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Outgames charge ahead despite debt

Despite the financial problems facing the first-ever Outgames held in Montreal this past summer, organizers say plans for the next Outgames in Copenhagen are full steam ahead.

Catherine Meade, copresident of the Gay And Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA), the Outgames’ umbrella organization, wonders if they’re really in such bad shape going into the next games, scheduled for 2009. She says she was surprised by the news made public by the Quebec government last month that the Outgames racked up more than $5 million in debt.

“Are the numbers that the Quebec government published correct? Only if you do the harshest and most brutal calculations,” says Meade. She says that an audit done by an independent auditor hired by the provincial government included “guaranteed and forgivable loans” from Quebec. If you do not include those loans, says Meade, the deficit is more like $1.4 million.

Meade chalks up the difference to a breakdown in partnership between the organizing committee and one of its funders.

“If the partnership had not broken down, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now,” says Meade. “The Quebec government made a commitment of money to ensure that the 2006 Outgames broke even.” She says the province hasn’t fulfilled that commitment yet.

Nathalie Normandeau, Quebec’s Minister Of Municipal Affairs And Regions, who released the auditor’s report, did not return Xtra’s calls.

When reminded that the Gay Games in Chicago, which were held two weeks prior to the Outgames, only incurred a debt of US$200,000, Meade says the “level and quality of events were like night and day. Yes, they have a smaller deficit, but that’s because they were very different events.”

Although she did not attend the Chicago event, she says the Montreal games were more professional. An example? The Outgames logo was in the ice during hockey games; even the pucks had the Outgames insignia.

“It wasn’t like we were renting someone else’s rink. During the Outgames, it was our rink. Yes, $1.4 million is a lot money, but the games were delivered on an unprecedented scale.”

Meade says Montreal organizers are meeting in order to come up with a plan to eliminate the deficit and pay suppliers who are owed money.

Lessons learned from the Montreal experience are being applied to planning the Copenhagen games, says Meade.

“We have formed a contractual relationship with the City Of Copenhagen,” says Meade, something that was not done with the City Of Montreal. Organizers in Copenhagen have also received a commitment of 20 million Danish kroner (just under CDN$4 million) from the city council.

Meade says that plans are also moving forward with smaller-scale continental versions of the Outgames &mdash: Calgary in 2007 and Melbourne, Australia, in 2008.

In addition, GLISA still plans on setting up an international headquarters in Montreal, which was part of the reason various levels of Quebec government have been so interested in the success of GLISA and the Outgames.

Some queer sports watchers remain skeptical. Jim Provenzano, author of the syndicated queer-press Sports Complex column, says Montreal organizers are biting the hand that fed them.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of people who were supportive of the Outgames, but are now turning on them,” says Provenzano. “One of the problems is that they had made these boastful claims that they would run a more profitable event. And then they claimed that it was a financial success. Now their website isn’t even up. I mean, what kind of legacy is that?”