Jock Talk: Outgames drops seven sports
by Roger Brigham
As anticipated, seven sports have been dropped from what had been a 31-sport lineup for the 2017 World Outgames, scheduled to open in Miami Beach in little more than a month.
Event organizers told the Bay Area Reporter this week they had dropped billiards, bridge, martial arts, netball, poker, rowing, and wrestling from the May 26-June 4 sports festival and were expecting to collapse competition categories in some sports that are divided by recreational skill level. Outgames organizers said athletes in dropped sports were given the opportunity to ask for refunds of registration costs or switch to remaining sports.
After initially projecting nearly 15,000 participants in all disciplines of the sports, cultural, and conference festival, World Outgames organizers are now saying they expect 2,000 athletes to compete. About half of those are in two sports that bring their own well-organized international sanctioning bodies and championships – soccer and aquatics, which includes swimming, synchronized swimming, diving, and water polo – leaving about 1,000 athletes in 19 other disciplines, such as darts, disc golf, and dominos.
"Divisions in some sports will be combined," said Michael Goodman, owner of Goodman Public Relations and spokesman for the Miami Outgames. "Every detail is being addressed to have a healthy competition for all those who participate. Our focus is not on those initial projection numbers, but on the 2,000 eager participants who will have the ultimate experience here in Miami."
Registration closes April 30.
At week's start, no information was available on the World Outgames website, http://www.outgames.org, regarding the times and locations for opening and closing ceremonies, nor of the specific routes and starting points for such events as cycling road races, triathlon, and the marathon.
Goodman said opening and closing ceremonies would be held inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, which is set to host such sports as badminton, volleyball, and table tennis. He said the opening ceremonies will be in the evening of May 27 and a "very special guest" would be announced by the end of April. Closing ceremonies, he said, are set for June 3.
Goodman also told the B.A.R. the routes were secured for triathlon, cycling road races, and marathon and that the necessary permits had been obtained, but that the information had been slow to be circulated. As of press time, Outgames spokespeople were unable to provide that information. The website merely said they would be held on "Miami and Miami Beach roadways."
Most events will be held in Miami Beach, with the others held in Miami, Key Biscayne, and Coral Gables.
Several LGBT sports activists have expressed concern regarding the 2017 World Outgames because of earlier problems securing aquatics venues, declining registration projections, and past problems with other Outgames and LGBT sports events.
While the 2017 Miami World Outgames initially had projected 15,000 participants, by the time registration opened one year before the event's scheduled start those figures had been curtailed to 10,000 and are now a fraction of that. The 2016 North American Outgames, a smaller continental version of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association's brand event, was canceled a year ago in April just a year before its scheduled start. That followed an earlier cancellation of the 2016 Asia Pacific Outgames in October 2015, which were eventually produced under a more inexpensive brand in February 2016.
In September 2016, Miami organizers had to scramble to reassure International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics that it was properly securing venues with its four aquatics disciplines, with the board of IGLA asking its members to hold off registering for Miami until issues were resolved.
The lack of sports competition details on the Miami website is also frustrating for several athletes who have contacted me. Their concerns echo those that plagued the 2015 EuroGames in Stockholm, where in the days leading up to events most athletes did not know their scheduled competition times and therefore could not plan their personal schedules. That criticism spilled all over social media – something the Outgames seems to have avoided thus far.