A delegation of 12 civic and community leaders and volunteers recently attended the worldOutgames III in Antwerp, Belgium, representing Miami Beach and Miami, host cities of the worldOutgames IV in 2017.
The contingent traveled to worldOutgames to observe the structure and organization of the 12-day event which began with a Human Rights Conference before embarking upon a sports competition that included more than 30 events and 5,000 participants. In addition, the delegation spent many hours meeting with the Antwerp host committee and the officers and dele- gates of the Gay and Lesbian International Sports Association (GLISA) International, the organizing body of the worldOutgames.
The delegation consisted of Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, Florida State Representative David Richardson, Co- Chairs Ivan Cano and Bruce Townsend and Board members, Keith Hart (Director of Sport), Jerry Torres (Director of Culture), Bob Balsam (Global Spectrum/Miami Beach Convention Center), George Neary(Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau), and community supporters Barry Moskowiz (GMCVB), Harvey Burstein and WOG 2017 Sports Committee Members Marc Brown and Nelson Robaina Jr.
“The experience was incredible. We learned so much from the team in Antwerp and from the GLISA International Board in preparation for a successful fourth edition of the worldOutgames Miami Beach- Miami 2017,” said Townsend.
The Human Rights Conference included speakers from several African nations and were a focus for the Antwerp worldOutgames. The Conference’s closing ceremony was highlighted by Representative Richardson’s remarks and introduction of Mayor Bower for the keynote address.
In her presentation, Mayor Bower shared with the audience the city’s many accomplishments and advances with regards to human rights for the citizens of Miami Beach.
Following the Conference’s closing ceremony all participants were welcomed at the Antwerp City Hall for a reception hosted by the Miami Beach- Miami worldOutgames 2017 delegation. Following the Human Rights Conference, the sporting competition began with an official Opening Ceremony. More than 118 nations were represented as the athletes paraded into the arena following their respective country signs. Many key local dignitaries including the Mayor of Antwerp welcomed the delegations.
“The opening ceremonies gave everyone a feeling of warmth, friendliness and excitement for the upcoming competitions,” said Cano. “It’s that feeling of inclusiveness and pride that we want to instill into the games in Miami Beach and Miami.”
Each morning during the games, the Miami Beach delegates met with the local Antwerp team to debrief and recap the previous day’s events and strategize the activities for that day. Among the many goals established by the delegation was to complete physical reviews of all sporting and cultural venues and events. Each day members of the team were given an assignment and a group of events to attend and evaluate. The detailed written reports will be used to prepare for and guide the Miami Beach-Miami team when it’s their turn to host the games.
During the week, collectively, the team visited every sport and every venue and interviewed hundreds of participants.
“As a member of the delegation it was a great honor to be able to attend these games and to learn and observe so much,” said Hart, director of sports for Miami Beach-Miami. “It was a lot of work and very long days, but it was worth it. In addition to meeting and talking to the individual athletes and participants from around the world, being in Antwerp will help me to ensure a spectacular worldOutgames 2017 here in Miami Beach and Miami.”
Along with the daily assignments, “Mayor Matti,” as she quickly became referred to by the participants, awarded medals to the winning teams of the synchronized swimming competition and the medalists of the DanceSport competition. One of the members of the Miami Beach- Miami delegation always accompanied the Mayor and she quickly became quite popular among the participants and spectators for her warmth and approachability.
“It was truly like being with a celebrity,” Townsend said. “Everywhere people wanted a picture with her, gave her a hug, thanked her for her support and just overwhelmingly appreciated all she was and has done for the LGBT community.”
The event came to a close with the Closing Ceremony on Saturday, August 10. For the Miami Beach-Miami contingent, the highlight of the Closing Ceremony was the presentation of the GLISA International flag from the Antwerp delegation to Mayor Bower and the Miami Beach-Miami delegation, officially signaling that Miami Beach-Miami would be welcoming the globe to worldOutgames IV in 2017.
“No matter where we traveled or with whom we spoke one thing was quite clear…everyone wants to come to Miami Beach and Miami in 2017 to participate in the fourth worldOutgames,” said Cano. “I know we will be ready!”