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Gay Games Hong Kong Organizers Acknowledge Obstacles 500 Days Out

Hong Kong harbor

As a Hong Kong politician rages that queer athletes could "tear society apart," organizers acknowledge that putting on the first Gay Games in Asia has its challenges. 

With 500 days to go until the opening ceremony of the 2022 Gay Games in Hong Kong, organizers acknowledge the unique hurdles faced by what will be the first time the LGBTQ+ multi-sport event and cultural festival is held in Asia.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is that many Asians are not familiar with the Gay Games, so additional outreach, education, and recruitment is needed for the region than when the Games are held in the U.S. or Europe. In addition, many potential participants in Asia do not have the funds, or paperwork needed to travel to Hong Kong for the week-long event. At this morning’s press conference in Hong Kong, one of the speakers acknowledged that Hong Kong is “not the cheapest place to go,” and said there is a transgender team from Cambodia that wants to participate but its members have no passports and no money for travel. Gay Games Hong Kong organizers are helping where possible, including in assisting in setting up crowd funding programs for athletes wanting to attend.

The theme adopted for the Hong Kong Games is “Unity in Diversity.” That reflects the fact that the event “is open to all” and is “a celebration of diversity and inclusion.” said Dennis Philipse, founder and co-chair of GGHK. “Everyone is welcome to participate regardless of ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, or background.”

Group of LGBTQ+ people with Gay Games Hong Kong sign


But diversity is currently under attack in Hong Kong, under the brutal crackdown on democracy orchestrated by mainland China. Dozens of progressive politicians and activists have been arrested for violating the new national security law, and charged with sedition, terrorism, or collusion with foreign agents for speaking out against the loss of freedoms previously enjoyed by citizens of Hong Kong.

Earlier this month, two prominent pro-Beijing lawmakers, Priscilla Leung and Junius Ho, protested the city’s decision to host the Gay Games. First they argued that allowing the Games to take place in Hong Kong was tantamount to backing same-sex marriage (which is not legal in the city or in mainland China).

Leung also said the week-long sporting and cultural event could divide the city, arguing, “The issue of sex orientation is extremely controversial and could even tear society apart.”  Ho, meanwhile, insisted, “We respect people with different sexual orientations. Whatever you do in your room, it’s your own business.” He then added “But if you do it in public, it’s disgraceful.”

According to the French media site RFI, in a rare rebuke, the head of Hong Kong’s anti-discrimination agency, Ricky Chu, accused the two politicians of “making a mountain out of a molehill.” The Equal Opportunities Commission chairman called on lawmakers and members of the public to “not stigmatize the Games, but show respect and inclusiveness. Such an inflexible attitude will only bring more harm than good to the city.”

According to South China Morning Post, Chief Executive Carrie Lam also came out publicly to support the Games. The city manager who is aligned with Beijing reportedly lauded the quadrennial sporting event for promoting inclusiveness and diversity, and said her government was prepared to help the organizers book venues for the events, which are projected to inject $1 billion HKD into the local economy.

In a statement to the press, Chu, said, “While the economic case for Gay Games is beyond doubt, the fundamental message is that everyone — regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and other attributes —  should have an equal right to participate in sports and other parts of public life without having to hide who they are. Unity in Diversity - this has always been a core value driving the EOC’s work, and one that we hope policymakers, businesses and society at large will stand by.”

Dennis Philipse and Lisa Lam organizers of GGHKLisa Lam ​and Dennis Philipse, co-chairs of Gay Games Hong Kong


Lisa Lam, co-chair of GGHK said that the Gay Games Hong Kong is expecting 12,000 participants, 75,000 spectators and 3,000 volunteers from 100 countries. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for many participants, who will travel to Hong Kong from their home countries, many for the first time since lockdown,” she said.

Patrick Kwok, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Hotels Association said in a statement to press that “Hong Kong Hotels Association (HKHA) and its members cordially welcome Gay Games 11 to be hosted in Hong Kong next year, bringing tens of thousands of participants and spectators from across the world. This is the first time the event is held in Asia, putting Hong Kong in the spotlight, and bringing together diverse groups of people to experience the unique culture and moments of joy in Hong Kong, under the theme of ‘Unity In Diversity.’ This is instrumental to promote the city’s destination image while showcasing our top-notch hotels and hospitality service.”

However, in today’s press conference, GGHK organizers said many in the city’s hospitality industry still needed training in order to be prepared to truly welcome the diversity of LGBTQ+ people who will descend on the region for what will be celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Gay Games founding by Olympic athlete Tom Waddell.

At the press conference Suen Yiu Tung, assistant professor of Gender Studies at The Chinese University of Hong Kong acknowledged that there is currently “a lot of debate” about the LGBTQ+ community and the need for the Gay Games, saying, “There is a lot of debate about whether being LGBT+ is even an Asian thing. And people are asking ‘Why is it we need Gay Games? Why not Straight Games?’” In addressing those questions, Yiu Tung spoke about the culture of toxic masculinity in sports, the invisiblization of LGBTQ+ Asians, and the importance GGHK could have in showing the general public that LGBTQ+ athletes are just like other people. 

As some in Hong Kong debate whether the Games should take place there and if being LBGTQ+ is a Western construct, some in the U.S. question whether queer athletes should be traveling to Hong Kong now that it is no longer the free and relatively safe place it once was. Fortunately we have another 500 days to ponder those questions.



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Jacob Anderson-Minshall