World OutGames Canceled Hours Before Opening Ceremony

The last-minute decision will cost Miami Beach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Organizers for the 2017 World OutGames in Miami have canceled almost every scheduled sporting event, just hours before the games were set to begin.

The 10-day event, which brings LGBT athletes from all over the world together, was axed due to financial issues, according to a Facebook post from the OutGames board of directors.

“It is with deep regret that due to financial burdens, World OutGames must cancel its sports programming and Opening and Closing Ceremony with the exception of soccer, aquatics and country western dance,” reads a statement. “The Human Rights Conference and cultural programs will continue as planned. We thank everyone who has supported the effort and apologize to those who will be impacted by this difficult decision.”

Montreal, CANADA:  Synchronized swimmers perform during the Outsplash show of the first World OutGames in Montreal, 04 August, 2006. The Outgames, are the largest event of its kind in the world and historic for the gay and lesbian community. Some 16,000 homosexual, bisexual and transgender athletes from more than 120 countries will take part in 35 events, running until 05 August. AFP PHOTO/David BOILY  (Photo credit should read DAVID BOILY/AFP/Getty Images)
DAVID BOILY/AFP/Getty Image

The last-minute announcement means many athletes had either already arrived in Miami or were in transit when the announcement was made. Australian tennis player Rowen D’Souza told the Miami Herald that he’d spent $3,000 to travel from Australia to Miami. The OutGames organizers, he says, were not easy to deal with the entire time.

“The communication has been poor from the start. I suspect they knew there were problems but did nothing.”

This year is the first the event was hosted in the United States, with local agencies having spent hundreds of thousands to sponsor the games. Members of Miami Beach City Hall expressed concerns earlier this year about financing, but OutGames officials declared that fundraising was going well and guaranteed that they would not cancel the games.

In the past, the OutGames has drawn 16,000 athletes from more than 120 countries, partaking in some 35 events, from basketball and bodybuilding to same-sex ballroom dancing and synchronized swimming. But it has always suffered from competition from the Gay Games, another LGBT-focused sporting series. In 2006, the closing ceremony of the Chicago Gay Games was only seven days before the opening ceremony of World OutGames in Montreal.

Adam Salandra is a writer, performer and host in Los Angeles. When he's not covering the latest in pop culture, you can find him playing with his French Bulldog puppy or hovering over the table of food at any social gathering.
@adamsalandra