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Miami Beach one of two finalists for 2017 World OutGames; event could attract tens of thousands

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Miami Beach on Tuesday was named one of two finalists for the 2017 World OutGames, an international event that could attract tens of thousands of LGBT visitors to South Florida on Memorial Day Weekend.

"It brings you tourists. In many cases, tourists with spending power," said Paul Brummitt, site committee chairman of the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA), which produces the OutGames. "It unites the whole city. It’s going to put gay rights, gay marriage, transgender rights on the agenda in such a way that it can’t be ignored."

Brummitt, an Englishman who lives in Copenhagen, told The Miami Herald that GLISA will announce Feb. 28 whether the 2017 games will be played in South Florida or in Reykjavík, Iceland. Three other cities also bid for the games: Denver, Rio de Janeiro and Rome.

“This puts Miami-Dade County at the forefront as a world leader for international sporting events,” said Jose Sotolongo, executive director of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission, who serves on the committee seeking to bring OutGames to South Florida. “Our community is extremely excited about the possibility of hosting the World OutGames in 2017.”

Three other cities also bid for the games: Denver, Rio de Janeiro and Rome.

According to the GLISA website, OutGames expects to attract up to a quarter-million athletes, attendees and visitors during a 10-day period.

"The pessimistic scenario, we told [Miami Beach] to expect 8,000 athletes," Brummitt said. "It does something to your city. It makes people realize you can be inclusive. It's more than just a pride parade. We combine sports with human rights and culture."

The 2013 games will be played July 31 through Aug. 11 in Antwerp, Belgium. Tuesday's announcement was made in Antwerp by Belgium's out gay prime minister, Elio Di Rupo. Previous OutGames have been held in Montreal (2006) and Copenhagen (2009).

If GLISA awards OutGames to Miami Beach, the 10-day event would conclude on Memorial Day, May 29, 2017 -- overlapping busy Urban Beach Weekend, if it’s still around.

"That weekend is the one that makes the most sense for everyone," said Ivan Cano, executive director of Miami Beach Gay Pride.  "We want to make sure the athletes are not overheating and that it’s not during hurricane season."

Dwight Powell, CEO and founder of Sizzle Miami, a Memorial Day Weekend event for gay men and women of color, said the timing would be a mistake.

"That’s really not a good idea," said Powell, whose event, now in its 12th year, is based at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami.

"I purposely stay away from the Beach because I don’t want our clientele to be harassed," Powell said. "It will happen."

Powell said his guests report they don’t feel comfortable mixing with other tourists here for Urban Beach Weekend.

"I’ve had folks say they can’t be themselves or be comfortable who they are. They can’t hold hands and work down the street, or dress the way they want to," he said. "I would love to come to the beach at some point, but not now."

Cano said bringing OutGames to Miami Beach, even during Urban Beach Weekend, would enhance the community’s diverse reputation.

"It’s important because we definitely want to incorporate a stronger LGBT community in Miami Beach. It’s important to start bidding projects like this for our future," said Cano, co-chair of the Miami Beach-Miami Sports & Cultural League. "Gays are not just about dancing. It’s about sports and its about culture."

Cano said World OutGames has never been in North America.

"This would draw a lot of athletes from South America, Europe and the United States. From Asia, too," he said.

The sports league is working with University of Miami to provide sporting faculties and dormitory space if Miami Beach is awarded the OutGames, Cano said. "This is a Greater Miami project, no doubt," he said.

Miami Beach-Miami Sports & Cultural League members

  • Ivan Cano, co-chair, executive director of Miami Beach Gay Pride
  • Bruce Townsend, co- chair, social catering sales director, Centerplate at Miami Beach Convention Center
  • Jerry Torres, treasurer-secretary, GT Entertainment
  • Michael Gongora, Miami Beach vice mayor
  • Steve Adkins, president and CEO of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce
  • Bob Balsam, general manager of Global Spectrum, managing company of the Miami Beach Convention Center
  • George Neary, associate vice president of Cultural Affairs, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Cindy Brown, executive cirector of the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens
  • Nick Tierno, general manage of Centerplate at the Miami Beach Convention Center
  • Jose Sotolongo, executive director of the Miami-Dade Sports Commission
  • Keith Hart, relationship manager for GBPS-American Express
  • Richard Murry, president of The Murry Agency

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There's no way this event can co-exist in the same time and location as "Urban Weekend." I sense that the committee that bid on the Games hopes to interrupt and perhaps end Urban Weekend. It's actually a very smart strategy -- peacefully replacing one event with another.

"Reykjavík, Iceland"? Are you kidding? How can the two be compared? Miami Beach is the place to hold the event-- but overlapping Urban Beach Weekend? Are you kidding? Of all of the other weeks down here, you can't find one that isn't booked solid?

Maybe, if MB wins the Outgames, Steve Rauthaus will finally get laid.

Who will win gold in the pole vault, the long junk and the javelin stroke?

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