With the words “We’re gonna get it!” councillor and mayoral committee member Christine Walters summed up the feeling of supporters of the 2010 Gay Games bid at a party in Braamfontein last Thursday night.
The international delegation, consisting of three members from the US and Canada, spent their last night in Johannesburg at the DCM club in Heartlands, hosted by the new chief executive of the Gauteng Tourism Authority, Cawe Mahlati.
“Gauteng is an Afropolitan city,” she said to much applause. “We’ve broken new ground by obtaining true freedom. We have the world’s best constitution, best entertainment, best hospitality. May the Gay Games come to Gauteng.”
Johannesburg submitted its bid proposal in mid-March this year, when a Section 21 company, the Gay Games VIII Johannesburg Bidding Committee, was formed. It is competing with Paris and Cologne to host the games. The bid has been endorsed by a range of people and organisations – from Johannesburg’s Executive Mayor Amos Masondo and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project and the Johannesburg Tourism Company.
A crowd of about 60 people welcomed the three delegates – Darl Schaaff, Robert Lavery and Dennis Sneyers – to the newly opened gay club, one of four in Heartlands. They have spent the previous three days in the city, hosted by City Manager Pascal Moloi, Walters and finance, strategy and economic development councillor Parks Tau.
The committee has been shown around Newtown, had a tour of MuseuMAfrica, a private tour of Constitution Hill with Justice Albie Sachs and a helicopter ride taking in the sports facilities available. The helicopter also landed at Ellis Park to tour the venues there. It is expected that up to 4 000 athletes will compete at Ellis Park each day.
Schaaff took the podium, and amid much cheering, said, “Johannesburg is incredibly powerful. There is an infusion of unbelievable energy here; you are doing amazing things.” He said he had never been to Joburg before, nor had he been to a city as exciting. “I think you’re doing good – you’ve been great hosts.”
Up to 13 000 athletes would be visiting the city in 2010, along with 2 000 partners and 5 000 admirers, if Joburg was to host the games, he said. Every time Schaaff began a sentence with, “If you get the games…”, the audience corrected him, saying, “When we get the games…”.
“You’ve already won the games, in terms of council support,” he concluded.
On Friday morning the delegates breakfasted at the Johannesburg Tourism Company’s offices, visited Kempton Park’s ice rink and the Civic Theatre in Braamfontein, and met auditing firm KPMG to assess the budget. Lunch was at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club, after which the committee prepared to depart on the next leg of its inspections, to Cologne and then Paris.
In an interview, Walters explained that the mayoral committee gave the games its unanimous support. “The essence of the games is to bring tourists to the city, to boost economic growth and to nurture a tolerance of diversity.”
She explained that everyone had equal rights under the country’s democracy, and that the bid was about more than just bringing the games to South Africa. “The country, the province and the city will benefit. This will be a first for Africa, and will be a message of tolerance in Africa.”
Walters said the infrastructure put in place for the 2010 Soccer World Cup would be used for the Gay Games, and again for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, if South Africa was successful in its bid. A further possibility was the Disabled Games. “The delegation was very impressed with what the city has shown them,” she concluded.
To enter the Gay Games, athletes do not have to be professional; the only restriction is a minimum age of 18. The games will take place over eight days, whereafter the athletes will move to Cape Town to participate in cultural activities like choir festivals and costume parties.
The delegation will submit a report to the voting members of the games committee in six weeks’ time. In November a final bid will be presented, after which 65 member organisations will vote for the winning host country.
James Mathias, co-chair of the bid committee, said confidently, “While we wish the delegates the best visiting Paris and Cologne, we’re confident that they’ll agree they started with the winner. We’ll keep preparing for the final bid presentation in Chicago in November – and keep holding thumbs.”
If wish to support the Gay Games bid, you can make a deposit into the Johannesburg Gay Games Bid Committee account: Standard Bank, Rivonia branch code 001255, account number 023038489. For more information, visit the Gay Games website.
Article courtesy of the Johannesburg News Agency
Originally published on the City of Johannesburg website