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L.A. Group to Make Bid to Host 2006 Gay Games

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shamey Cramer doesn’t compare himself to Peter Ueberroth.

Ueberroth, after all, is the multimillionaire entrepreneur who helped make the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles such a huge success. Cramer pays his own bills by selling beer and wine part time at the Hollywood Bowl concession stands.

But, like Ueberroth, Cramer hopes one of the world’s largest sports events comes to Los Angeles. Cramer is the founder and executive director of Los Angeles 2006 Inc., a nonprofit organization that is bidding for the 2006 Gay Games.

In October, he will lead a group to Johannesburg, South Africa, in hopes of persuading the Federation of Gay Games to award the event to Los Angeles instead of Chicago, Atlanta or Montreal, the other three finalists.

The games, held every four years since 1982, are the equivalent of the Olympics for gay and lesbian athletes and could bring more than 15,000 competitors to the city and draw up to 250,000 spectators.

The two-week games would be the single-largest event in the city in the next five years, according to the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau. The total financial impact for the area, the bureau estimates, would be more than $400 million, based on the at least $250 million the games generated in New York in 1994, when about 10,000 athletes competed.

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The selection process in Johannesburg will begin Oct. 21, with the winning city announced Oct. 25.

Cramer has been preparing for that week for 18 months. He gave up his work as a producer and screenwriter to pursue bringing the games here, a dream he has had since he co-chaired the Team Los Angeles that competed in the inaugural Gay Games in San Francisco.

“I actually have given up all my pursuits for this project,” he said. “Twelve- to 14-hour days are not uncommon, seven days a week. There are days when I’m working on the computer until 3 o’clock in the morning.”

The Gay Games are a cultural festival as well as a sports event, with athletes competing in more than 30 sports, from aerobics to sailing to wrestling. The event was founded by Tom Waddell, an Olympic decathlete, who, like many gay athletes, had grown tired of the jokes and harassment he endured on the sports circuit, said Derek Liecty, one of the voting members of the Federation of Gay Games.

“I know very well what it’s like to be in a locker-room atmosphere and be a gay person and not be who you are,” said Liecty, who played soccer for Stanford University in the 1950s. “The locker room is the last closet.”

Three Key Factors in Choosing Host City

The first games drew almost 1,400 athletes from all over the world. Some athletes from countries where homosexuality is socially unacceptable even have competed under false names, Liecty said.

The Gay Games have been held twice in San Francisco, but never in Los Angeles, although Angelenos have bid on them before. Liecty said the federation looks at three key factors before choosing a city: support from an organized gay community, support from the city and support from corporate sponsors.

Members of the Los Angeles 2006 organization are quick to point out that Los Angeles has all three. West Hollywood, for example, is “one of the gay meccas in the United States,” said Charles King, one of the organization’s board members. That city has already contributed about $45,000 and free office space to the effort to bring the games here, he said.

In addition, Cramer said, the Los Angeles-based Mattachine Society was the first gay and lesbian organization in the world, and the city has one of the nation’s highest number of gay and lesbian athletes.

“Time and again, the Los Angeles gay and lesbian community has made historic contributions that often get overlooked because of San Francisco and New York,” he said.

The Los Angeles City Council, meanwhile, has passed a resolution in support of hosting the games. Endorsements have also come from the county Board of Supervisors and the city of Pasadena, Cramer said.

“I think it would be just a great boon for the area,” said Los Angeles Councilman Eric Garcetti, who introduced the resolution with Councilwoman Jan Perry. Garcetti also helped host a site visit to the city by the Federation of Gay Games.

The local organization has received a commitment from American Express to be one of the main sponsors of the games, said William Harris, a professional fund-raiser volunteering for the group. Several other corporations also have expressed interest, he said.

Harris estimates the cost of producing the Gay Games in Los Angeles at $20 million to $25 million. It will probably take all five years until 2006 to raise that kind of money, he said.

Should Los Angeles be awarded the bid, events will be held at many of the Olympic venues, Cramer said.

UCLA has already agreed to let some of its facilities be used, while the Los Angeles Convention Center, USC and sites in Long Beach and Pasadena also might be utilized. The Shrine Auditorium is a proposed venue for the wrestling competition.

“Of course, nothing is set in stone,” Cramer said.


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