- Johannesburg is one of three cities worldwide to bid for the hosting of the 2010 Gay Games, the special "Olympics" for gays and lesbians. A special Bid Committee has been established in the city, with the support of South Africa's government. The other bidders are Cologne and Paris.
According to a statement released by the San Francisco-based Federation of Gay Games, groups in Cologne, Johannesburg and Paris have submitted letters of intent to bid for the eighth Gay Games in 2010. The site selection process is to culminate with selection of the host in November this year, the Federation says.
The Gay Games is the largest ongoing event on the international sports calendar for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. More than ten thousand participants are taking part in approximately 30 sports, band and choral events every four years.
Since the organisers of the first two Gay Games in San Francisco (USA) decided to send the event to other cities, groups from more than a dozen cities on four continents have sought to host the Gay Games. A wide range of government officials, Olympic athletes, celebrities and community leaders now support local bid groups in their efforts to showcase the Gay Games, according to the Federation.
The next edition of the sports event is to take place in Chicago (USA) in 2006. Last time, it was organised in Sydney (Australia), gathering 11,000 participants from all over the world. The first Gay Games were held in San Francisco in 1982 with 1,350 participants. Since that, the Games have been held in Vancouver (Canada), New York (USA) and Amsterdam (Netherlands), with a steadily increasing number of participants.
The event primarily focuses on sports at a high level. Several Olympic champions also participate in the Gay Games. Besides the sports, the Games also spin off a large number of cultural events and a growing number of gay and lesbian tourists, known to be welcome in the host city as big spenders.
Johannesburg is the first African city asking to host this major event in the gay community. While Paris and Cologne are strong competitors due to their central European location, a gay sports event organised in Africa is believed to be a prestigious alternative for the organisers.
Kathleen Webster, Co-President of the Federation of Gay Games, took pride in the "interest in bidding for our events from countries and continents where only just a few years ago such a project could not have been considered." Having candidate cities such as Cologne, Johannesburg and Paris was demonstrating the increasing acceptance of the gay community worldwide.
In South Africa, a special "Johannesburg Gay Games Bid Committee" had been formed. Federation officials said that support for gay community activities "is strong by local and federal governments in France, Germany and South Africa." Therefore, these were "three outstanding potential locations for the Gay Games," said Darl Shaaff, co-chair of the Federation's Site Selection Committee.
Between June and August 2005, members of the Site Selection Committee plan to travel to each of the candidate cities to survey the proposed venues and meet local supporters. The Committee is to review each group's bid materials for completeness and periodically follow up with the bidding groups. The bidding groups are to make final presentations before the Federation's full board of directors at the Federation's annual meeting this November in Chicago.
- We extend our best wishes to the groups from Cologne, Johannesburg and Paris who have entered this new stage of the bidding process, Ms Webster said. "Each would bring a wonderful, unique perspective to the Gay Games and the Federation's board of directors will surely have a challenge selecting any one instead of the others," she added.
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