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Gay Games reverses trend and breaks even

Montreal's Outgames lost more than $5 million

GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP. Chicago's Gay Games received praise from Canadian Olympic swimming medalist Mark Tewksbury, one of the organizers of the Montreal Outgames. Credit: Chicago Games Inc

Three months after Montreal’s financially disastrous first World Outgames revealed it would pay its biggest creditors just 15 or 20 cents of each dollar owed them, Chicago’s competing 2006 Gay Games has announced that it broke even.

The Chicago outcome reverses a 20-year trend for the Gay Games and its international governing body, the Federation of Gay Games (FGG).

“In 2003 when we launched the bid to host the 2006 Gay Games, we promised our local LGBT community, the City of Chicago, and the worldwide LGBT sports movement that the 2006 Gay Games would break even financially,” board co-chair Sam Coady said in a press release, Jul 10.

“We also made the commitment to leave a lasting and positive legacy for future Gay Games hosts — a sound business model upon which future Gay Games could be built. We are proud today to have fulfilled those promises,” he continued.

The last three Gay Games lost significant amounts of money, putting the future of the quadrennial sports and culture festival in jeopardy.

This time, the Gay Games dramatically increased its corporate partnerships, relied more heavily on volunteers and pro bono professionals, and outsourced non-core elements to third parties. The model apparently worked, even though Montreal hosted its competing games just weeks apart last summer.

Canadian Olympic swimming medalist Mark Tewksbury was one of the organizers of the Montreal Outgames. He points out that the 2006 Gay Games were supposed to take place in Montreal — until a split with the FGG over finances re-routed them to a second-choice city.

It was that split, he says, that led to the advent of the Outgames.

“We were both right and we were both wrong,” he says now, offering his congratulations to Chicago’s organizers.

In the end, the Outgames lost more than $5 million. Some $3 million of that has since been written off by governments who loaned the organization money.

But, says Tewksbury, when all is said and done, the Outgames will still have a deficit of about $800,000.

He says the final reckoning on the finances should be public in about two months.

There are 308 Outgames creditors remaining who are owed about $2.3 million. Of those, 121 who are owed $500 or less will get all their money, reported the Montreal Gazette.

“We wanted to pay the little guys as much as we could,” Tewksbury says. “We did a general payment as wide as we could.”