Comité organisateur des Jeux gais–Montréal 2002 inc.
In a nutshell: Surprisingly strong and well-thought-out bid, with quite a few pleasing details. Ongoing linguistic uncertainty and xenophobia, obsessively counterpropagandized and glossed over in the bid, cast a notable pall, substantially reducing Montreal’s appeal.
Letter grade: B–
Proposed dates of competition: 2002.08.03 to 2002.08.10
- The bid book was translated from French to English and features a few clunkers, like using the outdated word whence and the phrase well-poised twice each in a very dry text. Native speakers of French in Montreal always like to believe they are fully fluent in English while cutting no slack whatsoever for anyone who dares to speak French in an English accent. The bid book rubs our noses in pure-laine superiority (see below) by insisting on rendering the name of the city as Montréal. Native writers of English understand that English, like other languages, adapts foreign place names to its own writing system (Köln becomes Cologne, MOCKBA becomes Moscow); the biggest city in Quebec (sic) is Montreal (sic).
- The multiculturalism issue is one the bid book harps on repeatedly. If organizers went to so much trouble to emphasize the topic, I’ll return the favour by pointing out logical lacunæ and sins of omission. It would be cynical to suggest that the repetition of this theme amounts to spin control and an attempt to defuse the xenophobic reputation of the nation de Québec.
- Some facts:
- In the people’s republic of Quebec, it’s illegal, for example, to post outdoor signs in languages other than French unless the French type is twice as prominent.
- Most mid-size and larger companies must work in French even if the sector in which they specialize runs in English, like pharmaceuticals or software. The province maintains a nitpicking official language-policing body, which has cracked down on English-labeled kosher foods and office voicemail greetings recorded in English.
- Pure-laine (“dyed-in-the-wool” or purebred Francophone) Quebeckers rival the Japanese for tribalism if not out-and-out racism.
- Montreal has a history of clashes between gays and police, and the city has seen a string of murders of gay men that reputable investigative journalists believe could very well be the work of a serial killer.
- The Montreal police are notorious for brutality and an outdated mindset, which the book tries to persuade us is all in the past.
- “The people of Montreal – Montrealers in English, Montréalais in French – take their city to heart and proudly support the myriad of activities the region has to offer” . The bid book’s choice of terminology is telling. Montrealers and Montréalais are two separate groups in the authors’ minds. Note also how other populations are ignored completely. Some people doggedly refuse to be assimilated into the francophone Borg; they live their lives in languages other than English or (especially) French, a fact that reduces diehard Quebec nationalists to xenophobic apoplexy.
- Only about 50,000 anglophones are left in Quebec, the rest of them having been driven out of the province by the decades-long separatist threat, official stigmatization of non-francophone citizens, and an economy driven into the ground by the spectre of separation. “Montreal and environs are truly a bastion of multiculturalism,” we read . Beleaguered multiculturalism, maybe. Begrudging. Besieged. Toronto is a genuine bastion of multiculturalism. Let’s be real here.
- The organizers speak a bit more honestly later on. “Being the sole French-speaking city to be bidding for the Games, Montreal is well-poised to promote Federation objectives” of growth, etc. . What happened to all those well-protected, happy anglophones joyously engaging in peaceful coexistence with their francophone rulers?
- “In accordance with the regulations of the Federation of Gay Games and applicable Quebec and Canadian laws, English and French will be the official languages used for the 2002 Games. All documents and signage will be bilingual [really?]; all public-relations operations will be conducted in both languages” . Anglo Montrealers will be pressed into service to handle the English part.
- “Montreal’s bid to host Gay Games VI in the year 2002 is at least in part motivated by our desire to help the Federation expand internationally” . Canada has already hosted the Gaymes. Holland will have done by next year. The Gay Games will have been held five times in three countries. But most importantly, Montreal is not a nation! Holding the Gaymes in Montreal cannot be considered an international expansion!
- “The Government of Quebec has taken all necessary action to provide services in English, to allow Engilsh signage and to guarantee that the fundamental [read bare mimimum] rights of the English-speaking minority are respected. These efforts are acknowledged in the U.S. State Department’s latest annual report on human rights” . These efforts have also been under investigation by United Nations human-rights bodies and have been challenged in court for decades. The statement here is as close as the bid book comes to an out-and-out lie. Don’t believe the hype. If you’re a visitor to Quebec and speak English, they’ll happily take your money. Just try living there.
- A goal of the organizers is “placing particular emphasis upon French-speaking nations and communities around the world, thereby augmenting the number of participants and enhancing Federation expoure on the world stage” . “Through our links to the French-speaking world[...] we are well-poised to enhance participation in this area” . Well, OK. But this kind of emphasis on la francophonie is further proof of the duplicity of the bid’s multilingual<slash>multicultural whitewash. Also, Third World nations in which French is a main language are unlikely to send many athletes to the Gaymes. That pretty much leaves France and Belgium. And St.-Pierre and Miquelon, I guess. (Actually, the book lists France, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg “and the Maghreb nations of South Africa” .)
- The organizers skirt dangerously close to admitting an unpalatable truth in saying “Montreal is naturally home to a great many who find it difficult to live out their sexual preference in the more outlying regions of the province” . Translation: Homophobia is alive and well in the petites villages du pays. The gay village in east-end Montreal “tangibly evidences the high level of tolerance of the population” : No, only that Montrealers will permit the development of a gay ghetto. “Although rooted in the intolerance characteristic of the seventies, it stands today as a major tourist attraction promoted by the city in travel brochures.” I guess they’re trying to say Montreal fags turned a necessity into a virtue.
- The requisite cultural section states: “Montreal has a long history of openness to diversity. Montrealers have always understood that the appreciation of diversity is an asset to be preserved and developed,” unless of course it threatens the primacy of the French majority. “In Montreal, there is always a a street, district or neighbourhood where one feels at home, where being different makes no difference” .
- We endure another baldfaced attempt at spin control in the section “Montreal: City of Tolerance” . It’s pointed out that Quebec outlawed discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation 20 years ago (but errs in calling Quebec “the first democratic power in the Western world” to do so – wasn’t Sweden first?). “In 1996, the Government of Canada, which already recognized foreign spouses of Canadian citizens, amended federal laws” to outlaw discrimination. True enough, but that legislation applies only to areas of federal jurisdiction, like the federal government, broadcasting, and transport; the Canadian Human Rights Commission had been accepting and investigating such complaints for two years previous anyway. The unending series of conservative régimes running the country has appealed virtually every major court decision that would have compelled the feds to provide protection or equal benefits for queers. We also read that the city of Montreal provides spousal benefits, as though this matters to the Gay Games.
- “Montreal. Unique, tolerant, open and welcoming. A haven of peace, harmony and respect symbolic of the men and women who, in the spirit of the Games, assemble as one in a common expression of pride” . This rather takes the cake.
- The whole topic is tricky. It really is true that, in Montreal and Quebec City, at least, being queer is not much of a big deal, and we are well-integrated into a great many professional sectors. (“Gays and lesbians are no longer a Montreal minority,” we’re told , as though queers now represent the majority of the populace. “They are present across the province and we can count upon their support for and participation in the 2002 Gay Games.”) On the other hand, official homophobia exceeds anything seen in, say, Toronto or Vancouver, particularly at the hands of the police. The bid implicitly denies this. “Daily life in Montreal attests to this high level of tolerance. Indeed, wherever one goes in Montreal, it is increasingly common to see lesbian or gay couples walking hand in hand” . Oh? How about Westmount? Beaconsfield? This is an overstatement.
- The book does rightly point out that cost of living in Montreal is quite modest.
- “Based upon the incidence of violent crimes, the Montreal Urban Community is one of the safest metropolises in North America” , unless your assailant is a cop.
- OK, now we get to some of the good stuff. Gold, silver, and bronze medals are termed awards of excellence, distinction, and achievement, respectively.
Participants slated to receive awards will not find themselves alone on the podium. To underscore the primacy of participation over competition and taking into account that each participant will have given the best of him- or herself, three additional awards of merit will be presented to ensure that no one is left out. The three top-place finishers will present the three last-place finishers with [a corresponding] award of merit.
What a fabbo idea. Could be tricky in wrestling, in team sports, and in events with fewer than six participants, but this is the sort of nuance that all the athletes involved in medal ceremonies will remember forever. In fact, this approach brings the awarding of medals fully into the ceremonial category for the first time – anywhere, in any competition. Whoever wins the bid should adopt this plan. It’s that good.
- Having lived in Montreal and endured its sixty-degree temperature range from winter to summer, I wonder if the bid committee is telling a little white lie in quoting “the average daytime temperature of 24 degrees C (76 degrees F)” in August . Expect 30 degrees and high humidity.
- Organizers should have been a bit more careful with the following: The committee defines participation, self-accomplishment and inclusion in part as “the opportunity to stage his or her coming-out in a homosexual environment” . Listen, if you fork over a hundred bucks, sign your name to a form, fly to a foreign nation (ahem), and compete in a public event, your coming-out isn’t going to happen only in the competition stage.
- The organizing committee further indicates the schisms into which Montreal remains riven.
- The board consists of nine members, all of them francophones. This is very much a surprise. In my experience, Montreal’s francophone fags see no reason for any kind of political organizing. (Why bother? They already live in a dreamworld.) Gay-pride marches were dead as a doornail until three years ago, and only 1997’s cleverly-named Divers-Cité parade could really be considered a success. It’s anglophones, with access to U.S. media, who are keen on organizational efforts like the Gaymes. I expected francophones to dismiss the entire idea of holding the Gaymes in Montreal. (Who needs segregation? We’re already fully integrated into sport, right?) Also unexpected is the complete absence of anglophones from the committee. The last thing I would have predicted was an all-francophone sweep. At best, an uneasy mix seemed likely.
- Exactly one member is female and is described, in a particularly clumsy but revealing translation, as: “Committed militant, her knowledge of lesbian circles will ensure that the lesbian community is present and plays an active role in the functioning of the Organizing Committee” . Francophone dykes in Quebec are notorious for their lesbian-separatist obsession. It would be excessive to describe them as man-haters; they’re much more focused than that, committed as they are to making men irrelevant in their lives. (Face it. This is a goal of many fags envers les femmes, too. But separatist fags aren’t quite so organized.) An appendix directed at the FOGG hierarchy admits that Montreal cannot achieve FOGG’s requirement of gender parity. (The whole idea is ridiculous anyway and rests on airy-fairy liberal-feminist grandstanding that, in a utopian world, men and women will gravitate toward all fields in equal numbers; while we’re waiting for that utopia to arrive, we can pretend it’s already here and enforce gender parity even where it’s clearly irrelevant. Of course, no one would ever contemplate gender parity for, say, a Take Back the Night march. Some events are more equal than others.) “The Lesbian Network of Quebec has come into being and we shall be proud to present, by the time of the fall meeting in Denver, a revised Organizing Committee, more reflective of Federation stipulations regarding gender parity.”
Also, Montreal expects to hire an executive director in 2002. But it immediately goes on to say “the Committee has hired a Executive Director [sic] to prepare the bid document, manage and follow up on the conduct of Committee affairs, and supervise contractual staff” .
- The City of Montreal is providing office space and time-sharing with two employees. This is unremarkable considering the grand expanses of deserted office space in the city. But more surprising is the relatively vast support from the Quebec government (money) and the feds (a promise of support “both financial and otherwise”). Industry Canada contributed cash to prepare the bid document. Why wasn’t the same support available to Toronto? A partial answer: The Industry Canada funds came from “an auxiliary Canada-Quebec agreement,” one of the many subtle ways in which Quebec’s “distinct society” is already treated as a separate country.
- “Welcome desks” are all we’re going to find at airports. What we need are welcome desks and customized transport directly to hotels and venues.
- A registration facility will, on request, take your “sporting or cultural equipment” to “a location of [your] choosing or directly to the venue.” It’s a nice idea, but do you really want your hockey gear out of sight for even ten minutes?
- Somewhat sensible approach to the parade of athletes. Very weird at the same time. “Participants, positioned in a circle in the centre of the stadium, will in turn parade out on a ramp symbolizing a podium. This will reduce presentation time, as participants will already be centre-stage [and] enable each participant to symbolically experience stepping up to the podium” . Hmm.
- The closing ceremonies will be presented partly “on giant screens using 3D anaglyphic technology” . What? I guess the committee is reflecting Montreal’s tacky side.
- Apparently Spanish will be the third official language, with hired interrpeters for “the most popular events” . Sign-language interpreters may or may not be used. The world speaks more languages than English, French, and Spanish. The writers of the bid book, perhaps weary from stretching the truth to the breaking point about the legally-imposed domination of French, spend very little time thinking through what a truly international event will require.
Nothing concrete; the organizers typically can’t bring themselves to admit their ignorance. “All facilities are accessible to adapted individuals” : Slapping disabled participants in the face by calling them “adapted” is unnecessary. Why not just go for broke and use words like deviant or defective? (It’s one of several false cognates that slipped through the bid’s iffy translation from French into English; in French one speaks of transports adaptés, or paratransit, though adapté does not have the same sense in English.)
“Easy, efficient access to all venues, regardless of handicap” : Clearly they’re thinking of getting people in wheelchairs through the door. Access is more complex than that.
The bid talks up Montreal’s paratransit service (inadequate even for city residents). “The... newest buses... are equipped with a hydraulic lift... allowing adapted persons to board or exit through the rear door” . No city in Canada has a majority of its buses accessible. Will the bid committee ensure that any city buses it uses be accessible? What makes them think that Montreal’s disabled citizens can spare the buses? Transit will be more unwieldy than any of the bid cities foresee.
No one in the vast organizing chart is obviously assigned to accessibility (or even to foreign-language support). Montreal is no worse than other bidders in this regard.
Virtually uncited. Exhibition events are mentioned as an option for "accessibility for individuals with HIV/AIDS uninterested in or unable to sustain the required physical effort" .
Clumsy use of a challenging typeface, Optima (specimen; specimen). Insensitive use of any other typeface would have been less of an error; Optima, one of the rare humanist sansserifs, demands obsessive attention to detail, all the resolution you can throw at it, meticulous copyfitting, and, above all, an error-free text that’s actually worth reading.
Let’s give the Montreal kids credit, though, for original thinking on the topic of logos – the only original thinking of all the bid cities. "We sought a logo that broke away from the ever-present intertwined sexual symbols or the overused pink triangle" . Hallelujah! Graphic design is the only outpost of the visual arts not overrun by fags. The mimimal link between queers and graphic design works both ways, too, with most queers being utterly clueless about graphic design and very suspicious of anyone who dares to suggest that their cherished symbols are hackneyed, outdated, inelegant, and lowbrow.
The Montreal committee adopted a logo that symbolizes the Olympic Stadium (the Big Owe) with its largely functionless mast. The logo ends up looking like a heavily relaxed artichoke and implies too much motion; the leaves of the artichoke seem to be moving. Considerable refinement will be necessary, but at least they’re starting with something original. ("The oversized dimensions of the building attest to its flexibility" : No, to its excesses.)
Montreal was required to submit a logo that unifies its own design and the rather weird, conceptually opaque, leather/S&M-like Federation of Gay Games logo. This cluttered amalgam is an utter failure made even worse by a kind of ugly typography only a designer weaned on Ste.-Catherine St. sex-shop signage could come up with. Throw it out and start again. Defy FOGG’s orders if necessary.
The bid book at least credits the photographers whose work is used. The other bidders pretend that copyright does not exist.
All bidders are weak and vague on this topic, displaying their ignorance of the medium. "The Committee’s Web site will be designed by the winner of an international online contest" : This is an unethical practice in the field of graphic arts. Contests amount to a demand that all entrants work on spec. (Even the winner of the contest is working on spec.) This approach is typical of design-ignorant intellectuals, who devalue graphic design when they’re not ignoring it completely. What you should do is invite designers to show you their portfolios. You can then interview applicants on their design approach and make an informed choice rather than just picking the design you deem snazziest.
Posted: Circa December 1997 ¶ Updated: 2009.03.01
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