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The price of the games
by Roger Brigham

Major LGBT sports festivals are finding it tricky to rely on government handouts and major corporate sponsorships. The host of the 2010 Gay Games in Cologne has cited lack of promised corporate sponsorships as a major factor in its 200,000 euros ($280,000) deficit nine months after the event, and the 2011 Vancouver North American Outgames said that the cultural activities in its July 25-31 event are in jeopardy after organizers' request for government funds was turned down a second time.

Games Cologne filed for insolvency in court in late April, saying it was working to close its deficit but still owed money to 25 creditors, including the international sanctioning body, the Federation of Gay Games.

The Cologne Games were the fifth of eight Gay Games to finish in the red; the only Gay Games to finish in the black were the first two Gay Games in San Francisco in 1982 and 1986, and the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago. But even with minimal government funding (105,000 euros from the city of Cologne over a three-year period, compared with about 5 million euros in government funding for the 2009 Copenhagen World Outgames) during a historic global recession, the Cologne deficit was only a fraction of the million-dollar losses suffered in 1998 by Amsterdam and in 2002 by Sydney.

Cologne organizers had planned for 10,000 to 12,000 participants and a budget of 10 million euros ($14 million). When early registrations were less robust than projected and corporate sponsorships were slow to come in, Cologne scaled back, relying on an almost entirely volunteer staff, and ended up with slightly less than 10,000 participants and a 4 million euro budget ($5.6 million).

Cologne tourism officials said that during the Gay Games the city had the most visitors it had ever had in August, and an estimated extra 23 million to 43.7 million euros ($32 million-$61 million) was pumped into the local economy.

FGG officials did not seem overly concerned with the deficit.

"The FGG is aware that the 2010 host organization is working to close the financial books following a very successful Gay Games," spokesman Kelly Stevens told the Bay Area Reporter . "A small percent of a total budget has not yet been met, and the host is working to resolve this with the German administration."

Stevens added that overall, the games were a success.

"The Federation of Gay Games remains forever thankful for the work of Games Cologne and the hundreds of volunteers who made Gay Games VIII such a great success and which participants continue to treasure nearly a year later," Stevens added. "We particularly appreciate the dedication of the steering committee, and the co-presidents of Games Cologne, Annette Wachter and Michael Lohaus, who have done their utmost to ensure an excellent Gay Games VIII with the best possible financial outcome in extremely trying circumstances. With the leanest staff ever, GGVIII was organized and executed by 95 percent volunteers."

Wachter and Lohaus told Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger that major sponsorships promised earlier in handshake deals failed to materialize, merchandise materials were ordered too late, and a lot of equipment â€" such as computers â€" was stolen. In addition, unanticipated security was hired for public safety after 21 people were killed in a panicked stampede at the Love Parade just days before in nearby Duisburg.

"During the four years leading up to Gay Games VIII," Stevens said, "constraints imposed by the greatest economic downturn since World War II, and in particular, the inability of government bodies and corporations to provide adequate support, created enormous challenges to the organizers of Gay Games VIII."

Games Cologne was paying a licensing fee of $5,000 per month over a five-year period to the FGG for a total of $300,000. Because of the challenges facing Cologne, Stevens said, "the FGG reinvested the GGVIII license fee back into marketing efforts, notably in North America."

In Vancouver, meanwhile, Outgames organizers were scrambling to find funding after being turned down again by the city's program to promote its 125th anniversary. After organizers were denied a request last winter for a $100,000 Vancouver 125th Anniversary grant, the group revised its request and asked for $30,000. That request was denied last week.

Margeret Specht, director of the program, told Xtra that the Outgames organizers "didn't articulate their plan to the degree that other applicants did." A total of $1.4 million was awarded to 70 of the more than 200 applications.

"I'm more than disappointed that the committee didn't see the importance in this one-time event that would bring the communities of Vancouver together," Outgames chairman John Boychuk said. "Now the culture programs are challenged. We are looking for other sources of funding, but it's not looking very optimistic at the moment. We're not giving up; we're not stopping. We're looking for that guardian angel that wants to step up and support the cultural component of the Outgames."

Some 1,000 participants are projected for the festival.

NBA faux pas redux

Sigh.

For years the credo around the National Basketball Association was "Be Like Mike." As the playoffs roll on, it would seem the saying now is "Talk Like Kobe."

Perhaps it is the inner poet in the athletes more than homophobia per se that makes the consonance of the phrase "fucking faggot" slip from their lips when irked. Just weeks after Bryant uttered that homophobic epitaph, drawing a $100,000 fine and the birth of NBA public service announcements denouncing use of such slurs, Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls hurled the phrase at a fan during a playoff game last Sunday against the Miami Heat.

A $50,000 fine was quickly imposed: half the stardom, half the fine. Not sure how much impact these fines have on millionaire athletes, or their value as "teachable moments" as the NBA and apologists like to call them, but I have an alternative sanction, vastly cheaper and infinitely more effective.Soap their mouths. Nothing like a mouth of Ivory suds to let someone know bigotry is in bad taste.

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