With less than two weeks to go before the Outgames opening ceremonies, only 13 sports out of an original 18 will go ahead as planned.
Hockey, swimming, mountain biking, mountain marathon and bowling have been cancelled, the Vancouver 2011 Outgames website states. Dragon boating, listed as an exhibition event, has also been dropped.
“Those were cancelled six weeks ago,” Outgames chair John Boychuk says. “The individual clubs decided that there wasn’t enough interest in them, and we closed those.”
Only one US women’s team signalled its interest in hockey because there are two other major North American tournaments taking place in July, Boychuk says.
The registration for swimming did not pan out either, also due to two competing meets, one in Ottawa, the other in Hawaii, bracketing the week of the Outgames, he says.
The local group hosting the event found the schedule of three tournaments within three weeks too taxing for the international organizations to be able to attract people to Vancouver, Boychuk explains.
Asked if the Outgames was aware of the potential for conflict, Boychuk says there wasn’t a concern initially because local clubs thought there’d be “enough of a draw” to Vancouver.
Speaking to the lacklustre hockey showing, Boyhcuk says it was “always much easier” for East Coast teams to head to Chicago for the big tournament there, because of the less challenging transportation, logistics and cost factors.
In April, Boychuk also confirmed that two other sports, figure skating and water polo, were no longer part of the program, the former because there was no local club to host it, the latter owing to a lack of interest. Only one team had registered for water polo, so booking facilities was not an option, Boychuk said then.
Mountain biking and mountain marathon have been cancelled as separate events and rolled into the Eco Challenge, Boychuk says.
As for bowling, Boychuk says not enough players signed up to be able to proceed with a professional tournament, which the majority of registered players had wanted.
The Outgames is not out on a financial limb for any of the cancellations, Boychuk says. “With each of the sports, they had a cancellation clause so that if in the event something was to happen, they would have that opportunity to work with us to address any concerns.”
The individual sports groups made the cancellation decisions, he adds.
“It was the clubs that had to put up the people, they had to do a lot of the marketing, the outreach,” Boychuk continues. “If they didn’t find the attendance was going to be there, then they made the decision to withdraw.”
Refunds to athletes in cancelled sports have been taken care of, he adds. “There are no outstanding monies owed to any athletes.”
“Of course, we’re disappointed. There were so many more individuals who were looking forward to coming to Vancouver,” he says. “About a third of them have selected other activities to be able to partake.”
Despite the cancellations, Boychuk says all systems are still go for the Outgames, which kick off on July 25.
“We’re still seeing people registering every day now, actually,” Boychuk says. “We’re having higher daily counts now than we did a month ago, which is great to see.”
“There are over 1,000 athletes coming for this,” he assures.
The Outgames are “happening regardless. There’s no cancellation at this point. The people are coming, the hotel rooms are booked, the media are doing their thing, and everything’s on track.”