LGBTQ Athletes Back In Action After Miami Beach Salvages OutGames
The World OutGames are up and running again after last-minute mass cancelations, and it's thanks to the city of Miami Beach and the South Florida's LGBTQ community, which have rallied to keep as many events going as possible.
These were supposed to be the fourth World OutGames, an international LGBTQ Olympics-style competition. Along with the sports, the games hosted a Human Rights Conference beginning last week, which was not canceled. The 10-day competition was set to open Saturday night and include hundreds of sporting and cultural events. Athletes from all over the world traveled to Miami to compete and make connections before organizers announced on Friday morning that most of the games had been canceled due to "financial burdens." Soccer, aquatic sports and country western dancing were not canceled.
Following that announcement, the city of Miami Beach, along with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Miami Beach Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, began working to reorganize many of the events. As of Saturday, the field hockey tournament, the soccer finals, the indoor basketball tournament and the volleyball tournament had been restored. The city is also hosting a reception for all athletes and attendees on Wednesday night at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.
Jimmy Morales, the Miami Beach city manager, said he's been working around the clock to restore events. "We're going to try to bring back as many as possible. If we could get 50-plus percent, that would be great," Morales said.
The city had already contributed thousands of dollars to the games before many of them were canceled. "We had directly and through some of our organizations put in about $200,000 in cash," Morales said. He said the city also gave hours in staff time, waived fees, and provided other fundraising assistance to the games before Friday's chaotic breakdown.
In the past days, it's been another team effort by multiple agencies to keep the games alive, but Morales said he didn't have an exact figure for how much the city has spent doing so.
"It's unfortunate what happened," Morales said, "But I think the community as a whole, interestingly, is coming together to try to salvage what we can."
But even as the city tries to help, Morales says the logistics are still disorganized. There is no full, comprehensive list of all the athletes in town for the competition.
According to Morales, athletes who couldn't get in touch with OutGames organizers turned to the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce for help. Local businesses, such as Palace Bar and Gaythering Hotel, stepped in and offered discounted admission or services.
Dedrick Tillerson is captain of the Atlanta Fury basketball team. He said when he first saw the cancelation announcement email, he thought it was fake. "I thought it was a spam email that was sent because of how ... poorly put the email was," he said.
Tillerson reached out to the basketball organizer, who he said was "just as puzzled." The Atlanta Fury members had trained for a year and worked to gain sponsorship money to attend the games, so things looked bleak when the organizer confirmed the basketball competition had been canceled. The team ultimately got rescheduled to play at the Scott Rakow Youth Center over the weekend.
According Tonya Daniels, director of marketing and communications for Miami Beach, the city started an audit of the World OutGames Miami books and records ahead of the games due to apparent financial issues. In a press release, the city attached two letters from Morales to the City Commission that expressed concern over the games and the organizers' financial standing.
The city announced in another press release that the police were looking into the matter further. "Due to the potential misappropriation of funds, the Miami Beach Police Department and the State Attorney's Office have conferred and are jointly opening a fraud investigation," the release reads.
On Sunday, two days after the first sporting event took place, Morales said OutGames organizers had not made medals for winning athletes.
Morales says they're sharing information on relocated events on Facebook.