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Paris sets sights on Gay Games

Paris is officially in the running to host the 2018 Gay Games, but is facing formidable competition. spoke to Michael Geffroy, co-chair of the Paris organising committee, to find out what the French capital has to offer.


Two years ago, the city lost the bid, but Paris has not given up the hope of some day organising the Gay Games, an international sports and cultural event that gathers athletes, artists and activists every four years. The French capital recently received approval from national authorities to re-launch its bid to become a host city and is now aiming for 2018.

Paris’ bid is being is backed by a 30-strong group of French LGBT (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender) organisations working alongside France’s gay and lesbian sports federation.

The organising committee must deliver its full application to the Federation of Gay Games by February 2013, and will find out if it is selected for a short list of candidate cities by July. Amsterdam, Limerick, London and Orlando are also competing.

In October 2013, the winner will be announced in the city of Cleveland, Ohio – the site of the next Gay Games in August 2014.

Thirty years in the making

The Gay Games were established in 1982, in San Francisco, California. The event was the brain child of Tom Waddell, a US Olympic decathlete who competed in the Mexico Olympic Games in 1968.

Since the first games 30 years ago, the event has been hosted four times by cities in North America, twice in Europe and once in Australia.

The athletic competitions serve mostly as an excuse to stage a week-long international party and arts festival. There are few requirements for participants, who can join and compete regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.

If Paris’ bid is successful, the city will host the 10th Gay Games. spoke to Michael Geffroy, co-chair of the Paris 2018 organising committee to find out what are the city’s chances for victory.

FRANCE 24: So what’s the procedure for the official bid application?

Michel Geffroy: We received the official letter from Paris city mayor Bertrand Delanoé in July. He is giving the committee his full support. Since then we have secured the support from many Paris district mayors. The project has received a warm welcome across all political parties.

F24: What would holding such an event mean for the city of Paris?

M.G.: The Gay Games have never been hosted in France and it’s important they return to Europe after Amsterdam in 1998 and Cologne in 2010... This event is a great communications tool to fight against discrimination through sports and fun. All events, except for some galas, will be free. Thousands of fans would flock to Paris. It would significantly benefit the tourism and hotel industries.

F24: The name "Gay Games" seems to suggest the event is reserved to homosexuals, but that’s not the case.

M.G.: We hear that criticism often. The name may sound like it’s a gathering for just one group of people, but our goal is the exact opposite. When the Games were created in 1982 by Waddell, the need to defend an identity was strong. The message has changed because there has been huge progress. It is important to highlight that the Gay Games are open to all, regardless of age, origin, political view, sexual orientation... The motto for Paris bid is “All Equal”. In this spirit, all participants agree to fight against all discriminations.

F24: If Paris wins the right to host in 2018, how will the Gay Games be organised?

M.G.: They would be held from August 4-12, 2018. More than 15,000 participants are expected to compete in 36 different sports like volleyball, swimming, rugby and football, but also less traditional disciplines like chess and bridge. All events would take place in existing buildings and sports complexes; there would be no new constructions. But the Gay Games is not just about sports, there is an entire cultural programme, with concerts, exhibitions, fashion shows, choirs ... The objective is to build a real Gay Games village at Paris City Hall.

F24: What is the budget for such an event?

M.G.: The funding comes from three main sources. One-third comes from the participants themselves [155 euros (200 dollars) per participant at Gay Games 9 in Cleveland], another third comes from sponsors and the last is provided by the host country and local authorities. We expect an overall budget of between 3 and 5 million euros. That amount is microscopic when compared to the budget of the London Olympics [11.6 billion euros]. The Gay Games in Cologne in 2010 cost 3 million euros, and Cleveland’s budget for 2014 is 5.4 million euros (7 million dollars).

It’s important to note that participants pay for their own travel, lodging and expenses.

F24: What do you think about your rivals in the bidding?

M.G.: We cannot take any of the other four candidates lightly. Lobbying is, as always, critical in this game and we know the English are especially good at it.

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