Duncan Mackay
Marc Naimark I write to you from Cleveland, Ohio, which, with Akron, will host the 2014 Gay Games next August. I'm a member of the Board of the Federation of Gay Games (FGG), here with 20 other Board members and more than 50 delegates from our member organisations, for our Annual General Assembly.

The first half of our meeting will be devoted to the choice of the host for the 2018 Gay Games, which will be the tenth edition of the world's largest sport and culture festival open to all, with no requirements other than being age 18 and over and paying the registration fee.

The final decision is due to be announced tomorrow.

Joining us will be the delegations from Limerick, London, and Paris, the three cities shortlisted as finalist by our Assembly last June. The delegations will include Olympic fencing medalist Laura Flessel and French Minister for Sport Valerie Fourneyron. The presence of such high profile personalities is a sign of the perception of the impact hosting the Gay Games can have for a city.

French Sports Minister Valérie Fourneyron and fencer Laura Flessel, who carried her country's flag at the Opening Ceremony of London 2012, will be part of the Paris delegation bidding for the 2018 Gay GamesFrench Sports Minister Valérie Fourneyron and fencer Laura Flessel, who carried her country's flag at the Opening Ceremony of London 2012, will be part of the Paris delegation bidding for the 2018 Gay Games

Financial impact, of course. Hosting over 10,000 athletes and artists and tens of thousands more friends, family, and fans brings in significant revenues for a host city. Unlike the Olympics and other mega-events, the Gay Games doesn't require infrastructure investments, and the tourists who attend do not displace normal visitors.

Beyond finance, there is a political impact. The Gay Games are not about rewarding good LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)-friendly countries and punishing bad LGBT-phobic countries.

Of course the FGG is not going to ask participants to travel to a place that is unsafe. But part of our mission is to promote positive change in the cities and regions to which we bring the Games, a goal exemplified by our host for 2014 in Northeast Ohio, where among the many changes taking place are LGBT sensitivity training sessions for the police and diversity training for regional providers of goods and services for the Games.

There's a moral impact as well. The mission of the Gay Games is to promote equality in and through sport. In our site selection process for 2018, we have for the first time explicitly requested that bidders discuss their vision for human rights, including the fundamental impact of the Games itself.

The Federation of Gay Games is a volunteer organisation run on a shoe-string budget. Our host committees have paid staff and a budget that at several million dollars remains a tiny fraction of those of Olympic hosts. When we do have a bit of money, our reflex is to spend it on scholarships to support participants from developing countries.

Akron and Cleveland will host the 2014 Gay GamesAkron and Cleveland will host the 2014 Gay Games

For many of us, the choice of a host of the Gay Games is the most important task of the FGG.

To make this decision, we require hosts to produce a thorough bid book covering a range of issues including venues, finance, marketing, conference plans, etc. We created an online form so that anyone in the world could ask bidders for explanations and further details on their plans, and published those questions and the answers from bidders on our website.

For the first time we invited all qualified persons from around the world to apply for the position of site inspector, chose three, and sent them to spend four days in each of the three finalist cities. From these visits a 100-page report was prepared, reviewed by bidders, and sent to voters.

And now here in Cleveland, we'll spend three days on site selection, including committee reports, site inspection presentations, and the highlight of the event, the oral presentations before we make our final choice. 

Marc Naimark is vice-president for external affairs for the Federation of Gay Games, the governing body for the world's largest sporting event open to all, and a member of the Pride House International coalition of LGBT sport and human-rights organisations. Gay Games 9 is due to take place in August 2014 in Cleveland.