As we move into the final days before the Feb. 1 due date for the Federation of Gay Games bid, the debate continues on the who, what, where, when, why and definitely how of Gay Games VII.
Last week, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations Advisory Council on Gay and Lesbians Issues voted in favor of a resolution put forth by member Bill Kelley saying it would 'provide and encourage all feasible and advisable support to Chicago Games, Inc. in hosting its activities after a review of award terms if its bid is accepted by the Federation of Gay Games.'
The carefully worded letter of support made note of the hard work of the bid efforts, the controversy surrounding the Games, and the earlier vote of the Council not in favor of a bid effort. Kelley wanted to clarify that the November vote (5-1 and which he was not a part of) was not 'against' the Gay Games, just a vote saying the council did not advise the bid effort at that time.
So was this a reversal? The new Council vote was 2-0 with 3 abstentions, and at least one strong critic of the bid was not there. He did send a letter opposing the effort. For those who strongly touted the first vote as 'opposing' the bid, this new vote was just as significant, and it was made after a lengthy presentation to the Council, and after two months of work and research had been done.
Clearly, there is still a resistance to the efforts. But it is important to know that we have more than 25 organizations who have sent letters of support, including all of the umbrella sports groups, representing thousands of athletes.
The letter by Council member Damon Marquis, who had also attended a three-hour sit-down meeting between members of the Council and Chicago 2006 the week before (a meeting scheduled because he would be missing the actual Council meeting), was very strongly opposed.
But Marquis' argument is based on conversations he had with Tom Czerniecki, the marketing communications director for the Montreal 2006 efforts.
OK, I have kept quiet about Montreal's efforts in Chicago, but I do have to now address this line of attack. Montreal, and specifically Czerniecki, has not only called several members of our bid group to try and convince us not to bid, but they have also called employees of the City of Chicago. They are trying to pressure the city, and gay individuals and groups, not to support the bid effort. They are buying ads to tout their own event. And in Marquis' letter, Czerniecki point by point attacks Chicago's efforts as doomed.
Let's take a step back for a moment. Let's say Chicago was bidding against New York for the 2012 Olympics. New York had the inside track and was the first choice—but Chicago was now pulling ahead as the potential official Olympics. Reps from New York get worried. They start calling city employees, sports leaders, and others saying that Chicago is not ready, it's too late to do it right.
Who would you believe? I actually understand the hesitation for Chicagoans to fully support this effort until more is known. What I absolutely do not understand is Chicagoans who will listen to people from Montreal to make their decisions. Montreal has a huge vested interest in making sure Chicago is not chosen to be the host city for Gay Games VII in 2006. The official Gay Games is what many athletes want.
We wish Montreal well. The more opportunities for GLBT athletes, the better. But if you are trying to make up your mind about Chicago's bid, I wouldn't go calling Montreal for an objective opinion.
Our bid documents will be available for public view starting Feb. 3. The Federation will return questions to us by Feb. 10, we have until Feb. 20 to respond. And on March 1, 2004, they will vote.
What I want most to do is thank the amazing crew of people who have recrafted this new bid. Dozens of sports and culture leaders, finance and legal experts, and so many more. This effort was so fast that I did not think we could do it in time. But we have crafted what I believe is the best document possible—thanks to the wonderful teamwork of Chicagoans. Win or lose, it was worth the effort to work with this great group.
The Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau has estimated that a Gay Games in Chicago would generate a minimum of $25 million in direct economic benefit to the City and the region. In estimates provided to Chicago Games, Inc. the CTB numbers are based upon approximately 24,000 visitors to the Chicago region, 12,000 competitors and 12,000 friends, family and other tourists. The CTB Research is 'conservative,' and reflects a request from CGI for a number to help estimate the benefits if Chicago were selected to host the Gay Games.
'We view this number as a starting point,' said Kevin Boyer, spokesperson for CGI. 'Some Sydney experts have claimed an economic impact of close to $80 million U.S.' Economic impact numbers are estimates calculated by governments and tourism boards as they try to evaluate the benefits back to a community from travel and tourism. The Chicago CTB noted that while the numbers are conservative, actual economic impact could only be measured after the event had occurred.
The Mayor's Advisory Council, meeting Jan. 21, 2004, adopted their resolution without opposition that 'recognizes the hard work, deep commitment, and level of expertise that Chicago Games Inc. brings to its planned bid to host Gay Games 2006,' and resolves that the Council 'will provide and encourage all feasible and advisable support to Chicago Games Inc. in its hosting activities after a review of award terms if its bid is accepted by the Federation of Gay Games.' The sponsor of the motion further clarified that a November vote stating 'the Council could not recommend a bid,' should not be interpreted as opposition to CGI, but as a resolution offered at a moment in time when the Council felt it couldn't support the bid.
Members of CGI made a lengthy presentation to the Advisory Council. During that meeting, we presented draft budget numbers, noting an overall budget of $6.2 million with $1.3 million from corporate sponsors, $200K from tourism grants, $2.7 million from athlete registration fees and $2 million from ticket sales, visitor badges, fundraising, donors and license fees.
In other news, a major Chicago law firm has agreed to provide pro bono legal services on issues related to contracts, trademark and licensing. Chicago-based Hinshaw & Culbertson will serve as counsel to CGI.
Openly gay Hinshaw partner Gary Medler will be the principal Hinshaw & Culbertson attorney working on the project. Medler is a cyclist, having won three medals—a gold, silver and bronze—in the 2002 Gay Games in Sydney.
For more information about Chicago Games, Inc., visit www.chicagogamesinc.org . Gay Games® is a registered trademark of the Federation of Gay Games. For more information about the FGG, visit www.gaygames.org .