As we go to press, this year’s Gay Games, held in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, is just starting up, with over 7,000 competitors and entertainers converging on the Midwest to unite in sport, competition and camaraderie in the Midwest. What you may not know is that there is a similar international gay sporting competition, called the World OutGames, and in just three years’ time, athletes from all over the world will be coming to our home state to show off their brawn and talents. The fourth World OutGames will be held in Miami from May 26 to June 4, 2017.
The World OutGames does not compete with the Gay Games: far from it, in fact. Athletes who participate in the Gay Games often compete in the World OutGames, and vice versa. They are held in different years to allow competitors to attend both organized sporting events without having them overextend themselves financially. The World OutGames is the brainchild of the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA), a democratically-governed organization consisting of not only LGBT sports organizations but also human rights organizations. Their aim is to grow LGBT involvement in sports by facilitating partnerships which are geared to support continental and world OutGames events, and through those partnerships they hope to increase visibility of LGBT athletes and LGBT culture in sports.
World OutGames events showcase three core elements: sports, culture and human rights.
Sports: There are between 30 and 35 sports offered at each World OutGames, in which athletes are encouraged to enter and compete. Seasoned competitors and people competing for fun are all welcomed to sign up and from there they compete in groups based on skill set.
Culture: Culture and celebrations are integral to every World OutGames. These celebrations include dancing, whether it be choreographed or freestyle, marching and concert bands, cheerleading, and choral groups, among others. These events are both judged and non-judged and some even welcome audience participation.
Human Rights: A Human Rights Conference is held during every World OutGames. Many athletes come from countries where homosexuality is illegal, and some even come from areas where being gay can carry jail or death sentences. Delegates from every continent are welcomed to speak about issues facing the communities in their home country, and across the world.
Miami brought the rights for the next World OutGames home last year after a meeting of the worldwide representatives of GLISA convened in Antwerp, Belgium, which was the home of the last World OutGames. The bidding process was long, and at the end of it all, GLISA chose Miami over Reykjavik, Iceland to have the honor of hosting the OutGames in 2017. When selected, Bruce Townsend, the co-chair of the World OutGames Miami 2017 bid said, “We are extremely honored that GLISA chose Miami Beach-Miami for the 2017 World Outgames. This is a major leap forward for our community.”
Townsend, who also works as Social Catering Sales Director at the Miami Beach Convention Center, added, “This experience has been unbelievable for our team and we are grateful to represent Miami Beach and Miami for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We are ecstatic about being able to showcase Miami Beach and Miami on this world stage.”
Townsend was part of a 13-member bid team, the Miami Sports & Cultural League, that was successful in bringing the World OutGames to Miami. Out of this group, Townsend and Ivan Cano, executive director of Miami Beach Gay Pride, became co-chairs of World OutGames Miami 2017. Jerry Torres of Stereo Entertainment was appointed secretary and Keith Hart of American Express was appointed treasurer. Five of the nine bid team members are part of the World OutGames Miami 2017 board: Cindy Brown, of the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens; Michael Gongora, vice-mayor of Miami Beach; Richard Murry, of The Murry Agency PR and Marketing; George Neary, of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Nick Tierno, general manager-centerplate at the Miami Beach Convention Center.
The World OutGames Miami 2017 organizers anticipate that over 15,000 participants will be coming to Florida’s Atlantic shores in just three years’ time, dwarfing attendance records from the 2013 World OutGames, where over 10,000 athletes participated. It’s estimated that $125 million in revenue will be generated by the OutGames, stimulating the South Florida economy. That money is not supposed to just benefit Miami Beach and Downtown Miami, but also Fort Lauderdale and cities to the north in Broward County. It’s an exciting time for South Florida; I know I can’t wait until the games begin!