Despite some local opposition and fears over political freedoms, the Gay Games will begin in Hong Kong on Friday, the first time the international sporting event is being held in Asia.
The event, which includes both LGBTQ+ and heterosexual athletes, will see 2,381 people compete in sports including football and badminton as well as Hong Kong dragon boat racing and mahjong and aims to promote diversity through sport and culture.
“We all need this platform, where it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter how you identify,” event co-chair Lisa Lamm said at a press conference Thursday. “We all need to live in this culture of respect and acceptance.” Let’s come together.”
Hong Kong does not allow gay marriage and has no laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In September the city’s top court rejected gay marriage but ordered the government to set up an “alternative framework” to recognize the rights of same-sex couples.
“Hong Kong always says it is an international metropolis, but progress has been slow in some aspects,” said event promoter Boo Chan. AFP,
The Chinese finance hub won the bid in 2017 to host the games, which were initially scheduled to take place last November, but were delayed due to strict pandemic restrictions, which were only lifted late last year.
The Mexican city of Guadalajara is co-hosting the event, with no overlap in sporting events between the two venues.
Lam said the Gay Games could show that Hong Kong is “open for business (and) everyone is welcome”.
But while Hong Kong officials supported organizers’ initial bid to host the event, most have avoided publicly expressing support in recent months. – Security concerns – Along with pro-Beijing firebrand Junius, seven Hong Kong lawmakers spoke out against gay sports on Wednesday. Ho accused the incident of being an “attempt to destroy national security”.
Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong in 2020, after the former British colony saw widespread and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.
Lai Wen-Wei, president of the Taiwan Gay Sports and Movement Association, said AFP Last month his team of 12 athletes will leave for Mexico.
Lai said, “If (athletes) wave Taiwan’s national flag they may be at risk of being arrested or detained due to the national security law, so we still voted against sending a team to Hong Kong due to personal safety concerns.” decided.”
Organizers say the Gay Games are “completely non-partisan and non-political, and we ask all participants and visitors to respect and obey local laws and customs during their stay in Hong Kong “
Officials said in August that organizers of the Gay Games had been reminded to “comply with city laws and regulations.”
Top government adviser Regina Ip is expected to be the only pro-establishment figure to attend the opening ceremony of the Gay Games, according to organizers.
A poll this year found that 60% of Hong Kongers support gay marriage, compared to only 38% a decade ago.
Gay Games promoter Louis Ng told AFP He encountered people on a street corner in Hong Kong who were distributing leaflets opposing the event and tried to persuade them.
“I saw a terrible flyer that described homosexuals as devils… We should try to talk to them and explain what (the incident) is,” Ng said.