Gideon Sam

Gideon Sam, head of South Africa’s sports administration body, has denied slating the Federation of Gay Games and says he is prepared to work with the group in future.

Sam, president of Sascoc, was criticised over reports that he said at the Sports Industry Summit in Joburg last week that Sascoc did not deal with the Gay Games because it only administered “serious sport” in South Africa.

The Gay Games, organised by the Federation, is the world’s largest sporting and cultural event for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual athletes, and has taken place every four years since 1982.

Following growing condemnation on Twitter for his alleged comment, Sam told the Cape Argus that his statement had been misinterpreted.

“I was merely stating a fact – that Sascoc does not have an associate membership of any federation involved in the management and promotion of sport for gay people in the country. I am a democrat, and believe in everybody’s right to be what they want to be,” he said.

“As Sascoc we would be happy to engage with leaders of such a federation. Every sector of society has the right to empower themselves through… sport… as Sascoc it is our mandate to support such efforts.”

Vice President for External Affairs for the Gay Games, Marc Naimark, wrote to Sam saying that he would be “delighted to take you up on your offer to work together to promote sport for all via the participation of South Africans in the Gay Games, and in particular the next Games to be held in Cleveland, Ohio in 2014, along with the development of LGBT sport in your country and efforts to fight against homophobia by and in sport in South Africa and worldwide.”

Sam replied to the letter, stating that Sascoc is “an inclusive Confederation and would welcome organisations that deal with sport.”

He went on to say: “We are more than willing to engage your organisation on this matter. May the 2014 Gay Games take you closer to achieving your goals of fighting against homophobia by and in sport in our country.”

The Federation of Gay Games has twice held its annual meeting in South Africa; in Johannesburg and, most recently, in Cape Town in 2008. In 2005, Johannesburg submitted a bid to host the Gay Games in 2010 but was narrowly beaten by Cologne in Germany.

Naimark said that he is “confident that Johannesburg and other cities in your beautiful country will bid for future editions of the ‘Games that Change the World'”.

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