The Organizing Committee of Johannesburg’s Bid to host the Gay Games in 2010 has announced that it has received official endorsement from the national Sports Commission.
“With this endorsement we have received official support from the highest levels of national government. We are excited and proud of this endorsement of our Bid and believe it strengthens our chances considerably,” said Tanya Harford, Co-Chair of the Bid Committee.
The Gay Games drew 12 000 participants and 30 000 accompanying visitors to Sydney in 2002, making it one of the world’s largest sporting and cultural festivals. The next host city is Chicago for Gay Games VII in 2006.
In addition to building South Africa’s credibility in hosting major international events, the Games have a significant economic impact on the host city. “The Sydney Games drew over twelve thousand participants. Over nine thousand came from overseas and combined competition with the trip of a lifetime. This would be a considerable boost just weeks after Soccer World Cup participants have left,” said Eddy Khosa, Acting CEO of the City’s Johannesburg Tourism Company, the Bid’s primary sponsor.
Johannesburg has already been short listed and is competing against Paris, France and Cologne, Germany.
The Johannesburg Bid includes 22 sports and a cultural festival. The Bid concentrates activities at Ellis Park, Randurg Sports Precinct and the Newtown Cultural Precinct. “Imagine beach volleyball in Newtown. People will be able to watch for free as the Brazilians play the Australians outside with the backdrop of Newtown and the Johannesburg CBD. The international marketing value is enormous,” said Harford.
The scale of the Games will challenge Johannesburg’s sporting capacity. The bid projects over one thousand participants for aquatics, tennis, athletics, and road races. Based on Sydney participation and local interest, organisers expect almost 500 participants to play golf, 800 for soccer and 400 for field hockey and even ten pin bowling. Other challenges are participants from over 60 countries, a multitude of languages, and differing sporting regulations used around the world.
The Bid has received strong support. Executive Mayor Amos Masondo is supporting the Bid as is Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Nomaindia Mfeketo. Other supporters include Gauteng MEC for sport Barbara Creecy, multiple Comrades winner Bruce Fordyce, cultural icon PJ Powers, Southern Sun Hotels and SA Tourism.
“The vision of the Gay Games: Inclusion, Participation and Personal Best are values South Africans understand and celebrate,” wrote Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in his official letter endorsing Johannesburg’s bid.
Johannesburg’s Bid is unusual as it proposes to turn a large international event that drew only 53 Africans to Sydney into a very African event. “We decided this had to be African to work. We’ve had to challenge international event practice to do so. With the expertise of KPMG we managed to produce a conservative budget that allows for up to 3,000 partial and full scholarships,” said Bid Co-Chair James Mathias. “Our Bid is based on 8,000 full paying participants – mostly from Europe and North America – paying full registration fees.” With lower costs to produce major events, and the legacy of world-class infrastructure from the World Cup, Joburg is in a unique position to host the Games.
A Section 21 company has been established; a working group meets weekly and various committees are visiting venues, fundraising, and spreading the word. An international Site Inspection Committee will visit at the end of August and the final Bid will be presented in Chicago in November this year.
“With the world’s most respected constitution and a history of successfully hosting major international sporting events we believe hosting the Gay Games will offer hope and then direct support to many of our sisters and brothers here and around the continent who struggle within their communities,” says, Perdita Bokeer, Chair of the Bid’s Outreach programme.
Participation is not limited in any way. Athletes do not have to be gay to compete, or even internationally ranked. The Games’ philosophy focuses on inclusion, so even first-time competitors get a chance. Age isn’t a limiting factor either with competitors divided into age categories so even seniors can become medal winners.
A major cultural festival will be held alongside the Games featuring the performing arts, visual arts and the humanities.