Negotiations between the Federation of Gay Games and the organisers of the Montr? 2006 Gay Games have reached crisis point.

The Federation is openly canvassing the possibility of another city hosting the 2006 Games, while representatives of Montr? 2006 have declared their intention to stage the event whether it has Federation backing or not.

Both sides mean business. The Federation has had discussions with organisations in Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta about hosting the 2006 event, while Montr? 2006 organisers have removed all Gay Games branding from their website.

At the heart of this crisis lies a dispute between the Federation and Montr? 2006 over the size and scope of the Games. Haunted by the massive losses incurred by the Sydney 2002 Gay Games, the Federation wants Montr? 2006 to budget for an event with 12,000 participants. Montr? 2006 has already scaled down its participant targets from 24,000 to 16,000 and say that any further reduction will impinge on their vision of the event.

In a media statement issued last Friday, Montr? Games director Louise Roy said, Today, we are at an impasse due essentially to fundamental differences between our organisation and the FGG [Federation of Gay Games] with regard to our respective visions of these Games. In document after document, we have accepted to give in to various demands from the Federation -¦ [but] there are certain basic principles that we cannot afford to ignore without endangering the Games themselves, as well as their financial viability.

Yesterday, Montr? 2006 co-president Mark Tewksbury told Sydney Star Observer that the organising committee will run an event in 2006 even if it’s not a Federation of Gay Games event, although he added that such an eventuality would be absolutely a last resort. A Montr? 2006 circular to sports organisations issued with last Friday’s press statement put this rather more bluntly, declaring: Montr? will host Games in 2006 no matter what.

Tewksbury said the Montr? 2006 team were mindful of previous Gay Games losses (in Sydney, Amsterdam and New York), but that they had benefited from so many unprecedented firsts in their preparations. He said the team had already secured CAD$5 million in sponsorship -“ around 35 percent of their operating budget -“ as well as a national television broadcast partner. The Games team also enjoyed bipartisan political support across all levels of government, which was especially strong from the city of Montr? itself, he said.

But Sydney-based Federation vice-president Richard Hogan told the Star that the Amsterdam, New York and Syd-ney Games organisers all started with grand plans to attract the big sponsors and were left with a deficit in the end.

Hogan said the Montr? organisers should budget conservatively in the first instance and revise upwards if market demand permitted it.

Let’s design the Games on a manageable scale and go from there, he said.

The Federation would look at other options for the 2006 event if Montr? did not sign the contract by the time of the Federation’s annual meeting in Chicago starting on 10 November, Hogan said. Organising teams from Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles (who made unsuccessful bids to stage the 2006 event) had all expressed interest in running the event if the Federation took the Games away from Montr?, he added.

Negotiating on behalf of the Federation are the organisation’s co-presidents, Kathleen Webster and Roberto Mantaci, and Sydney-based barrister, Richard Cobden.

Cobden told the Star that the negotiating process with Montr? 2006 started to stall badly about eight weeks ago.

Montr? was not budging on scaling down the Games, he said, before revealing that Montr? 2006 had previously threatened to sue the Federation if members spoke to the press about the status of negotiations.

Cobden said he was astonished by Montr? 2006’s press release, largely because it was issued a day after a tele-conference in which the Montr? team verbally agreed to a number of points which the Federa-tion claimed were non-negotiable, including licence fee payments and inspection rights.

The Montr? team agreed to confirm their agreement to the Federation’s non-negotiable points in writing, but instead responded with the press statement, Cobden claimed -“ an action which he said in his personal view demonstrated that they were untrustworthy.

Cobden said the two organisations might meet face-to-face next week, but the release of the Montr? press statement last Friday significantly reduces our chances of reaching an agreement.

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