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Outgames gets $75,000 shot in the arm from province

'It gives additional validity to these games': Boychuk

After a long period of wait-and-see, Outgames organizers received a $75,000 funding boost to the event. "It just made absolute sense to be able to help them bring this to fruition," said Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong. Credit: Shauna Lewis photo

Just 46 days before the start of Vancouver’s 2011 North America Outgames, the province announced it will support the event to the tune of $75,000.

“It just made absolute sense to be able to help them bring this to fruition,” said Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong at a June 8 press conference in front of the 2010 Winter Olympic cauldron, near the Vancouver Convention Centre.

The province is supporting the games because organizers pitched the event as internationally inclusive, with health and human rights components and a roster of more than 1,000 participants, Chong added. The fact that the Outgames will be held in post-Olympic Vancouver was also a factor in the province’s support of the week-long event, which kicks off on July 25.

“As the 2010 Olympic and Paralympics games indicated, we are a very liveable, accessible city. We’re inclusive, we have huge multiculturalism that occurs here, [and] we have acceptance of all persons, all types and all backgrounds,” Chong said. “So what better way to continue on with that kind of legacy than to be able to support a conference such as this?”

The games will encompass three components: sports, a cultural celebration and a human rights conference. The new funding will go directly to sports.

Outgames president John Boychuk said his original pitch to the province was for $125,000 for the human rights and sport elements. While the announced funding is less than requested, Outgames organizers say they are pleased with the support. “We’re grateful that we have been able to secure such funding because it gives additional validity to these games,” Boychuk said.

Boychuk lobbied the province in March for funding to support the event. He said he had been in communication with the province about the games since the summer of 2008, prior to winning the games bid in the fall of that year. Boychuk said it took until fall of 2010 to set up a meeting with the province because it took time for organizers to contact and network with various community stakeholders. It was important to be armed with as much information as possible before lobbying for funds, he added.

Chong said the province told Boychuk months ago that the Outgames would likely get funding, but it took the province until now – six weeks from the start of the event – to make the announcement. “It’s not always just the pitch,” Chong explained. “We have to get statistics because when government dollars are released, taxpayers expect to know that we’ve done our due diligence,” she said. “At the end of the day we are really glad we came together.”

Boychuk said the new funding will help offset some costs, noting there will be a one-day, 25 percent discount registration rate for people who want to attend and support the games. The registration kiosk will be set up in front of the Junction Pub on Davie St on June 18.

While it’s not clear whether the province will provide requested funding for the human rights conference, Boychuk said funding for that component is “on solid ground.”

Boychuk also announced that the opening ceremony, a free event, will now be held at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The closing ceremony will remain at the Plaza of Nations.

He said the Outgames’ price tag is an estimated $1.1 million, with corporate sponsorship, community merchant support and government funds contributing to offsetting the cost.

In February, the Vancouver Parks Board officially awarded the Outgames a Sport Host grant in the sum of $100,000. But the event was turned down twice for a Vancouver 125 grant. Boychuk also noted that the games didn’t secure federal funding for a student works position during the event, but said there are honoraria available for those who sign up to help with the event.

“We see ourselves operating in the black at the end of the day, so we are pleased we will be able to offer a debt-free event,” Boychuk concluded.