LGBTQ South Florida

World OutGames coming to Miami for unity-themed LGBTQ games, conference

Members of the Miami Women’s Softball League will participate in World OutGames Miami.
Members of the Miami Women’s Softball League will participate in World OutGames Miami. Photo via Hotspots Magazine

The international athletic, cultural and human rights event World OutGames will open in Miami Beach this weekend for the fourth edition of the games since 2006 and the first to be held in the United States.

The LGBTQ-focused 10-day event features a three-day conference on international human rights, many sporting competitions and a full schedule of social events that aim to promote an inclusive atmosphere that welcomes anyone and everyone to participate and watch.

Local cultural, political and business leaders have been working on bringing the games to Miami for years.

“It made complete and total sense for us to go after it,” said Jose Sotolongo, director of sports tourism for the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. “It’s very important for us to show our community is a very inclusive one.”

Events will be held at several venues across Miami-Dade County.

▪ The human rights conference will be at the Loews Miami Beach from Friday through Sunday. About two dozen speakers from across the globe are scheduled to discuss topics ranging from social justice, inclusivity in sports and health and wellness. Some of the speakers include a Venezuelan lawmaker who opposes President Nicolás Maduro, a human rights officer from the United Nations and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston.

“It is important because it allows for a cross-regional exchange of ideas and best practices and brings us closer as activists, academics, and as individuals as part of the global LGBTQI movement,” said Rashima Kwatra, communications officer of OutRight Action International, the oldest LGBTQ human rights organization in the U.S. “There are few instances where so many LGBTQI people from different parts of the world are able to come together and not only learn from one another but also build a greater sense of solidarity and appreciation for the work that we all do individually to advance the human rights of LGBTQ people.”

▪ The opening ceremonies are scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at The Fillmore Miami Beach. The emcee will be Omar Sharif Jr., a model, LGBTQ-rights activist and writer who is the grandson of famed actor Omar Sharif, and the ceremonies will feature performances by dance music artist Kristine W and local Latin music icon Tito Puente Jr.

▪ Several social events are scheduled at the National Hotel in South Beach from 1 to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday. These include music and dance performances and happy hours.

The whole event is expected to bring several thousand athletes and attendees from more than 60 countries. Ivan Cano, CEO of World OutGames Miami, said the event is especially topical now, given the unstable political climate here and abroad.

“Now, more than ever, our message of unity is especially relevant, amidst present political uncertainty in the United States and abroad,” Cano said. “We have assembled a powerful lineup of human rights speakers, celebrities and a series of cultural happenings that will educate, influence and celebrate equality and acceptance. It is our hope that the community — and the world — will embrace our LGBTQI inclusivity message in unison — loud, proud and clear.”

Miami Beach has donated $200,000 to OutGames, and two more $100,000 payments would be triggered by certain fundraising milestones that OutGames organizers have yet to reach.

Of the donated cash, $50,000 was supposed to be rebated back to the city. But City Manager Jimmy Morales said the Beach wants to assist OutGames because fundraising has been slower than expected.

In April, commissioners voted to forgive the $50,000 loan and to waive several thousand dollars in city fees associated with using public facilities.

Also in April, Adidas North America announced it would partner with World OutGames Miami.

“We believe that through sport, we have the power to change lives,” Adidas North America President Mark King said in a news release. “We believe in the power of sport and its ability to transcend differences and unite people around hope and celebration. Sport plays a critical role in our culture today, and we can harness that influence to make real change for the world. We want to foster a culture in sports that celebrates diversity and provides a safe place for everyone to play.”

Athletes will compete in a range of competitions that include badminton, beach volleyball, soccer, tennis, and track and field. The athletic events are spread out across different venues in the county. A full list of events can be found on the website for the OutGames, www.outgames.org.

Miami Herald staff writer Alex Harris contributed to this report.

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