Athletes from over 60 countries have registered for this year’s World OutGames in Miami, the fourth annual event for LGBT athletes and allies and the first time the games are being hosted in the United States.
International competitors have gone through the tedious process of acquiring a visa and being granted access to the event, but the World OutGames staff helps participants every step of the way, according to the World OutGames CEO Ivan Cano.
“We are thrilled to host America’s first World OutGames in Miami Beach,” Cano said. “The project started back in 2012 when a discussion started with a ‘what if,’ which turned into a ‘should we,’ which turned into a possibility.”
According to the event website, there are more than 450 events stretched across the three “pillars” of the games — sports, culture and human rights.
“It does go beyond that sport element,” Cano said. “You have your parties or main village at the national hotel. You’d be surprised at how much these individuals love to talk about their lives and where they’re from.”
Traditional sporting events such as running, swimming, biking, tennis and more take the stage alongside lesser known events, such as Cano’s favorite “Pink Flamingo” signature event.
“The pink flamingo is when the aquatics teams get together, it is the final signature event,” Cano said. “The teams dress up and do a scene in the water. I have seen Abba played out. They don’t have to be absolutely synchronized, but everybody has to be involved.”
Beyond the sports, the Games will feature cultural elements that celebrate the many forms of diversity that are represented at this event. Many human rights leaders will also be attending, and will be sharing their stories and their outreach with audiences.
One human rights leader, Cynthia Germanotta, is receiving this year's Champion Award for the work of her Born This Way Foundation, founded in 2012 by Germanotta and her daughter Lady Gaga.
“Or mission is a simple one but it is profound,” Germanotta said. “It is simple in that we are building a kinder and braver world. Kinder in the sense of being more accepting of one another’s differences, and brave in the sense of being sure that young people are being equipped with the skills and resources that they need to be successful and overcome their struggle.”
Recently, the Born This Way Foundation has launched the “Channel Kindness” program, which is training 50 youth responders to identify and share stories of kindness and compassion in their daily lives and distribute them throughout social channels.
“One of the areas that we are really proud and excited about is program called ‘Channel Kindness,’” Germanotta said. “It is really about giving young people the opportunity to tell stories of kindness that happen in their communities. So often are young people misrepresented in the media, seen in a negative light for all sorts of reasons … this is their opportunity to flip the paradigm, flip the dynamic and tell positive stories instead of negative stories.”
In a world where the negative stories seem to take precedence, programs like “Channel Kindness” seek to distribute positivity. Germanotta said she excited to receive the award, and is thankful for the recognition that her team and the Foundation deserve for their continued fight for human rights.
Germanotta even recognized the World OutGames as a viable opportunity to further the conversation on human rights, putting youth at the forefront of change.
“We probably work with one of the most diverse groups of young people in history that are much more open and much more accepting of this type of change,” Germanotta said. “There are so many diverse cultures coming together [for the World OutGames] you can use that to really tell those stories … so people can not only see the horror but the good that can come out of pain, and how to continue stepping toward the right direction.”
Dr. Thinh Tran, the chief clinical officer and chief operating officer of the University of Miami Health system, a large supporter of the World OutGames Miami, also believes the event is an outstanding opportunity to further the fight for human rights, turning to young adults as key components in the fight for change.
“Having been a physician and an educator [at the University of Miami] I believe the World OutGames of Miami and certainly the work of Cynthia of the Born This Way Foundation embodies our core values of inclusiveness, caring for each other, and empowering young people toward advocacy and involvement,” Tran said.
According to Cano, the OutGames is unique in its sociability — the event goes so far beyond sports, providing an opportunity for athletes and attendees to make lasting friendships and memories.
“It does go beyond that sport element. You have your parties or main village at the national hotel. You’d be surprised at how much these individuals love to talk about their lives and where they’re from,” Cano said. “Boyfriends have met each other, there are wonderful experiences of people who have come out. Just because it is an LGBT community doesn’t mean that LGBT people are the only ones showing up.”
The Games will be held from May 26 through June 4, with the opening ceremony taking place May 27 at The Fillmore at Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave. Tickets are available at livemu.sc/2qxni5p. The ceremony starts at 7 pm.
“I think this is a wonderful event. It is more than just an athletic competition, it embodies the wellness and empowerment of everyone, especially the younger generation,” Tran said.