Gay Games 2018, the Largest International LGBTQ Sporting Event, Is Fast Approaching

Gay Games 2018, the Largest International LGBTQ Sporting Event, Is Fast Approaching

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The Gay Games 2018 are less than 100 days away! The 11th edition of the sporting event will take place in Paris from Aug. 4–12. “We’re now in the home stretch,” says Manuel Picaud, co-chair of Gay Games 2018. “We need to mobilize all our forces to make sure the event happens.”

Players around the world are preparing for the Gay Games 2018

So far 8,300 individuals have registered in at least one of the event’s 36 sports, though the goal is more than 15,000 contestants. The final number of men competing will likely be closer to 10,000, which will bring Paris close to the record, held by the Gay Games 2002 in Sydney, which drew 11,000 people.

Registration is already closed or near to close for some of the most popular sports, including golf and tennis. “Team sports are behind schedule, as it’s harder to build a team,” Picaud says.

Paco (below, left) will be wrestling in the games, though he’s only been a wrestler since September 2016. He was initially hesitant about registering: “The first time I heard about the Gay Games, I told myself I wasn’t ready to compete. But after a lot of encouragement from my Paris Lutte teammates and friends, I figured, ‘Why not?’ It’s truly a golden opportunity, and I’d be foolish to miss it!”

Paco and Anthony of Paris Lutte

We asked what Paco was hoping to achieve in the Gay Games 2018 come August. “I want to win, of course!” he says, adding, “I like competition, even though my friends know I can be a sore loser sometimes. But I’m going to get the most out of my experiences, even if I lose.”

Paco’s not just focused on his own triumphs, however. He says he especially hopes the Gay Games 2018 “will be beneficial to the entire LGBT community.”

Players are currently prepping all around the world. It’s expected the players will be roughly split into thirds — one-third American, one-third French and one-third from the rest of the world.

Some countries are even giving an official endorsement to Gay Games 2018 athletes. Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s openly gay prime minister, met with #TeamIreland and posted the below picture with the athletes on Twitter.

Other teams are looking to the public to help send them to Paris. Athletes on the Zorros LGBT soccer team from México has turned to crowdfunding to pay their way.

And what if you are interested in participating in Gay Games 2018? If you’re not registered yet, you still have time. The deadline to register is June 30.

Gay Games 2018: A budget of 5.2 million euros

Manuel Picaud, co-president of the Gay Games

As you might guess, you need to have solid funding to organize an event as elaborate as Gay Games 2018. According to Picaud, the international event has a budget of €5.2 million. Though it sounds like a lot of money, it’s worth keeping in mind that the average Olympic Games costs billions.

For the Gay Games 2018, the French government is paying €1.4 million, with private sponsors providing an additional €1.2 million, on top of registration fees from athletes and ticket sales from fans. Picaud, a former banker, says he’s “confident” the deals for corporate grants and sponsorship will soon be finalized.

The Paris team has been eager to demonstrate that what happened to the Miami 2017 OutGames won’t happen again. That event was cancelled just two days before it was set to begin. While some players were worried such a disaster would strike again, the Paris organizers of Gay Games 2018 are working to make sure the event goes off without a hitch.

Thousands of volunteers are needed for Gay Games 2018

“This event can only exist with the help of our volunteers and the extraordinary amount of work they do,” says Picaud. Paris is actively recruiting them, requiring 3,000 volunteers across all sports.

Amar Boudi, a member of the basketball team group Entre 2 Basket, has been a volunteer since day one. Today he’s the athletic director for the Gay Games 2018. He remembers the “shock” he felt participating in the 2010 Games in Cologne.

“The parade remains one of the most striking images. My friends were wearing the colors of the French flag, but the other delegations were dressed colorfully, too. I loved seeing such a mix of cultures,” he says. “People talked with each other as if they had known each other forever. ”

In Cleveland — the American city that hosted the Gay Games 2014 — Boudi was “in awe” of the video of Barack Obama welcoming participants. “But what impressed me most were the volunteers who made the Gay Games possible. Their smiles, friendliness and generosity. Now it’s my turn to help share that Gay Games spirit!”

Finally, Boudi hopes that the Gay Games 2018 will “draw attention to homophobia in sports.” Boudi’s got personal experience with that, describing how he was kept from joining a “classic” team. Boudi says, “I only practiced basketball with friends on weekends or during holidays rather than with a team; I’m still frustrated about it.”

Several conferences on homophobia in sports will be held in Paris on May 17, the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, as well as on Aug. 1-3, just before the Gay Games 2018 officially open.

Hornet is an official sponsor of the French team, and the Hornet France team will keep you updated on all the news out of the Gay Games 2018.

Are you looking forward to Gay Games 2018 in Paris? Let us know in the comments.

Photos by Xavier Héraud

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