Thursday, August 10, 2006

Minnelli brings Outgames to a spectacular close

Minnelli brings Outgames to a spectacular close
By Gary Barlow
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press

Legendary performer Liza Minnelli thrilled thousands, belting out “New York, New York” and other hits at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium Aug. 5 as the first World Outgames came to a close.

About 20,000 people watched Minnelli, Marjo, Tracy Young and others close out the week of GLBT sports competitions that drew some 12,000 athletes from 111 countries to Montreal.

“It was a gigantic effort,” said Outgames co-president and former Olympic champion Mark Tewksbury. “The feedback we’re receiving from our participants, which is really our first concern, has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The games included competitions in 35 sports disciplines and six cultural disciplines. Almost 8,000 medals were awarded to athletes who ranged from age 18 to age 82. Almost 20 percent of the participants came from the United States and more than 30 percent traveled from Europe to compete. About 5,200 volunteers helped stage the event.

“The first World Outgames Montreal would not have known the success it has had without the exceptional contribution of its volunteers and partners and the unwavering support of the entire Montreal community,” said Montreal 2006 CEP Louise Roy.

Organizers said the opening and closing ceremonies, sports events and an affiliated human rights conference, international choral festival and other Outgames-related events drew an estimated 500,000 spectators and participants.

“Montreal has once again demonstrated its ability to host a major international event in a festive spirit of friendship, celebrating sport, culture and human rights,” Roy said.

The Outgames, sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association, grew out of a rift that developed within the Federation of Gay Games after it initially awarded Gay Games VII to Montreal 2006, then reversed that decision after disagreements over financial control of money raised by Montreal 2006. The FCC subsequently awarded Gay Games VII to Chicago Games, Inc., which staged the event here July 15-22.

Officials from both the Gay Games and the Outgames acknowledged that having competing events this summer hurt attendance at both. GLISA decided to try to avoid that in the future, awarding the next Outgames to Copenhagen in 2009. The next Gay Games is to be held one year later in Cologne, Germany.


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