Could the world’s largest sporting and cultural event for LGBT athletes, artists and musicians come to Central Texas? If officials in Austin get their way, it could become a reality. The capital of the Lone Star State is one of 9 cities bidding on the opportunity to host the Gay Games XI in 2022. Founded in 1982, the 2022 games, hosted by the Federation of Gay Games (FGG), are expected to bring over 15,000 participants from more than 70 nations to Central Texas, tentatively August 4-13, 2022, to take part in 35 sports, 8 cultural events and a human rights conference. By comparison, the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil had approximately 11,000 athletes competing in just 28 sports.
Austin’s journey down the road to host the Gay Games is one already several years in the making. Tina Cannon, who ran for Austin City Council 2014 and is now a Senior Policy Advisor for City of Austin District 10 Council Member Sheri Gallo, has been volunteering on her spare time to help bring the Gay Games to Central Texas. “She had reviewed the opp a few years back but didn’t really know where to turn for assistance in town. But the Gay Games staff definitely remembered her excitement and interest and they were very stoked that Austin was indeed interested in hosting,” explained Lance Aldridge, Executive Director of the Austin Sports Commission. “We made contact with her about a year ago and we’ve all run with it since!”
Austin will have to overcome some pretty stiff competition if it hopes to bring the Gay Games to the Live Music Capital of the World. The other cities that have submitted their Letters of Intent and respective fees to participate in the bidding process are: Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Los Angeles, CA; Salt Lake City, UT; San Francisco, CA; Washington, DC; Guadalajara, Mexico; and Hong Kong. While this will be Austin’s first time to make a bid for the games, the same cannot be said for many of the other candidates. San Francisco hosted the first two Gay Games in 1982 and 1986. Dallas was a candidate city for the 2002 games, Los Angeles for the 2006 games and Washington, D.C. for the 2014 games.
There was unprecedented interest in hosting the 2022 games, with seventeen cities, the most in the Gay Games history, showing interest initially in April 2016. Anaheim, CA; Atlanta, GA; Des Moines, IA; Madison, WI; Minneapolis, MS and San Antonio, TX all chose not to submit their Letters of Intent by the first deadline to continue with the bidding process followed by Cape Town, South Africa and Tel Aviv, Israel who withdrew before the final deadline, stating their intentions to bid for Gay Games XII in 2026.
“Austin is a perfect location to host the 2022 Gay Games,” says Tina Cannon. “Our supportive community and inclusive environment is ideal to be a host city. We are an open, active, health conscious, welcoming city. In additional to having world class facilities and a town that is more than accustomed to large events and festivals, we are a beautiful green city with attractions for the athletes and visiting spectators to enjoy. From our green spaces, swimming holes, love music and cultural scene, Austin is the complete package.”
The Austin Sports Commission will present as a prospective bidding organization at the Federation of Gay Games’ Annual General Assembly for the first time October 21-25 in Sydney, Australia. Next, the prospective bidding organizations must have their final bid book to the Federation by November 30, 2016. “This is a competitive and lengthy process, and we are grateful for all of the organizations’ hard work,” says FGG’s Officer of Site Selection David Killian. “The impact that the Gay Games has in host cities is incredible in terms of culture, sport, economic impact, history and most importantly furthering all matters of LGBT+ equality.”
The FGG’s Site Selection Assembly will vote for the top three candidate cities on February 28, 2017 with site inspections of the three short-listed cities conducted April-May 2017. “The site selection process is one our most vital tasks, and we take great pride in our process,” says FGG co-president Joanie Evans. “Our gratitude to the interested host organizations for sharing our vision of promoting equality in sport and culture.” The vote for the host of Gay Games XI from the three finalist candidate cities will take place at the FGG Annual General Assembly meeting in Paris, France October 2017 with the official announcement of the Gay Games XI host city in January 2018.
If Austin does get through the lengthy bidding process and is ultimately selected as the host city, the potential payoff for Austin could be huge. The 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, which had about 11,000 athletes participating, had an economic impact of over $52 million on the local economy. The recent 2016 Gay Softball World Series held in Austin by the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) this past August, with 3,000 athletes participating, had an estimated economic impact of $5 million.
The Austin Sports Commission is asking for the public’s input on a logo for the Gay Games and giving residents an opportunity to sign up for their mailing list to keep you up-to-date on the bidding process. You can find this online at www.austingaygames2022.com.