Miami officials launch probe of gay sporting event, citing ‘potential misappropriation of funds.’
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Prosecutors in Florida have opened up a fraud investigation into a gay-themed sporting and cultural event after it was cancelled amid financial problems.
Most of the World OutGames’ sporting events, as well as opening and closing ceremonies, were canceled on Friday, just 24 hours before they were scheduled to start.
Later that day, the Miami Beach Police and the State Attorney’s Office announced they were opening a fraud investigation “due to potential misappropriation of funds.”
The Miami Herald reported Saturday that officials in Miami Beach, Florida, were alarmed by the financial statements submitted by the OutGames. The documents showed a low amount of cash on hand despite fundraising commitments, according to officials.
Miami Beach had waived municipal fees and provided $200,000 in cash to sponsor the event. The city is now demanding an audit of OutGames’ books.
OutGames organizers announced the cancellation on Friday as competitors from around the world were arriving in the Miami area for the games.
“It is with deep regret that due to financial burdens, World OutGames must cancel its sports programming and Opening and Closing Ceremony with the exception of soccer, aquatics and country western dance,” reads a statement from the event’s board of directors.
Organizers had estimated more than 2,000 athletes would be coming. Social events planned around the games were still scheduled to go on.
Miami Beach officials on Saturday said they were doing their best to salvage some of the games. They arranged for a field hockey to be played at a municipal park and made arrangements for a basketball tournament to be held at a youth center. They also said they intended to welcome athletes and their families at a reception at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.
But some international competitors were upset with the last-minute cancellation notice by OutGames organizers.
“This just displays bad management that has a serious financial impact on many people,” said Peter Clancy, a businessman from Belgium who going to compete in track and field and whose partner was due to run in the half-marathon. “Last-minute notice also shows a complete lack of respect for the participants and especially those of us traveling from other continents.”
Rowen D’Souza said he spent about $3,000 traveling from Australia to play tennis in the games.
“The communication has been poor from the start,” D’Souza said. “I suspect they knew there were problems but did nothing.”
Ivan Cano, CEO of the OutGames, declined to comment beyond the statement from the board.