Limerick eyes up 2018 Gay Games bonanza

The Treaty City is hoping for a financial bonanza if it lands the 2018 event, writes Jonathan deBurca Butler

Limerick eyes up 2018 Gay Games bonanza

IT was announced recently that Limerick is one of three cities on a shortlist of potential hosts for the 2018 Gay Games.

Having beaten off Amsterdam and Orlando in the last round, the south western city will now battle it out with Paris and London for its right to hold the games. Undoubtedly, the British and French capitals will offer stiff competition, but organisers of the Limerick bid believe that size could be their biggest advantage.

“Should we be successful, you’re looking at about 10-12,000 competitors and about 15,000 spectators,” says Limerick 2018’s Cillian Flynn. “In terms of visibility, when you look at those numbers in cities like London or Paris you wouldn’t notice them, so the games wouldn’t have a massive impact. Whereas in somewhere like Limerick you’d see those numbers and the whole city and, indeed, the country would get behind it.”

As Flynn points out, Limerick’s sporting facilities are “second to none”. With the only 50-metre swimming pool in the country, the mountain bike tracks at Ballyhoura, the aquatic park at Killaloe and Thomond Park all part of the bid, he is confident the venues will “tick all the boxes” when the visiting committee come to Limerick for a three-day overview in July.

“Special Olympics Ireland used the city for their Irish games in the past and they’re coming back in 2014,” says Flynn. “The venues are in close proximity to each other too. So we have the facilities, we have the infrastructure, and now we’re putting it forward that we have the credibility.”

The Gay Games were started in 1982 by American Tom Wadell. The ninth games will take place next year in Cleveland and hopefully the tenth will be in Limerick. In recent years Irish athletes have fared well. In 2010 Ireland sent 100 athletes to Cologne in Germany and bagged an impressive 27 medals.

Flynn and head co-ordinator John James Hickey came up with the idea of bidding for the games while they were organising last year’s Pride Festival in Limerick.

“We were organising a family sports day as part of the event last year,” recalls Flynn. “And we decided to look into organising the Gay Games here. When we looked at the numbers required and the logistics we thought: ‘Limerick can definitely do this.’ So far so good.”

Support for the hosting of the games has been strong.

“We have a good few letters from politicians in our bid book,” says Flynn. “The minister for Sport and Tourism is behind us. I have to say UL has been great, too. When we brought the proposal forward we knew that we’d have to get them on board, just in terms of facilities, and if we hadn’t got them it wouldn’t have been worthwhile pursuing the event, but they’ve been fantastic.”

Limerick Communications Office spokesperson, Laura Ryan, thinks that hosting the 2018 Gay Games has the potential to bring a multi-million euro windfall to the region.

“The profile alone from hosting an event like this would be fantastic,” she says. “If successful, the games will attract in excess of 10,000 participants and 15,000 spectators into Limerick, along with a media and hospitality centre. Limerick is already established as one of Ireland’s strongest sporting cities and was, of course, designated a European City of Sport in 2011.”

According to Ryan, Limerick City Council will fly rainbow flags on Limerick’s bridges at entry points to the city for the duration of the site visit to welcome the visiting delegation.

“The council is hugely supportive of the bid,” says Ryan. “It would be a huge boost to local hoteliers if the city hosted the Gay Games in summer 2018. There’s a one-in-three chance of Limerick winning the bid, so fingers crossed we’ll be successful.”

Flynn admits that Limerick’s gay community would not be as big, or as visible as Dublin’s, but he hopes that a successful bid will help to change that.

“In terms of numbers, it’s not the biggest scene in the world,” he says. “But again we’re hoping to take the games and maybe develop the scene here and develop a community from it.”

The ethos of the games is inclusive and Flynn sees this as critical in its success should it come to the banks of the Shannon.

“It is called the Gay Games but the only gay thing about it is the name,” says Flynn. “Anyone, regardless of gender, age, ability, expert or amateur; they can all take part in it.”

So will Gay Games X be held in Limerick?

“We find out on the 7th October,” says Flynn. “After the site visit in July, we have to head over to the annual conference of the games in Cleveland. We’ll make a final pitch and then there’s a vote from the member confederations. We’ll know that evening.”

It could be quite a night in Cleveland.


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