Paris bids to host Gay Games

"We're all equal" says this poster for the French bid

The four-yearly event attracts more sportspeople than the Olympics so would benefit the city, say supporters

PARIS is in the running to host the 2018 Gay Games – a 36-discipline sports event which attracts more participants than the Olympics.

The 2010 Gay Games, in Cologne, Germany hosted 12,000 sportspeople from 70 countries, compared to 10,500 at the London Olympics this year.

The Gay Games also cost less – about €5million to organise compared to the London Olympics’ figure of about €11billion. If they are held in Paris the city’s mayor Bertrand Delanoë (who is gay) has already agreed to provide public sporting facilities to accommodate them.

Despite the name, the Gay Games are not exclusively for gay participants, but are however aimed at encouraging homosexual sportspeople to be open about their sexuality. First held in San Francisco in 1982, they were created by a doctor and former decathlete Tom Waddell, who had regretted being unable to mention his orientation during his sporting career.

Joint president of the French bid Michael Geoffray told Le Monde: “It is still very difficult today for a high-level athlete to come out of the closet.” Out of 6,000 male athletes in the last Olympics, there were only three openly gay men.

The games are held every four years and last 10 days, with opening and closing ceremonies as well as cultural elements like music and cinema festivals, exhibitions and fashion shows.

Mr Geoffray said: “Its the world’s biggest sporting and cultural event and it would be a great rehearsal for Paris 2024 if the city finally gets the Olympics.” There are also potential economic benefits from visitors.

The bid is being organised by the Fédération Sportive gay et Lesbienne Française (FSGL), said to be the only national gay sporting federation in the world. If Paris wins, the games will be paid for in part by participants, and the rest from sponsorship and grants. It is backed by many politicians, including Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, and some high-profle sportspeople like Olympic fencing champion Laura Flessel who was the French flag bearer at the Olympics this year.

However the event has its critics, such as the journalist Robert Ménard, founder of Reporters sans Frontières, who asked why public money should be spent on an event aimed at mainly one part of the community. “While we’re at it why not also games for just sado-masochists or people who like the missionary position,” he wrote in an opinion piece.

The US-based games organisers are to choose from Paris and several other cities by October next year, the other candidates being Orlando, Florida; Amsterdam, London and Limerick.

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