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Social Issues

Federation of Gay Games breaks with Synergy
Synergy says they are still on board for the 2014 Gay Games in Cleveland

Vivian Goodman
The 2006 Gay Games were held in Chicago. This year's games conclude Friday in Cologne, Germany
Courtesy of Dmitri Margolin
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A legal tug-of-war continues in the run-up to the 2014 International Gay Games in Northeast Ohio. Two groups from Cleveland plan to claim the flag this Friday from this year's games in Cologne, Germany even though one of them has been told to stay away.
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This morning the Federation of Gay Games, the international governing body that selects the site for the quadrennial Gay Games, issued a statement from Cologne, confirming that it ended its relationship with Cleveland Synergy Foundation effective July 6th.
Synergy is the non-profit group that spearheaded the effort to win the games for Cleveland and Akron. FGG Spokesman Kelly Stevens refused to say why the Federation is forcing  Synergy out and had no comment about published reports of financial irregularities. Stevens said negotiations are underway to put the responsibility for producing the 2014 Games in new hands, and the ceremonial flag will still pass to Cleveland.
"And here in Cologne it will go from the deputy Mayor to the Vice , I believe she’s the vice or the Deputy Mayor in Cleveland," he says. Would that be Ms. Valerie McColl the Chief of government Affairs for Mayor Jackson? "Yes that’s correct.,” Stevens says.
Not according to Synergy co-founder Jeff Axberg. He says the Federation of Gay Games signed a licensing agreement with Synergy on December 31st of last year . He rejects the FGG statement that the relationship is over.
“Cleveland Synergy Foundation is still the legal entity to host the Gay Games in Cleveland and our law firm will be addressing the letter that you received," Axberg says. So at this point who will receive the flag at the end of the Cologne games? . "We actually have an entire delegation over there to pick up the flag as per the licensing agreement," he says. Will there be any kind of tug of war with the city officials, the Cleveland officials who expect to receive it? "Uh, no comment.”
Synergy has recently hired Cleveland attorney John Climaco.
Federation of Gay Games spokesman Kelly Stevens says it’s the first such fight in the organization’s 28-year history.
“Nothing like this , in this exact circumstance has ever happened to my knowledge, and I don’t see it as an impediment in the future. There are always challenges and we always get through them," he says. One challenge of course is fundraising and Synergy had set up some fundraising activities. Is that one of the obstacles that will have to be surmounted at this point?  "No . This is just the early stage of the fundraising and the development of global sponsors as well and it takes years prior to the Games to develop all of that,” Stevens says.
The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission was one of Synergy’s partners in the bid for the Games. It’s not a gay organization like Synergy, but Stevens says that would not keep the Commission from getting the operating license.
“Absolutely not. That would be complete discrimination and we would never do that. But it generally is a gay and lesbian organization or a gay and lesbian-supported type organization,” Stevens says.
Synergy claims it paid $108,000 in legal fees to other law firms to negotiate its contract with the Federation of Gay Games  to produce the games in Cleveland and Akron in 2014.

Related WKSU Stories

Cleveland Councilman who led effort to get Gay Games suspects jilted cities have sour grapes
Thursday, July 22, 2010

Cleveland organizers of 2014 Gay Games are under scrutiny
Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gay Games coming to Cleveland in 2014
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cleveland in running to host Gay Games
Wednesday, March 18, 2009

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