Gay Games looks to the future
While uncertainty continues to cloud planning for the Gay Games in Hong Kong – originally scheduled for 2022 but delayed until 2023 – the Gay Games organisation is continuing to look to the future.
The process to select the host for the 2026 event has just been completed, and Valencia has been announced as the successful city to host the games.
Valencia was selected ahead of Munich and Guadalajara.
What’s the outlook for the Gay Games in Hong Kong?
The event had been scheduled for November 2022, but organisers have announced that the Gay Games has been postponed until 2023.
The Hong Kong event would be the first time that the Gay Games has been held in Asia.
Organisers have said that they will hold the event in November 2023, although exact dates have not yet been confirmed.
The continuing uncertainty surrounding travel as a result of restrictions required by the Covid-19 pandemic has been cited as the reason for postponing the Gay Games.
Will the Gay Games in Hong Kong be a pink-washing opportunity for China?
One aspect that the Federation of Gay Games doesn’t seem to have addressed is the potential risk that the Gay Games in Hong Kong will be used as a pink-washing exercise by Hong Kong authorities and mainland China.
The term pink-washing describes marketing and political strategies aimed at promoting products, countries, people or entities through an appeal to queer-friendliness, in order to be perceived as progressive, modern and tolerant.
The Hong Kong authorities are likely to see the Gay Games as an important opportunity to promote the city as a safe and welcoming international destination.
What happens if the Gay Games can’t take place in Hong Kong?
We’re living in fairly uncertain times, so it’s always good to have a few back-up options.
As things currently stand, the obvious things that could potentially stop the Gay Games taking place in Hong Kong are Covid-19, political unrest, or organisational challenges.
The governing body of the Gay Games is small and volunteer-run. Once a city is selected to host a Gay Games, most of the responsibility for the delivery of the event passes to the organising city – with some oversight from the governing body. If problems emerged with staging Gay Games in Hong Kong, it would be virtually impossible to find a back-up option at this stage of planning and the event would either need to be postponed or cancelled.
Given that Valencia has now been locked in for 2026, if there are any further issues with the Hong Kong event, it seems likely that it would be cancelled and everything held over until the Valencia games.
In the history of the Gay Games, there’s only been one occasion where there’s been drama with the host city. Gay Games 7 was held in 2006. During the bidding process for that event – which was completed in 2001 – Montreal was selected as the host city. Montreal didn’t sign the contract put forward by the governing body of the Gay Games. Relations between the Montreal organising committee and the governing body of the Gay Games deteriorated, and in 2003 the Gay Games withdrew the rights to the event from Montreal. The event was transferred to Chicago – the runner-up during the bidding process – and the event went ahead in 2006. Montreal held a competing event in 2006, called the OutGames.
What is the Gay Games?
The Hong Kong event in 2023 will be the eleventh edition of the Gay Games. The Gay Games is an event run by an organisation called the Federation of Gay Games (FGG).
It’s worth re-capping the history of the Gay Games.
When was the first Gay Games held?
The first major international multi-sport event for LGBTQ athletes was the Gay Olympics – the brainchild of Tom Waddell - held in San Francisco in 1982. Following legal action by the International Olympic Committee, subsequent events were known as the Gay Games.
Where have the Gay Games been held?
- 1982: San Francisco
- 1986: San Francisco
- 1990: Vancouver
- 1994: New York
- 1998: Amsterdam
- 2002: Sydney
- 2006: Chicago
- 2010: Cologne
- 2014: Cleveland
- 2018: Paris
- 2023: The Gay Games will be held in Hong Kong
What is GLISA?
GLISA – The Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association – was an organisation that emerged in 2003. The emergence of GLISA was a result of the schism between Montreal and the Federation of Gay Games, when Montreal’s licence to stage the 2006 Gay Games was revoked.
The Montreal organising committee staged the first World Outgames in Montreal in 2006, and GLISA was formed to coordinate future events.
Subsequent World Outgames events were held in 2009 in Copenhagen, and in 2013 in Antwerp.
The World Outgames were scheduled to be held in Miami Beach in 2017, however on the day that the event was scheduled to commence, organisers announced that it had been cancelled.
The failure of the World Outgames in Miami Beach appears to have been the end of GLISA.
What is EGLSF?
Another organisation in the mix is the European Gay and Lesbian Sport Federation (EGLSF). They host major multi-sport events in years when there are no Gay Games or World Out Games planned. The history of these events is:
- 1992: The Hague
- 1993: The Hague
- 1995: Frankfurt
- 1996: Berlin
- 1997: Paris
- 2000: Zurich
- 2001: Hanover
- 2003: Copenhagen
- 2004: Munich
- 2005: Utrecht
- 2007: Antwerp
- 2008: Barcelona
- 2011: Rotterdam
- 2012: Budapest
- 2015: Stockholm
- 2016: Helsinki
- 2019: Rome
- In 2020, the Eurogames were scheduled to be held in Dusseldorf, however they were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
- In 2021, the Eurogames were held in Copenhagen.
Do we still need events such as the Gay Games?
The world today is clearly very different from 1982 - there is now a huge international network of LGBTQ sports clubs, professional athletes are slowly starting to emerge from the closet, and there is increasing support from sport governing bodies to support and encourage LGBTQ participation. Is there still a need for events such as the Gay Games? Time will tell.