Montr?, Canada, was where the 2006 Gay Games were originally going to take place. But after disagreeing with the Federation of Gay Games over the size of the event (following the massive financial loss experienced by the Sydney Gay Games in 2002), Montr? organisers withdrew from the Federation in 2003.
The Games were given to Chicago and Montr? announced it would hold its own rival international sportingevent, the new Outgames.
With the two events kicking off in the same month -“ the Gay Games from 15 to 22 July, the Outgames from 26 July to 5 August -“ they’ve battled it out to attract competitors from around the world. At last count Montr? boasted 16,000 registered entrants, while Chicago said it expected 12,000. For many sportswomen and men the decision has simply come down to which city -“ and country -“ they’d rather visit.
Montr? is the preferred option for a lot of competitors as Canada is generally considered more gay-friendly than the US. For a start, Canada is one of the few countries in the world to have legalised gay marriage.
The federal government has contributed considerable financial support to the Outgames, as has the province of Qu?c and the city of Montr?. Canada also has no issue with allowing HIV-positive people into the country.
The Outgames, on the other hand, say nothing about government support on their website. The Bush government has tried (and failed) a couple of times to ban gay marriage, though it has at least committed to a waiver on their ban on HIV-positive visitors during the Games.
The city of Montr? is found in Canada’s only French-speaking province, Qu?c. In fact Montr? is the biggest French-speaking city in the world after Paris. It’s also one of the oldest cities in North America, having been settled by the French in 1534. It was taken over by the British in 1759 -“ a fact a lot of Qu?cois are still bitter about today -“ and nearly all of the inhabitants are bilingual.
Montr? itself is a spectacular city, nestled around the bottom of the imposing Mont-Royal which can be seen from all around the metropolis. The landscape is made up of modern skyscrapers and centuries-old European buildings. There’s also Montr?’s famous underground city -“ 33km of walkways below street level, consisting mostly of interconnecting malls.
The city is famously gay-friendly. During the annual pride festival, Divers/Cit?the whole town turns out to celebrate. The gay neighbourhood is known as The Village.
At its centre is Rue Sainte-Catherine which is home to most of the gay and lesbian bars, clubs, caf?and assorted businesses. Something Montr? certainly has a lot of is gay strip clubs. There’s one on just about every corner and people from all walks of life can be found in them, from cool young skater dudes to businessmen in suits and respectable-looking older gents.
Much of the Outgames will be held at Olympic Park, home of the 1976 Montr? Olympic Games. The opening ceremony has an impressive entertainment line-up including kd lang and Deborah Cox, while Liza Minnelli is headlining the closing ceremony. Montr? is also hosting the International Conference On LGBT Human Rights at the same time as the Games.
As one heads into Chicago from the sprawling O’Hare airport, it becomes clear it takes its architecture very seriously. Chicago’s architectural forebears, including such giants as Burley Griffin and Lloyd Wright, would be very happy that the skyline of the modern city, with its range of dramatic shapes and images, appears like a work of art.
With the skyline making such a grand first impression, it has to be said Chicago also lives up to that promise as one of the most vibrant of all US cities.
The Chicago Architecture Foundation offers many scenic tours, with the Architectural River Cruise proving particularly popular as it highlights over 50 significant sites.
Another thing taken seriously is art, and the Chicago Art Institute is acclaimed as one of the world’s greatest, with galleries of the works of such masters as Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir. Taking pride of place, however, is the famous Seurat dot painting, A Sunday Afternoon On The Island of La Grande Jatte.
Just up the road is the Sears Tower, which is the tallest building in the US standing at 110 stories. A visit to the top explains why this town is called the Windy City, as the building sways when the winds hit it at full force. The grand view shows the city unfolding around Lake Michigan.
Gay Chicago is a 10-minute taxi ride north of the city centre to Lakeview, which locals affectionately call Boys Town. The action is centred around two major streets -“ Halstead and Clark -“ with a wide range of shops, restaurants, bars, caf? clubs and saunas.
Sidetrack is a good place to begin a night out -“ a popular drinking spot with a friendly crowd. Buck’s Saloon offers a neighbourhood atmosphere and a view of the passing parade on Halstead. Drags and cabaret lovers flock to Roscoes, while the dance clubs Circuit and Berlin are where the boys throw their hands in the air.
Chicago is also a mecca for leather men. The bars Jackhammer and Touche offer a range of theme nights, and the world-famous Eagle attracts a serious leather crowd with its even more serious dress code -“ certain sections are off-limits without the right clothing or if you are wearing a fragrance.
The neighbourhood of Andersonville has become something of a girls town with its large number of women’s cafes, clubs and restaurants. Only minutes away from this strip is Hollywood Beach, where a decidedly queer crowd is found on the sands around the volleyball nets.
The lakeside city has risen to the late challenge of hosting the Games, with the activity set out in three zones. Most of the events will be in the downtown area, with the opening ceremony at the historic Soldier Field Stadium.
The star line-up for this event includes TV diva Megan Mullally, comedian Margaret Cho, and pop stars Andy Bell and Jody Watley. The legendary Cyndi Lauper will headline the closing celebrations.