Athletes and advocates from all over the world planned to be in Miami this weekend and next week for the World OutGames, an Olympics-style competition for the LGBTQ community.
But what they were met with instead was a last-minute email saying most of the sporting events had been canceled due to financial troubles. Only a handful of events will go on as planned: aquatic sports, country and western dance and soccer, as well as the human rights conference.
OutGames has been in competition with Gay Games, a similar sports and culture festival, for registrations for years. And according to Australian swimmer Megan McLachlan, it can be difficult for athletes to attend both competitions or choose just one.
McLachlan traveled from Sydney, Australia for her events and, although she's relieved to still be competing, she said she's felt trouble brewing for some time because of the conflict between the two games.
“There was a part of me that always thought that this might happen," she said. "I’ve been to quite a few of these ... I’ve just seen sort of the gradual demise of both the games."
For many, the email was too late. Flights and hotel rooms had been paid for. Aaron Enriquez flew in from Mexico with members of his soccer and volleyball teams. He says it wasn’t until he arrived at the Loews Hotel for registration on Friday morning that he heard the news.
“It’s a huge effort for us to come here," Enriquez said. "And just getting here and nothing happens is … it’s crazy.”
Four badminton athletes gathered at The Palace, a gay bar in Miami Beach, to commiserate. Jouko Schaublin, 26, is from Switzerland. He says he was on the beach when someone approached him to tell him the news.
"I was like, 'You're kidding right?' " Schaublin said.
Schaublin says he spent more than $2,500 on the trip.
He sat next to Martin Hansen, 39, from Denmark.
"We were supposed to play against Jouko for the gold medal," Hansen said. "But now there won't be no match, so we won't see who's winning."
In a statement, the city of Miami Beach said it was "deeply concerned" by the cancelations, and had provided ample support for the games.
World OutGames CEO Ivan Cano declined to comment. Several pages, including the schedules, have been taken down from Outgames.org since the cancelation.