The Sydney 2002 Gay Games were a sporting, cultural, ceremonial and community success story, but they’re about to leave organisers with a hefty debt.

Financial reconciliations will not be completed until the end of this week, but a shortfall in party ticket income indicates that the debt could be as high as $2 million.

Sydney 2002 co-chair Bev Lange told Sydney Star Observer yesterday that it was too premature to discuss the organisation’s bottom line, but confirmed that Saturday night’s Farewell party was below budget substantially.

Lange estimated that 15,000 people attended the final Games party. Preliminary Ticketek reports suggest the number was less than that -“ even though discount tickets to the event were put on sale after gates opened.

Although the five Gay Games parties were generally well-received by locals and tourists, they did not raise as much money for Games organisers as hoped. The Sunset Party and the Butch! party sold out with crowds of 6,000 and 2,000 respectively, but the Welcome party attracted approximately 7,000 and the Black Party attracted some 8,000 revellers.

With approximately 20,000 paying customers at the opening ceremony, combined ticketing revenue for the Games can be pegged somewhere between $5 million and $6 million. Games organisers were operating from a $9 million budget, although an unspecified amount was trimmed from this a fortnight before the Games.

If Sydney 2002 is left with a substantial debt, one of the major creditors to the organisation will be the Federation of Gay Games. The Star revealed last week that Sydney 2002 owes $450,000 in licensing fees to the Federation.

Asked whether the Federation would consider waiving the fees, co-president Kathleen Webster said, The Federation is willing to sit at the table and work things out with the other creditors and with our host organisation, if that were necessary.

Federation co-president Roberto Mantaci said the Sydney experience revealed a need to look at the event with more financial responsibility in the future, even more than we’ve done so far.

We have to start from the very beginning, based on that principle of financial responsibility, in our relationship with [2006 Gay Games host city] Montr?, Mantaci said.

Sydney 2002’s financial situation may be bad news for the Federation, particularly in light of financial losses incurred by the organising teams of the Amsterdam and New York Gay Games, but the co-presidents praised Sydney 2002’s efforts. However, it should be noted that none of them used the much-hoped-for phrase, best Gay Games ever.

Both those who came to a Games for the first time, and those who have come back, were thrilled about the week that’s gone, particularly the quality of the organisation of the sporting events and cultural events, Mantaci said.

Participants are coming up to us and telling us that it’s been fantastic, they have felt really good about everything that’s going on, Webster offered. The volunteer support has been phenomenal and it has really produced a good event. The energy is great.

Bailey said the events had run like clockwork and that retail organisations were reporting a spending boom they had not seen since the 2000 Olympics.

It’s been a tremendously successful week for our community, Lange said.

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