Sunday, May 28, 2017

Cassandra Complexities: Why the death of OutGames should come as no surprise

Gay Games V figure skating: photo Jim Provenzano
Although I predicted it more than a decade ago, the abrupt cancellation of this year's OutGames –and most likely all future ones– does not induce a feeling of schadenfreude... okay, maybe a little shade.

Coverage from various media outlets (CBC News) uses the word "shock" over the abrupt cancellation of the Miami event this week. But it shouldn't be shocking to anyone who's paid attention.

Miami New Times had this to say:

"... the games had been struggling for the better part of a year to meet the basic financial benchmarks the city had set for the 10-day event. The games were supposed to take place all across Miami-Dade County, including in Lummus Park, Soundscape Park, Flamingo Park, the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, the Colony Theater, the Fillmore Miami Beach, and the National Hotel. But there were warning signs for quite a while that the OutGames, which has been staged three previous times in other countries since 2006, was having trouble raising basic levels of money."

The Bay Area Reporter's current sports columnist Roger Brigham covered the initial cancellation, and offered a succinct follow-up on the cancellation in his June 1 column, with a short history of his dealings with the OutGamesers.  

This quote from his first article is noteworthy: 

"This would have been the first time the World Outgames were held in the United States. Last year a continental version of the Outgames set to take place in St. Louis was similarly canceled on short notice because of lack of registrations."

The Windy City Times also covered the newest controversies and the years-long battle of the Games, not only with my syndicated columns. And yes, that paper's publisher, Tracy Baim, was also a main force in getting Chicago's 2006 Gay Games produced (successfully). Outgames reps have long accused myself and other current sports writers of "bias" for having a history with Gay Games organizers, despite media like WCT publishing occasional glowing write-ups of previous OutGames.

But it doesn't help when other gay media with no connection to sports refuses to do its job. Local Florida gay publication HotSpots still shows a vapid puff feature, without a byline, that's basically a copy-pasted press release, extolling the features of the event only days before its abrupt cancellation. That was covered by them with a later scant few words.

So, why is this "shocking," as other media outlets describe it? When host city media like HotSpots are complicit in deliberately ignoring the warning signs, some gullible participants were kept in the dark, for years.

Readers familiar with my writing, other than novels, might recall my ten years as a freelance Sports Complex columnist for the Bay Area Reporter from 1996-2006, and also syndicated in dozens of LGBT publications from 2004 to 2006. I was proud to be part of decades of sports journalism in the B.A.R. going back to the 1970s, including Gay Games co-creator Tom Waddell, and softball legend Jack "Irene" McGowan.

While most of my coverage included weekly sports events in the Bay Area, I also wrote dozens of advance and follow-up features on multiple sports at the Gay Games. There were some controversies with those, particularly the financial flop at Gay Games V in Amsterdam, where the ousted Executive Director floated away on a canal boat, and the failure to sanction figure skating was falsely blamed on "homophobia" when in reality they were too cheap or forgetful to pay for the licensing fee. But overall, it was enjoyed by most. Gay Games VI in Sydney had a few controversies, but was a rousing success, and I trekked all over to cover more than a dozen events, and took about 1000 photos.

Click for my Tolkein-esque comparison
But the entire Gay Games VII vs. OutGames I controversy played out like a Tolkein-esque epic for years, going all the way back to 2001, when I and other journalists fully supported Montreal's bid, particularly after a fun press junket to the city.

But later, after the wining and dining faded, I covered it with (what I and others considered) thoroughness, humor and investigative reporting. Critics –i.e. ardent OutGames supporters and organizers– railed against perceived bias in my coverage of an organization (GLISA and OutGames), which I concluded after six years of coverage was fundamentally misguided, appropriative, mendacious and doomed.

Again, the coverage of this week's abrupt cancellation of the OutGames in Miami mostly maintained a 'shocked!' tone (Unicorn Booty), but anyone with a basic knowledge of  the "World" OutGames could have anticipated this. 

I use the term 'world' in sarcastic quotes, because since its bloated first event in Montreal lost $5 million, they've instead latched on to regional events that resulted in becoming little more than intramural parties without proper sanctions, leaving Masters -level athletes with no official record of their achievements. 

The Bernal Babes women's softball team, 1990s. photo: Jim Provenzano
The arguments continued for years, with the Federation of Gay Games even trying to find an accord with the OutGames to create a merged event, since ongoing disputes over where and when the competing games would take place.

That concept struck me as (a frequently used analogy) the guy who steals your car demanding to park it in your driveway.  Anyway, finally, it's over. My Cassandra Complex has finally reached fruition. Told ya so.

The Miami Herald reports that the (dis)organizers never paid deposits on venue permits, and even bailed on hotel bills. In a pathetic display of apology, the (dis)organizers offered gullible participants drink tickets, access to a sauna, and tickets to the local gay chorus concert.

Gee. thanks. 

Here's a photo of the incompetent lying CEO of OutGames, Ivan Cano. What, is that description biased? Fine, I'll own it. Because I wrote for years about how pretty much every single representative of multiple OutGames turned out to be a lying, vindictive and entitled ass. 

And Cano is just the latest, and hopefully last, of these incompetent and/or corrupt bureaucrats in this hive of idiots. See, I can be subjective now, because I'm writing here, and oh, yeah, told ya so.

To quote myself in a 2006 column on OutGames grand opening:
A veritable hornet's nest of deceptions and allegations have continued since 2004: stolen mailing lists, attacks on the FGG, questionable announcements about a second Outgames host, reducing 24 years of LGBT sports history to a "trademark" while stealing trademarked phrases from the FGG. Goodness, reporting about the gay sports movement has never been so thoroughly derailed.
Most vituperative among those involved in the war of words is former Outgames publicist Jean Yves Duthel. Before being dismissed from his Outgames position as a million-dollar defamation lawsuit was filed against he and Outgames organizers by a Montreal beer distributor, Duthel put forth volley after volley of lies and accusations, including this gem, quoted in the Advocate in April 2004: "We don't have anything against Chicago, but good luck. They have no money."
Actually, Chicago received millions of dollars in cash investments and the support of over 350 corporate sponsors. Chicago organizers and their sponsors fended off right-wing Christian protesters, who also showed up in Montreal last week, hundreds more than the few dozen in Chicago.
Most important, and omitted from the mainstream media, which reduces the years-long saga to a few sentences over "finances," is the fact that with millions already invested, Montreal plotted to host their own games long before the 2003 contract disputes.

Yes, folks, my "biased" reporting (see letters to B.A.R. on both sides) included proof that before and during contract negotiations, OutGames never planned to pay the licensing fees to brand their Gay Games. They plotted to create their own event, and continued to connive for years afterward.

For balance, here's an example of pro-OutGames bias, and snide 'journalistic' incompetence when misquoting me, from - surprise- a Canadian gay publication.

But even as the dual events of Gay Games VII and OutGames I concluded in 2006, I was able to remain objective, if not equivocating, when, during the run of the popular Sporting Life exhibit I guest-curated for the GLBT Historical Society, We turned a display case into a two-part show of memorabilia loaned from both Gay Games and OutGames participants. (More photos here.)

Here's my article covering the massive debt of OutGames I, and its mendacious flaks.

Quoting my article:
They claimed they would outdo the Gay Games in many ways. They said they would, according to their slogan, 'play for real.' 
Montreal's Outgames did outdo the Gay Games in at least one way: by ending with the highest deficit for a multi-sport LGBT event in history. 
On Nov. 13, several Canadian media outlets released the news—the French-language Journal de Montreal broke the story—that the 1st World Outgames finished with a $5.7 million deficit ( $4.3 million USD ) . 
While representatives had claimed that the event, with an overall budget of $14 million ( CAN ) , closed with a surplus, a government audit in September revealed quite a different outcome. 
Only weeks after Outgames' conclusion, co-president Mark Tewksbury claimed that 'Montreal will enjoy significant social and economic benefits, both in the short and medium term.' 
The fact that this enormous deficit even made headlines is surprising, considering that Outgames representatives apparently tried to cover up the news. Montreal municipal affairs minister Nathalie Normandeau told CBC News that the $5.7 million deficit was revealed by a Quebec government audit, despite the fact that the provincial government gave Outgames more than $3 million in loans. 
Outgames co-president Marielle Dupere criticized Normandeau for talking to the press about the financial loss. 'We had an agreement with [ the government of ] Quebec that we were not supposed to talk with the media,' she told the Toronto Star. 
According to the Journal de Montreal, only weeks before the event's opening, Outgames organizers told the government that the games' financial problems were temporary. The Quebec government provided an emergency loan of $1.4 million ( CAN ) , which, by some accounts, saved Outgames from being cancelled. Within days of the event's closing, CEO Louise Roy claimed a $200,000 surplus. Shortly after news of the deficit made Canadian headlines, Outgames' Web site,, abruptly shut down. Requests for comments from Outgames representatives were not returned. 
Furies women's rugby, covered in my BAR columns
Sound familiar, Miami OutGames' stranded and bilked participants?

The thing is, every OutGames has a history of loss, cancellations, lousy venue management and organization, and a too-large focus on panels and conference, parties and prettification. The roots of GLISA and OutGames are corporate tourism, not international athletes.

to be fair, many Gay Games have suffered financial losses, but none of them were cancelled.

And what of the San Francisco Equipe SF, which formed after Team San Francisco refused to endorse both 2006 events? Well, the last word from 11 years ago on their Yahoo group attempted to castigate me for "biased" reporting, Since then? Nothing from them. Nada.

My coverage of Chicago's 2006 Games (here, here, a photo album here.) may have been biased because I competed and had a great time. It was the culmination of my sports journalism, and my 14 years of competing and training in wrestling, with a few later years in track and field.
Shotput at Sydney Gay Games VI photo: Jim Provenzano

Both Golden Gate Wrestling and SF Track and Field's roots grew from the first two Gay Games held in San Francisco. Even before 1982, historic softball teams paved the way for LGBT-inclusive athletics.

The original Gay Games have a decades-long proud history, as covered in my feature, "From Vision to Inheritance," part of a multiple-part series on the 2006 Gay Games and its legacy.

Part of my later coverage, and that of my erudite successor, Jock Talk columnist Roger Brigham, explored how SF teams were divided over which event to attend, as mentioned in one of my many articles about the San Francisco Spikes, which started at the first Gay Games in 1982.

Gay Games II Opening Ceremonies. photo: Mick Hicks
Here's a brief summation of the Gay Games' legacy, worth noting to why they are better, stronger, and more worth our participation:
In 1980, former Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell began working with Paul Mart and Mark Brown to plan and organize the concept of a gay multi-sport event that afforded the opportunity for all athletes to participate regardless of skill, ability, race, or sexual orientation.

A board of women and men, including Sara Lewinstein (who would later marry Waddell, despite their both being gay), worked tirelessly to create the first gay and lesbian multi-sport event in the world (the terms bisexual and transgender had yet to be formally included).

That plan grew into the Gay Olympic Games, until the United States Olympic committee sued the fledgling organization, making history by forcing the event to become the Gay Games.

We've come such a long way since 1982, when 1,350 participants marched into Kezar Stadium on a breezy August day. Six successive quadrennial Gay Games have expanded the global LGBT athletics community, inspiring participants to start their own teams and tournaments. Overcoming homophobia in sports organizations, fiscal crises, and even rival games, the Gay Games have endured, and persisted.
The Spikes are one of several historic teams, among several already internationally organized sports, like IGLA, the swim organization being among the most efficient at creating and maintaining annual sanctioned competitions. 

Gay Games VI Sydney diving. photo: Jim Provenzano
The insertion of OutGames forced each major sport to decide when and where to hold their annual global tournaments, which were often timed with the Gay Games.

What are the roots of the OutGames? The tourism industry, with a few hired former athletes as spokespersons.

OutGames threw a monkey wrench into the sports community, breaking the alleged "monopoly" on LGBT sports events, but also fomenting discord and piggybacking on already existing and better organized events. They slapped on international rights conferences and parties, and voila! Their version of the Gay Games slogged along for a decade.

That problem continued for years, until now.

With so many horrible things happening politically in America and around the world these days, this may seem like a tempest in a teacup for those outside the LGBT sports community. Many people still don't know the difference, and still wrongly call it the 'Gay Olympics.'

The impact of this hopefully final OutGames debacle leaves a sad stain on the reputation of the LGBT sports community as disorganized, untrustworthy, and incompetent. That's on them, not the Gay Games, which will host their next event in Paris in 2018. They shouldn't have to clean up the mess left by their lessors.

Goodbye, OutGames. You will not be missed. And your bilked host city and participants will see you in court.


  1. Swedish/Australian Joel Mangs is the Gay Games V figure skater pictured above.

    1. Thanks, Raymond. Yes, I interviewed him years ago. I can't find that article though.

  2. WOW... I am most proud of my ~40 years of friendship with Jim Provenzano which started in NYC. He has always been a real crusader for our community... He gets his hands dirty and is not afraid of the LGBT mafia. When others were too busy or shy or PC to criticize the FRAUD of the very first AIDS Rides, Jim was out there taking the knocks from the same types who want to bury the OutGames Fraud. His Bay Area Reporter 'Wheels of Fortune' (wish I could find the LINK) in 1999 is still a lesson to us all, almost prescient today. The mighty FRAUDS can be brought down. KUDOS Jim.

    1. Thank you, Gino! My eight-part series 'Wheels of Fortune' is archived on my website, starting here: (Forgive the 17-year-old formatting).

  3. Hi Jim,
    have you tried to get a statement from the GLISA Board regarding the share of the responsibility they are willing to take for the Miami fiasco and about their intentions for the future (WOG Buenos Aires) ?

    1. Thanks for writing.

      But as I wrote in this essay, I no longer cover the LGBT sports community. And even if I did, I'd get nothing but lies from GLISA et al.

      Who else has been able to track down these GLISA/Outgames reps, who literally ran away from Miami owing hundreds of thousands in bills?

      The only statement I want to hear from these people in the future is, "We plead guilty, Your Honor."

      As for anyone gullible enough to sign up for a future Outgames, they're beyond help.