Joe Clark: Accessibility | Design | Writing

GGVI bid comparisons: Long Beach


  1. The bid notes that one of the two modern Olympix held in Los Angeles turned a profit [4]. The Gay Games are not a profit-making venture. If what was intended was a suggestion that L.A. knows how to throw a party and not take a bath, maybe the Long Beach committee should have hired Peter Ueberroth and gotten us all worked up over that.
  2. Be impressed!
    • "Visitors will know they’re in Hollywood as widespread hometown celebrity participation in the ceremonies and the games overall raises the star wattage that can only happen here" [4].
    • Long Beach intends to "bring the resources of the hometown celebrity community" to the Gaymes; "more and more celebrities are choosing to live their lives openly as gay and lesbian. Celebrity participation in Gay Games VI activities will fuel to greater heights the attention given by the world media to Gay Games VI" [8].

    We do not enter the Gay Games to swim laps alongside soap-opera starlets, hacks, and supermodels. The Long Beach committee is playing to the wrong section of the house here, a talent at which they excel.

  3. Under the rubric "Goals of Gay Games VI," we read: "To stage an event with such critical mass that the Gay Games will become a recognized and sanctioned event" [5]. Sorry to burst your bubble, kids, but Gay Games IV had 10,000 competitors. Half its sporting events were sanctioned by international governing bodies. Various records fell. Oui, bien sûr, we want the Gaymes to expand and deep down we want straight people to approve of us, but even if the Gaymes didn’t get any bigger or more "official" they’d still be a success. Or do the Gaymes not count until Kevin Costner grapples Alec Baldwin in the wrestling ring, with Juan Antonio Samaranch handing out the medal and ceremonial bouquet, topped off by dinner at Spago later on?
  4. "’Central Casting Paints a Face’: This would be a review of the twenty years of positive [sic] lesbian and gay portrayal on television prior to Gay Games VI (1977–2002). Research would identify sitcoms, dramas, documentaries, talk shows, miniseries and others. [...] ’Marketing to the Gay/Lesbian Niche’ would be a video collection of commercials or ads reaching out to the gay and lesbian consumer. This would include television, marketing collateral’s, and trade-show videos" [sic, 33]. As if this has anything to do with sports, and as if Gaymes participants unlucky enough to lack an American passport will care.
  5. Long Beach hopes to open a Diversity Park [6] as "an enduring legacy representing the pride that is the Gay Games," with a stage, "Gay Games sponsor partnership displays," pin trading, an AIDS memorial, and a Gay and Lesbian Sports and Cultural Hall of Fame/Archives. Rather a lot to pack into a city park. Once the Gaymes end, couldn’t we settle for a few permanent structures, like the two memorials, and a nice plaque permanently and publicly naming the park?
  6. The organizers also want to start up a Dr. Tom Waddell Foundation for Diversity Acceptance with the "remaining or unallocated assets" of GGVI [6]. Yet none of this money is clearly earmarked for sports! "The primacy of this Foundation’s mission will be to serve as a catalyst for the ongoing expression, promotion, and acceptance of multicultural and multinational diversity for all people." Everyone, I guess, except queer jocks. There is a tiny mention in the fine print of giving scholarships to promote, among a vast liberal laundry list of causes, "artistic/athletic diversity." Diversity funding is not per se a valid function of a legacy foundation. The sports world has a history of excluding queer athletes; we need diversity there, and no one’s putting even a dime toward that goal. Get your priorities straight.
  7. Hordes of participants
    • Long Beach deliriously estimates "30,000-plus athletes as well as 5,000 to 7,000 cultural festival participants" [8]. Ack! We are told this massive influx, unimaginable even if you add up all Winter and Summer Olympic and Paralympic competitors over any four-year period, will flow from "the natural attraction of Southern California to athletes from North America, Europe, and especially the Pacific Rim." Yet elsewhere we read of an estimated 21,000 participants [72], with only 20,000 seats set aside in the stadium for opening ceremonies. The athletes’ village will have space for only 4,500 [80]. I thought Intel had recalled the chip that miscalculated mathematical functions. Or maybe the committee needs to change the battery in its calculator.
    • Only 3,000 total gold, silver, and bronze medals are foreseen, with a mere 3,000 "plaques specially designed to acknowledge their contribution to Gay Games VI" [40]. So the other 24,000 (or 14,000) participants are chump change? What do they go home with, apart from an unsolicited background check (see below) and a lingering feeling of unappreciation?
  8. "From automobiles to art, fashion to furniture, Angelenos produce what the world waits for and wants. [...] The Gay Games will certainly generate a huge amount of important media interest that would be diminished if the games were held [elsewhere]" [9]. We do have mobile satellite trucks. To a great extent, all metropolises on earth are equidistant in media terms. (And name five auto-styling houses right in L.A.) If Angelenos are this self-impressed, then the Gaymes aren’t going to add any lustre. I assume organizers expect some of the extreme superswankiness of West Pico Blvd. to rub off on the tawdry Gay Gaymes.
  9. Mountain biking is listed as an exhibition sport [19]. It will have been played in two Gay Games already. The Toughest Competitor Alive exhibition event is reprehensible and betrays the paramilitary obsessions of the Long Beach organizers. "TCA consists of a 5K run, shot put, 100m dash, 100m swim, 20’ rope climb, a bench press, pull-ups and an obstacle course": That’s not an event, it’s boot camp. Get real.
  10. Some events are designated for ticket sales and/or TV coverage [22-29]:
    • Ticketed: Swimming, beach volleyball, diving, figure-skating, hockey, jetskiing (!), physique, rodeo (!), and basketball, soccer, tennis, track, volleyball, waterpolo and softball finals.
    • TV: Swimming, beach volleyball, diving, figure-skating, hockey, jetskiing, physique, marathon, Toughest Competitor Alive, triathlon, rodeo, and basketball, soccer, tennis, track, volleyball, waterpolo and softball finals
  11. A $95 registration fee will cover all the usual services plus a background check. Hold that thought.
  12. Grrrlz, get this! The Beach Babes/Women’s Summer White Party is "a classic white party for women with live music from female bands, vocalists and dance performers. To be held aboard the newly restored Queen Mary" [35]. First of all, "white parties" are a psychosis of gay-male culture; there is no "classic white party for women." (The question "Which is really worse-- a White Party overrun with cookie-cutter gymbots or a wymmynz music festival overrun with cookie-cutter reubenesques?" can be explored later for extra credit.) Um... and which "female bands" and vocalists, exactly? The Indigo Girls, the funkiest duo since Seals & Crofts?
  13. The opening ceremonies include a full parade of athletes. Nope! No one needs to lose 2.5 more hours of their life watching undifferentiated specks sashay into a coliseum à la Yankee Stadium in 1994.
  14. Transit: It’s pretty iffy.
    • Long Beach is not really facilitating the task of getting to and from the five nearby airports. We’re supposed to take the Super Shuttle, "the premier transportation service in Southern California," as though people unfamiliar with Southern California will know anything about it. (In a notable apparent conflict of interest, the bid’s director of logistics works for SuperShuttle, Inc.) Volunteers will meet and greet you at the airports, but there will be no dedicated transit system for the 30,000 or more travellers.
    • We do read [45] of the faaabulous transport success of the ’84 Olympix et al., and sketchy plans for using 5,000 school buses to ferry you around from housing to events. Heavy emphasis on Orwellian supervision and control of bus drivers (they’re barcoded, presumably not with an indelible tattoo on the forehead; so are the buses).
    • 1,000 "deluxe motor coaches" will be reserved for VIPs, with "plenty of luxury vehicles" also available. The plans are hypothetical at best and enact a multi-tier caste system. There is no understanding of the transport needs of various disabled groups (yes, I read the malapropist name-dropping of "para-transit operations" [45] and was not impressed), nor much provision for schlepping gear around. A couple of those ol’ jetskis really eat up the space in a yellow school bus piloted by a retiree earning minimum wage.
  15. "Accommodations for all is our goal. [...] No one will be denied the opportunity to visit or to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime event" [47]. Put your money where your mouths are. Is the Long Beach committee suggesting free or heavily subsidized housing?
  16. Exhaustive list of hotel rooms, plus 5,215 dormitory spaces.
  17. Long Beach is reasonably nonstupid in its computer plans, aiming to reuse the IBM system that got so much press in Atlanta [51]. I assume they’ll use a fully debugged version, and put up results on Web sites as editable, copyable, searchable, forwardable, indexable, computer-readable text instead of bitmaps of printouts?
  18. They’re obsessed with "targeting" the Pacific Rim as an underrepresented area, and plan to produce materials in Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Thai, and (seemingly begrudgingly) French, Spanish, and German. Why is Tagalog important when Afrikaans isn’t? This is very much a monoglot American Luddite approach. Translations are not that expensive (though Gay Games IV’s were dreadful in some cases-- volunteers will not suffice here), and desktop publishing can take care of most Latin-alphabet languages easily. Spectrum Multilanguage Communications in New York can typeset in a zillion languages. There is no reason not to create at least basic information in dozens of languages. True enough, "the diplomatic languages of English and French are most prevalent and most widely used." Sure, rely on that. But make basic information universally accessible. (The Web, of course, has some limited capacity to help here.) The official newsletter is planned as English-only for the first four years [67].
  19. "We would work on a mainstream media project that emphasized tolerance of the gay community and its diversity;. [sic] If the heterosexual community is made aware and educated on gay issues, their participation and support of the gay games will increase" [62]. Sigh. "Tolerance of the gay community and its diversity"? Doesn’t this mean having straight people put up with queers, and put up even more tenuously with all the coloured people in our midst? There is no such thing as a straight community. Straights who support gays already support the Gay Games. No meaningful increase in straight participation in the Gay Games is likely through this heavily compromised pseudostrategy. Besides, we’re doing fine by ourselves, thank you very much.
  20. "A road show of public meetings nationally" [65] is countenanced.
  21. Interns are proposed in media relations to "allow journalism/public-relations students to build up their portfolios" [67]. Some volunteers will be necessary in all fields, but PR people need to draw a salary and be directly accountable for everything they say and do.
  22. To this point, the Long Beach organizers have raised $7,000. Part of that sum was spent "to compensate expert resources for assistance in editing, writing, photography, layout/formatting and logo design" [88]. How laughable. The document betrays the worst aspects of Windows word processing intermingled with ungainly sentence structure, grandstanding, fluff, and abysmal proofing. Best ask for that money back.
  23. An appendix, in the form of a letter to site-selection co-majordoma Lisa Labrecque, now claims that boxing will be an exhibition sport along with archery, sailing, and surfing, a list that differs from the original enumeration of beach volleyball, jetskiing, rowing, mountain biking (ibid.), Toughest Competitor Alive, and waterskiing [18-19]. Make up your minds.

Disability access

They don’t know what they’re talking about. The issue is almost completely ignored. "Special arrangements will be made for all the physically and mentally handicapped participants and spectators. We will insure that their individual needs are met as well as insure their fair and equitable participation in all events of their choice" [66]. How?

"Venues are also accessible for the physically challenged [!] and the medical team will also be working with the Special Olympics to assist them in this area" [55]. Given the tiny numbers of mentally-retarded/developmentally-disabled gay people, asking the Special Olympics for help is useless. Most athletes and spectators with a disability will be physically disabled. To starstruck Angelenos, who learned everything they know about disability from Hollywood films and network TV, all those disparate groups are merely pathetic and vaguely threatening gimps. Access requires a wee bit more sophistication than this.

"Accommodations will be made for the hearing and visually-impaired to enjoy and understand the proceedings and information related to the games" [68]; some mention of TDDs, "signing for the hearing impaired," and Braille. Thorough access will be more complicated and expensive than these people seem to understand. "Interpreters proficient in international sign language"-- there is no such thing-- "will be made available." Long Beach also proposes to use volunteer interpreters, which will not wash. You get what you pay for.


This total débâcle merits its own section here.

A mandatory drug-testing protocol will be established and coordinated through the Security Coordination Centre. The most cost-effective procedure to utilize requires a test that can be administered by non-medical personnel. This will include a "narco-ban" [sic] type test strip. The Security Supervisors shall coordinate the administration of the testing and assist the designated drug-testing personnel. All medal winners shall be tested along with any other athlete who displays a suspicious behaviour. [58]

Long Beach proposes to mandatorily test everyone who wins a medal at Gay Games VI (some 3,000 people in their underestimate). This means you, whether you give consent or not or pose an objective safety threat (e.g., if you were driving a bus). They’re not testing for performance-enhancing substances, either. They want to nail you for smoking pot, doing coke, or shooting heroin, though they make no effort to pretend there’s any link between that drug use and your Gay Games participation. (If it’s an issue, let the police deal with it through the existing legal system.)

Personnel with no medical qualifications, who happen to work for the security force, will compel you to take the test. Presumably if you refuse, they will physically force you to do so and/or confiscate your medal and/or have you arrested or deported. Expect a press release with your name on it, too.

Who tests the testers?

You are also subject to testing if you "display a suspicious behaviour." Anyone care to guess what will qualify as "suspicious," and how much leeway the security personnel will have?

This punitive, police-state approach is entirely consistent with the pervasive paramilitary undertones of the Long Beach bid. Every Games athlete will undergo a background check. (What’s sufficient to flunk that test? Being a member of the Communist party? Having a criminal record?) The brutish Toughest Competitor Alive meet is proposed as a demonstration sport, and boxing may be, too, though that is unclear.

Though no one who doesn’t know her (I do not) can say anything about her character, qualifications, and suitability, the security director is a sergeant with the notoriously corrupt and bigoted LAPD; the secretary is a U.S. Army vet.

The bid pays especial attention to the 1972 Munich Olympics terrrorist attack and the demonstrably less grave 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing. It speaks of "particular attention [to] be given to the crime suppression and general safety issues surrounding the cultural events and festivals," which might or might not imply a sweep of poor and/or homeless and/or "suspicious" people from the neighbourhoods surrounding cultural venues, which as we know are perennial targets for terrorist attack.

Drug testing is unabashedly included as one of the security department’s responsibilities. The plan relies heavily on a militaristic chain of command and asserts that this approach, which has only occasionally managed to rid police forces and the military of corruption and crime within their midst, "lends itself to the highest level of accountability and the lowest level of miscommunication." (That is, I give you an order, you obey, and you take the blame for any fuckups.)

A contractor for security has already been greenlighted. From what I can tell, it’s a fait accompli. BeLow Profile, though gay-owned, has "managers and administrators [who] are seasoned police veterans." Do you want moustachioed, crew-cut Republican ex-cops wearing Ray-Bans and earphones manhandling you into a tent to administer a narco-band? Is that how you want to remember winning a medal at the open, inclusive Gay Games? Will Tom Waddell spin in his grave or merely twirl?

Long Beach seeks to spend $3,110,073 on security, 6.8% of projected income.

The phraseology and tone in the security section fairly drip with a Guns & Ammo-style revelling in militarism, ass-kicking, and sanctioned paranoia and overreaction. Anyone seen Full Metal Jacket?

No one’s in favour of security "breeches" (as the ineptly-written bid calls them), and everyone is in favour of reasonable security. But: If Long Beach requires this much security, and this type of security, why hold the Gaymes there?

If the Federation of Gay Games votes to hold Gay Games VI in Long Beach, it will need to contractually require the organizing committee to refrain from any aspect of these invasive plans.


"We are looking at a providing a separate but equal treatment area that protects the individual’s privacy once they had indicated their HIV status to the medical team" [sic, 55]. First of all, ask Martin Luther King if separate can ever be equal. No doubt this "separate-but-equal" facility will be adjunct to the drug-testing centre. At a massive queer event, not a lot of PWAs are going to be all that concerned about one or two people overhearing their specific needs in a medical tent, OK? This plan is disastrously misguided at every level. "The medical plan is developing a detailed plan [yet again, sic] that will allow anyone to participate in the Gay Games regardless of their HIV status. This should not be an issue for any athlete or visitor not to attend any athletic or cultural event." Well, it will be an issue if this plan of official segregation goes into place. Most of the people with AIDS at the Gaymes will go unnoticed and will require no special treatment, handling, or services, but those who do have requirements will need something that at least represents late-twentieth-century medicine and mores.

"The Organizing Committee is conducting a preliminary survey to verify the feasibility of establishing specific arrangements to handle the necessary visas for participants in the Gay Games VI. Normal visa visitor status for the games should not be an issue. We will address immigration issues relevant to HIV/AIDS in this survey" [sic, 59]. They’re reinventing the wheel here. Gay Games IV went through the same hassle (see article I wrote at the time).

Graphic presentation

Appalling, inept, and slipshod at every level.

Posted: Circa December 1997 ¶ Updated: 2009.03.01

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