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Monday, May 29, 2017

OutGames athletes felt lied to, while Miami steps up to save some sports

Chaos in aftermath of OutGames cancellation
By Chad Calais
From: OutSports
From beautiful South Beach, Florida, where gorgeous men and women stroll the boulevards and dance without a worry in the world, the LGBT community is in an uproar about the cancellation of the majority of the sporting events at the World OutGames in Miami, which were to start Friday.

The only world to describe the scene here in Miami is chaotic. However, in a bit of good news, volunteers along with the city of Miami Beach and other groups have banded together to salvage some sports that risked being canceled.

I was expecting to not only compete in the 10K and the marathon this week, but to also attend many of the cultural and social gatherings and to report for Outsports. When I turned my phone back on after arriving in Miami from New Orleans, I had an email from Cyd Zeigler at Outsports asking me what I thought about the cancellation of the games. That was the first instance I heard about the cancellation, but not the first notification I had received from the OutGames that day. I was still receiving emails about upcoming events, while organizers had already decided to cancel 90% of the events.

After checking in to my room at the National Hotel, I asked where the OutGames organizers were located, since the National Hotel was listed as the Host Headquarters of the OutGames. The staff knew nothing about anything associated with the OutGames. After talking to several other participants, including transgender duathlete Chris Mosier, I realized the Loews Hotel was the host hotel, as well as the location of the Human Rights Conference. After walking over to the Loews Hotel, there was a sign stating that the OutGames headquarters were now at 1210 Washington Street.

This address is indeed the OutGames headquarters, where four volunteers were handing out credentials in the foyer of an empty office building that is up for lease.

I immediately set forth to talk to as many participants as possible to get their take and opinions on the cancellation of the games. Confused and disappointed are the best ways to describe the feelings of the athletes, but they also feel like they were lied to for months by the OutGames organizers, who obviously knew the financial troubles they were having and didn’t announce cancellations until most of the athletes were either en route to Miami or already have arrived.

Thousands of athletes are ready to participate in an event that seems ghostly, with a headquarters in a foyer of an empty office, while their website is still sending emails advertising about upcoming events, even a day after the majority of the event has been canceled. I was able to talk to a local organizer who stated that most participants would get access to certain social events, like free admission to the Miami Gay Chorus. There was even talk of having the marathon run on Sunday, after the majority of athletes have left Miami.

I wanted to be fair in my report, so I reached out to Ivan Cano, the CEO of the OutGames. I offered him a chance to share his story about what happened to the games, about the late cancellation of the games, and about refunding athletes who have traveled long and far to attend the games. I also wanted his opinion on the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s office announcement of a fraud probe into the OutGames handling of the money. He did not respond to my email for an interview or even a response via email to our concerns.

In the midst of this travesty, the LGBT community is starting to rise together. One thing about the participants here in Miami, they will not allow this disappointment to keep them down for long. Another Facebook site, Miami World OutGames Alternative has risen to band the athletes together, to create events among themselves.

Organizations in Miami are starting to come together to support other events, even attempting to have a new schedule of events for the athletes. That is what is so unique about the LGBT community, especially LGBT athletes and their supporters. They will unite to create good out of a terrible situation, to improve the disposition that we all found ourselves in when we stepped foot in Miami.

The next 24 hours will be exciting to see how many groups band together to form events. At this point, it doesn’t even matter if there are awards or spectators, but the camaraderie of competing against others, then possible having a cold beverage to celebrate afterwards.

On Saturday afternoon, the city of Miami Beach issued a media release that detailed efforts to save some sports:

Since the World OutGames announced the cancellation of many of their activities yesterday, the City of Miami Beach along with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) and the Miami Beach Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, has worked with the event's logistics organizers to restore many of the events that were planned.
In the last 24 hours alone, the Miami Beach Parks and Recreation Department was able to confirm and staff the Field Hockey tournament in the Flamingo Park soccer field on Monday, May 29 through Wednesday, May 31; the Soccer Finals in the Flamingo Park Stadium on Friday, June 2; and relocated the Indoor Basketball tournament to the Scott Rakow Youth Center on Sunday, May 28 through Monday, May 29.
City staff is working with the regular Lummus Park volleyball community to keep and manage the volleyball tournament as scheduled at the 7th Street volleyball courts from Tuesday, May 30 through Friday, June 2.
In addition, the city and GMCVB are welcoming all registered athletes and their families to a reception Wednesday night, May 31, at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden to express the true nature of Miami Beach hospitality.
The city is extremely proud of our business and cultural partners, which have stepped up to offer free and discounted admission and services to all OutGames attendees. The list of such partners includes the Miami Design and Preservation League, the Palace Bar, the Gaythering Hotel and the Gay Men's Chorus, which offered free admission to all OutGames attendees to their performance last night at the city's Colony Theater.
City staff has worked consistently for the past several months to assist the event producers with special events planning and permitting; fundraising efforts; relocating events to low or no cost venues; assisting with local partners to provide support and access; and providing financial support to cover police staffing costs. As a lead sponsor of the event, the City also waived all related special event and permitting fees for this event and provided cash sponsorship to the OutGames.
It’s great that the city is rallying and I will do my part. As a professional running coach, I will organize a 30-minute run every morning on the boardwalk between the National Hotel and the beach at 8 Monday through Friday for any runner, walker, or LGBT supporter. Please stay tuned to Outsports as we continue to update everyone as information becomes available.

Chad Calais can be reached via email at chadc2016@gmail.com.

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