by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
Five years from now, the City of Light will become the City of Action. Gay action, that is. As in, Gay athletes from all over the world traveling to Paris to compete in the premier LGBT sporting event: the Gay Games. The French capital beat out London and Limerick, Ireland, in the final tallying conducted during the Federation of Gay Games (FGG) general assembly this week, to host the 10th edition of this quadrennial event.
Although each finalist bidding to host the global event was considered carefully, it was Paris that impressed the voting committee of about 150 delegates the most. Kelly Stevens, the FGG's communications officer and a member of its board, was one of two delegates from Seattle who attended the selection ceremony in Cleveland this week.
'I think that all three were capable of hosting it,' Stevens told SGN by phone. 'But Paris really doubled their efforts in planning for this bid. Paris bid previously in 2005 to host the 2010 Gay Games and lost to Cologne, Germany. So they really have been working for 10 years to do this. They really crossed their T's and dotted their I's, and they put on probably the most lively presentation, full of Paris flair.'
Stevens is optimistic that the number of participants for Gay Games X will increase.
'There's no reason not to expect it to go well over 12,000. It will go higher, probably,' he said. 'We'll expect larger turnout from Central Europe and a huge turnout from Paris and all of France.'
He is particularly excited about some of the already-revealed plans for the week-long event. 'They are setting up their Athletes' Village, which is similar to a Pride Festival. It's a giant stage going on all day into the evening with music and announcements and video screens recapping things - they're doing that right in the center of Paris. It's going to be really, really centralized.'
A FAVORITE DESTINATION
The choice of Paris as host of the 2018 Gay Games was celebrated within and outside the Gay sports community, and will certainly impact a city that has long been a favorite destination of LGBT travelers.
'We are very honored that Paris has been chosen as the site of the 2018 Gay Games,' declared Marion Fourestier, communications director for the U.S. at Atout France, the official French tourism office, in New York. 'It will reaffirm to all that since Oscar Wilde (and earlier) to the present day (the French National Assembly voted Gay marriage into law in April 2013) that France and its capital are a very Gay-friendly destination. Historically, it has put into practice the French Republic's motto since the French Revolution of 'Liberté, égalité, fraternité' - welcoming outcasts, whether from the Gay community or artists of the African American community, and other refugees from prejudice or repression.'
Fourestier points out a few things that separate Paris from other places. 'Paris offers the obvious iconic sites that no one else has: the Eiffel Tower, the Seine River, the Louvre, and Bertrand Delanoë, the first openly Gay mayor of Paris. There's just so many things to see and do. If you've never been there before, you have to see what Paris is famous for.'
Tom Nobbe, executive director of Gay Games IX, being staged in Cleveland and Akron next August, points out that the task of assembling the Paris event starts right away. 'They begin immediately with raising awareness - they would begin to hire staff because right now it's been a very, very passionate group of volunteers who put together the bid. Now it is reality - they are the hosts of the 2018 Gay Games - and they move forward. They still have five years, which now seems like a long time, but this is an event the size of the Summer Olympics in terms of the number of participants involved, and planning takes years.'
MEET YOU AT THE Q
The 2014 Gay Games are expected to attract 11,000 participants. As of September 30, the number of registered athletes has reached 2,000.
'It's exactly where we wanted to be,' confirmed Nobbe. 'We're looking to have an additional 3,000 by the end of the year, which would make 5,000 and then between January through August we'll get the rest.'
The opening ceremony for the 2014 Gay Games is scheduled for Cleveland's Quicken Loans Arena (commonly known as the 'Q'), which can seat up to 20,000 people. Live entertainment for the kickoff gala is likely to be announced by years' end.
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