest of humanity. He wanted to promote better understanding through sport. For three decades, the Gay Games have brought together thousands of athletes to show the world their pride, their poise and their passion. The Games celebrate individual achievement and the triumph of collective cooperation. A primary legacy of the Gay Games has been the athletes and artists themselves, enabling the genesis of countless LGBT athletic and cultural organisations.
But why have a ‘gay’ games – doesn’t that discriminate against straight people?
The Gay Games are entirely nondiscriminatory. Anyone over the age
of 18 is free to enter, regardless of their sexuality. Most (but not all) participants are members of gay sporting clubs in their home cities, but there is absolutely no requirement to have or demonstrate any particular sexual orientation in order to compete at the Gay Games. By contrast, fewer than 20 Olympic athletes at the London 2012 games were openly gay, and not a single English premiership footballer has come out. The Gay Games are not discriminatory – indeed they help to combat the ongoing problem of homophobia in mainstream sport.
Gay sport already has an important role in the UK. Gay teams often compete in local and regional leagues and tournaments alongside mainstream teams – for example London Orca, the gay waterpolo team, competes in the Thameside League. Gay sports clubs and teams not only help to demonstrate – literally – a level playing field with mainstream teams, but also provide role models for young LGBT people who might (wrongly) believe that their sexual orientation is incompatible with playing sport.
What makes London the right city to host the Gay Games in 2018?
Logistically… Along with the 2017 World Athletics Championships, the 2018 Gay Games aims to be a part of London’s Olympic legacy. The Gay Games will aim to use of many of the facilities in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, including the Olympic Stadium itself, the Aquatics Centre and the Velodrome. The Games also aims to use other, non-Olympic venues, such as the Lee Valley Ice Centre and other venues throughout London.
Politically… The London 2018 bid team is working alongside the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and London & Partners to make the Gay Games in London a reality, and has already received messages of support from the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
It also goes without saying that London’s numerous LGBT people and vibrant LGBT businesses will roll out the red carpet for our tens of thousands of international Gay Games visitors. London is, of course, one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, with a large number of gay sports clubs and teams, including Out to Swim (swimming), the King’s Cross Steelers (rugby) and Soho Rowing Club (rowing). Our history in gay equality and in gay sport paves the way for one of the messages of the bid: ‘You can be your best self in London 2018’.
The United Kingdom was third in the medal table at the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne, after only the United States and the host nation, Germany.
What are the benefits to London of hosting the Gay Games?
Just as the Paralympics have transformed British attitudes towards people with physical impairments, so the Gay Games will transform attitudes towards LGBT sport and LGBT sports people – as well as providing role models to young gay people in the UK and around the world. The Gay Games will also be a boon for London businesses. It will likely attract over 12,000 athletes (with thousands of partners and supporters coming along for the ride), the bulk of whom will pay for accommodation, as well as eating in London’s restaurants and spending in its shops. The Gay Games will also involve a large cultural festival, and will attract thousands of spectators, partners and friends alongside the competing athletes.
Won’t the Gay Games be a huge inconvenience to Londoners who aren’t gay?
Londoners have already proved their enormous enthusiasm for hosting international sporting events, with their overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012.
We hope that the bulk of the sporting events will be concentrated in and around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford, which has high-capacity transport connections thanks to its role in hosting London 2012.
How much will hosting the Gay Games in London cost, and who will pay?
Between now and the end of 2013, five potential host cities (with Amsterdam, Limerick, Orlando and Paris in the running alongside London) will bid to host the games.
There are out-of-pocket costs involved in the bidding process amounting to about £13,000, which the bid committee are confident of raising from LGBT supporters and businesses. The bid committee is also grateful to the LLDC and London & Partners for their intended support in crafting the bid, as well as in creating the necessary bid materials to be submitted to the FGG.
The successful host city will be announced towards the end of 2013. If London’s bid is successful, the costs of actually hosting the Gay Games will then be incurred over a five-year period. It is not possible to say at this stage – before the detailed bid has been prepared – what the total of those costs will be, though it is likely to be in the order of £6million.
As with other large sporting events, the organisers will seek to cover all the costs through athlete registration fees, ticket sales and corporate sponsorship.
Who is behind the bid to host the Gay Games in London, and what are their credentials for hosting a big international sporting event?
Just as LOCOG was created specifically to organise the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, so the London 2018 committee has been formed specifically to bid for the Gay Games. It is chaired by Alex Davis, a member of London’s LGBT Out to Swim team.
The London bid is being run by a committee of volunteers, with expertise in sports, finance, culture and communications, who are giving their time for free. They are all active in LGBT sport.
As the bid progresses, the committee will recruit supervisory trustees, as well as expert advisers to help refine aspects of the bid.
Is there any risk that the Gay Games will go bankrupt, saddling the taxpayer with a massive bill?
As the bid process progresses, the bid committee is creating robust structures – including two charitable corporations and a board of trustees – to ensure sound financial management. The FGG also has 30 years of experience in working with host cities to ensure that each Gay Games is financially sound.