Athletes from around the globe who forked out thousands to attend the World OutGames in Miami are outraged at the last minute cancellation of most of the 10-day event.
On Friday, less than 24 hours before the opening ceremony, the Board of Directors of World OutGames Miami posted a short message on Facebook announcing that only a handful of the planned 450 sporting, cultural and human rights events would go ahead.
“It is with deep regret that due to financial burdens, World OutGames must cancel opening and closing ceremonies and sports programming with the exception of aquatics, country western dance and soccer. The Human Rights Conference and cultural programs will continue as planned.”
The board added: “We thank everyone who has supported the effort and apologise to those who will be impacted by this difficult decision.”
The OUTGames said earlier this month that it expected to have 2,000 registered athletes and over 3,500 participants and visitors for the human rights conference.
The event received sponsorship from the likes of Adidas, Coca-Cola and Bacardi, as well as various city and state bodies.
According to the Miami Herald, some athletes, such as a team from Mexico, only found out about the cancellations when they arrived in Miami.
The news was met with outrage and disbelief by athletes who had trained and saved up to take part in the event for months, if not years.
“Are you fucking people kidding me, right now? Do you have any idea how much money we dropped to attend? Not to mention uniforms, loss of wages, loss of vacation time etc…” commented Joey Tai on Facebook.
Bodybuilder Diego Lopez wrote: “I am suing you. I’ve spent thousands of Euros on a flight from Spain for God’s sake. Not even counting the hotel on the Miami beach paid for just the other day.”
Roger Moresi said that the OUTGames had been “my vacation for the year” and that he had “spent thousands and didn’t even get a courtesy email this was not going ahead … How to ruin a whole years work!”
The Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA), which awarded Miami the Games, said that it was “shocked and disappointed to learn today that World OutGames Miami 2017 could not obtain permits to allow many of the planned activities to proceed”.
GLISA noted that the host city “had sole and full responsibility for all planning and execution related to delivery of the event”.
The Miami New Times reported that city spokesperson Melissa Berthier announced on Friday that “the Miami Beach Police Department and the State Attorney’s Office have conferred and are jointly opening a fraud investigation”.
A Facebook group called “Miami World Outgames Alternative” has been set up to highlight other events in the city to allow those affected to “salvage their trip with something to do”.