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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Playing 'Games' Montreal Quits Gay Games Negotiations, Rejects Federation Final Offer
by NEWS ANALYSIS BY TRACY BAIM
2003-11-12

This article shared 4513 times since Wed Nov 12, 2003
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Montreal 2006 representatives walked away from the negotiating table early Sunday morning, thus setting in motion an unpredictable chain of events for the volunteer-run Federation of Gay Games. On Tuesday, they rejected a final offer put forth by the Federation conceding most points to Montreal.

Federation co-president Roberto Mantaci told Windy City Times Tuesday the Federation, during their annual meeting in Chicago this week, will decide the timeframe for a shortened new selection process, as well as if the Games themselves will be delayed a year or more.

'Two months ago, Montreal 2006 presented an offer, they call it Draft 13. They said all items in Draft 13 were negotiable. But in reality, and even yesterday, it was clear that the only thing they had done was Draft 13. We realized they would not accept changes—in reality the only condition [from Montreal] was to accept Draft 13.'

'Our event will take place without the FGG,' said Mark Tewksbury, co-president of Montreal 2006. 'Our vision remains the same. We will offer the best sport games the gay and lesbian athletes of the world have ever seen.'

'The deal breaker between Montreal 2006 and the FGG was the issue of financial control of the event,' Montreal 2006 stated. 'The FGG insisted on approval rights on budgetary increases and expenditures—yet left all legal responsibility and accountability for the administration of the Games to the Board of Directors of Montreal 2006. Furthermore, the FGG, while not participating in any way in fundraising for the Games, collects close to one million dollars [Canadian] for the license rights to the trademark.'

Most of the Montreal negotiating team left early Sunday morning from Chicago. Representatives of the three cities which lost the bid to Montreal—Atlanta, Los Angeles and Chicago—are all in town and deciding whether to bid again.

'We are extremely disappointed that an agreement has not been reached between the Montreal 2006 organizers and the Federation,' said representatives from the original Chicago bidding organization. 'We support the continued dialogue at this year's annual meeting to craft a strategy that ensures the growth of the Gay Games movement. If Chicago is asked to lend its support in more substantial ways, we will bring the request back to the city and the GLBT community and attempt to reach a consensus on how best to move forward.'

Montreal won the right to hold Gay Games VII during a bidding process completed at the Federation's annual meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2001. Two years later, both sides were unable to come to an agreement on several key issues. But the heart of their differences is control. The Federation owns the trademark and all rights to the event, held every four years, most recently in Sydney in 2002. And Montreal, as the winning city, does not believe the Federation has a right to the level of oversight they are asking for.

On Monday evening, the Federation board, after a day-long special meeting, voted 40-4 (with two abstentions) to give Montreal one final offer. The Federation's statement said they were making further concessions, including giving up their rights to a share of post-event proceeds, but that Montreal had only until Wednesday at noon to accept the deal. On Tuesday, Montreal made their decision not to accept the final offer.

Montreal 2006 will now lose its designation as the official host of Gay Games VII. _____

The debate on these issues came to a head in the days before the annual meeting.

Montreal representatives started positioning themselves as the victim of Federation micro-management, and made statements that they would host a sports and cultural festival no matter if it was backed by the Federation. The Federation mostly avoided public comments, but did set in motion plans to deal with the worst-case scenario.

After a 15-hour session Saturday with Montreal, the Federation negotiating team and co-presidents Roberto Mantaci of Paris and Kathleen Webster of Philadelphia thought they were sending their lawyer off to the final negotiating points with Montreal's attorney.

But soon after, the Federation's attorney was told that Montreal was walking away. Several Montreal representatives left on early flights Sunday. At least four did stay on, including co-director Mark Tewksbury. But his co-chair, Lucie Duguay, was gone, and the remaining members were not empowered to settle any contracts. It was clear no agreement would occur during the Chicago annual meeting, and the Federation board met behind closed doors all day Monday to decide the future of the Gay Games movement. _____

The Federation's statement mid-day Sunday was that legal counsel for the Organising Committee for Montreal 2006/Comité Oganisateur Montreal informed the Federation of Gay Games that Montreal 2006 had walked away from further negotiations.

'We deeply regret that Montreal 2006 made the decision to walk away from these negotiations which were planned with the best interests of future Gay Games participants in mind,' said co-president Roberto Mantaci. 'The Federation made multiple concessions to Montreal 2006, and we are confident that we tried everything we could to reach an agreement with them while remaining true to our stated obligation towards safeguarding the fiscal responsibility by Gay Games hosts.'

Both Mantaci and co-chair Kathleen Webster seemed exhausted and upset Sunday when speaking with Windy City Times about the failed negotiations. Both said they were shocked that Montreal walked away when they did—they said the Federation had made several concessions and both sides left the lawyers to do the final contract.

'We were much closer to each other, and were just in the midst of drafting something agreeable,' Mantaci added.

'There were three areas of major importance for Montreal,' Webster explained. 'The size and scope of the event, and the approval and management role of the Federation. We believed there was progress made on both sides. The Federation believes we met many of their requests.'

Federation spokesman Jake Stafford told Windy City Times that 'Montreal implied by bidding that they were interested in being a part of the Gay Games movement. [Then the question is] to what extent is the Federation involved—for Montreal, they want nothing at all. The Federation insists they have a say and had conceded quite consistently. It is baffling why they abandoned this now.' The Federation conceded to the level of 16,000 athletes—Montreal's original goal was 24,000. The Federation wanted a flexible budget that would allow for more athletes, but that would break even at a lower level.

Webster said that registration fees also became an issue late Saturday. She said Montreal suggested raising them, but the Federation wanted to hold to a lower general registration fee. 'We made some concessions, but we did not want all fees to rise,' she said.

'The Federation is all volunteers, mostly athletes, who are the steward of this movement,' Stafford said. 'They won the right to host the Gay Games, they do not own the Gay Games. They think they 'bought' the Games.'

The first indication that negotiations might not go well arose Nov. 7, the Federation said, when Montreal 2006 cancelled a scheduled meeting during which the Federation's license agreement team was to have had its first look at contracts Montreal 2006 had negotiated with local sponsors and supporters.

On Sunday night, Gentry bar hosted a welcoming reception for Federation board members and observers. Many of them had just flown and were shocked to learn of the new developments. While they were renewing friendships, most of the discussions were about Montreal. Representatives from the Atlanta and Los Angeles bidding organizations were there—both cities had indicated they would be happy to be considered as an alternative site.

Four Montreal 2006 representatives were at the Gentry reception—Mark Tewksbury, sports director Josée Généreux, administrative assistant Jacques Taillefer and marketing/communications representative Tom Czerniecki.

'The Federation has to make the decision now,' said Jacques Taillefer Sunday. But Taillefer said no one remaining was authorized to commit to a contract.

So while the decision was in the Federation's hands, the decision seemed already made for them—Montreal had walked out. Would the Federation continue to negotiate with a city which chose to make it clear they did not need them to host their event? Montreal has waged much of its war in the media and on the web. Five days before the Chicago negotiations were to begin, they issued a press release saying 'The partners of Montreal 2006 are in full support of the Organizing Committee's commitment to hold the Games in Montreal, if they are produced according to the schedule and on the scale planned, and retain their international flavour. We are certain that the 2006 Games, with or without the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) sanction, will take place in Montreal.'

'Montreal 2006 won its candidature for the Games on Oct. 25, 2001, with a proposal of 24,000 participating athletes,' they stated. 'At the FGG's request, this number was scaled back to 16,000, the minimum number of participants required for the financial viability of the Games. [The] FGG continues to demand that Montreal 2006 reduce the number of participants to 12,000.' On Saturday, the Federation said it did concede to 16,000.

'The more the number of participants is reduced, the more revenue from the Games will drop,' Montreal said. 'Unlike the Olympic Games, participants in the Gay Games have to spend a significant amount of money on registration fees; consequently, revenue is proportional to the number of participants. As well, an event of this scale (opening and closing ceremonies, various galas, the number of competitions, etc.) will attract more private sponsors, due to the media attention it will create. All of these factors clearly demonstrate that the Montreal 2006's proposed estimate of 16,000 participants is both realistic and conservative.

'With regard to the second point of contention, financial responsibility for the event, Montreal 2006's partners point out that common business sense as well as the basic principles of financial management of public or private funds dictate that the administrators to be held accountable for the financial outcome of the Games must be in Québec and in Canada. The FGG plays no role in fundraising for the organisation of the Games, provides no services, and has no legal responsibility in the outcome. It cannot pretend to have any financial accountability. What's more, Montreal 2006 is required to pay the FGG 1 million dollars (Canadian) to license the rights to use the 'Gay Games' trademark. Already, Montreal 2006 has obtained commitments from the Government of Canada, the Government of Québec, from the City of Montreal, Tourism Montreal and the Société Radio-Canada, covering 35% of its planned budget. The first fundraising event was a phenomenal success and many other private sponsors have been confirmed, or are about to be confirmed—all of this with three years to go before the Games.

'In addition, Équipe Montreal, which represents over a thousand athletes itself, conducted a snapshot-survey of 675 GLBT sports teams all over the world to find out if their participation in the Montreal Games was dependent upon the FGG's sanction of the Games. The results of this poll were clear: more than 90% of responding teams confirmed their intention to attend Montreal 2006, regardless of the FGG's approval. Even a conservative extrapolation of these results allows us to predict, three years from the Games, that we are already sure to exceed 16,000 registrants, 43% of which will come from the United States. The financial support secured at this stage, coupled with the sponsorships already confirmed, pave the way for an extraordinarily positive financial outcome for the upcoming Games.'

The fact that Équipe Montreal, which was a voting Federation member group, conducted that survey upset many inside and outside of the Federation board. Montreal was making it clear they would host the event with or without the Federation—two years after fighting so hard to win the bid. Were they coming to Chicago to negotiate in good faith? Some doubt Montreal's intentions, because so many mixed signals were being sent. _____

I come to this story from a unique perspective. I was part of Chicago's three-year bidding process to win the right to host the 2006 Gay Games. Chicago had never before bid for the event, and was also the only bidding city which had not hosted an Olympics. We went in as underdogs against Montreal, Atlanta and Los Angeles, but managed to pull together an amazing crew of volunteers and supporters. In the end, we came close (the actual vote totals have never been released).

While the bidding at the Federation's 2001 annual meeting in Johannesburg was intense and political, the overall Federation operations strike me as very grassroots and, ultimately, almost exclusively about athletes and cultural participants. Their goals seem noble and not ego-driven. They are not about making money for the host city—they feel accountable to the movement.

The bidding process was extremely detailed and included much oversight from the Federation. After their site visits to each bidding city, and after their initial review of the bid books, they had a series of questions asking for even greater details, small and large. It was at times excruciating and frustrating.

Bid cities knew how involved the Federation was—and thus could expect that same level of oversight for the Gay Games. The pro forma contract each city had to complete (as part of the bid) included licensing, merchandising, number of athletes, dates of events, registration fees—all of those items had to be spelled out in the bid book and pro forma contract.

All four bidding cities were also grilled by nearly 80 Federation board members, each with specialized expertise. Their concerns were detailed, down to the type of ice hockey rinks or tennis courts. The interest from these sports and culture representatives, as well as those representing the fiduciary interests of the Federation, was quite clear—control and oversight. This was especially true on the budget, since three previous Gay Games lost money (the Sydney Gay Games were still one year away—but they, too, were already in chaos and clearly in financial peril).

The actual final voting was about the overall concept, not the details. The Federation's negotiating team knew they would work out the details in the months following the selection of the winning city.

However, that process lasted two years. With the Federation entirely operated by volunteers, and with a losing Gay Games in Sydney, that negotiating process dragged on.

Montreal, meanwhile, moved full-steam ahead, with the bulk of its 'partners' government agencies, not gay groups. Montreal 2006 lists their partners as: Government of Canada, Government of Québe (Tourisme Québec, Ministére des Affaires municipales, du Sport et du Loisir, Ministére des Relations avec les citoyens et de l'Immigration), City of Montreal, Tourisme Montreal, Équipe Montreal, Société Radio-Canada, Egale Canada, and the Québec Gay Chamber of Commerce.

Équipe Montreal is the main gay group involved, and they were ousted as a voting member of the Federation just days before the annual meeting when they were accused of inappropriately sharing internal Federation information with their colleagues on Montreal 2006. A similar conflict of interest arose with the Sydney Gay Games organizers. _____

Every city knew the position of control the Federation was in, despite the fact that they do not provide financial support. In fact, the host city pays cash for the right to host the Gay Games, in addition to a portion of licensing and merchandising. Is it that now, with so many governmental officials involved in the process, Montreal would rather take the momentum of the past two years and avoid the $1 million plus licensing and merchandising fees? Are the government partners the ones controlling the Gay Games? Certainly, Montreal has benefitted from being known as the official Gay Games city, promoted extensively at the Sydney Gay Games and in the worldwide media. Now, with the Games less than 1,000 days away, their Web site lists the Rendez-Vous Montreal 2006 Sport and Cultural Festival, and they are ready to go it alone.

Whatever the Federation ultimately does, it will be a public relations battle for several years. They must now figure out a way to save the Gay Games movement, and to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Ultimately the Gay Games are about the athletes and cultural participants. Will they throw, row, swim, jump, kick and sing their way to Montreal? Or, will they follow the Federation to the next winning bid city?

[With the Federation meeting throughout this week in Chicago, news will continue to change. See www.WindyCityMediaGroup.com, or the Web sites of the two sides, www.gaygames.org, www.montreal2006.org .]

Photo #2 Kathleen Webster and Roberto Mantaci, Federation of Gay Games co-presidents, on Sunday in Chicago. Photo by Tracy Baim

Photo #2 Four Montreal 2006 representatives were at the Gentry reception—administrative assistant Jacques Taillefer, Mark Tewksbury, sports director Josée Généreux, and marketing/communications representative Tom Czerniecki. Photo by Tracy Baim


This article shared 4513 times since Wed Nov 12, 2003
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