Will the Gay Games in Hong Kong go ahead?
It continues to be a period of uncertainty and instability for Hong Kong – anti-government protests followed by the Covid-19 pandemic followed by increasing control from mainland China. That not only causes the obvious disruption for the people and businesses within Hong Kong – one of Asia’s major commercial hubs – but also creates difficulties for anyone trying to plan major events in Hong Kong. Events such as the Gay Games, scheduled to be held in Hong Kong in 2022.
Organisers have confirmed that they are continuing with their plans for the event and that they expect the event will be going ahead in November 2022.
“Unity is the key message of GGHK…” said Dennis Philipse, founder and co-chair of GGHK. “Carrying a torch of empowerment and connection in Hong Kong serves to bring our community together in this important time for our city. We are excited to welcome all the 12,000 participants and 75,000 spectators from 100 countries to the city as the Games serve to boost the local economy by HK$1 billion.”
“The Games serve as a beacon of hope, showcasing the diversity of the vibrant city as well as a welcoming place to live an out proud life, by organising sports, arts and culture events, open for all…” said Lisa Lam – General Counsel and Director of External Affairs for GGHK. “I really believe that sports have a unifying power. Through the shared experiences of inclusiveness and mutual respect by being part of the Games can help build bridges leading to better understanding among people. The event will be an excellent opportunity to showcase Hong Kong in a positive, inclusive manner.”
“As the first ever Gay Games in Asia, Gay Games 11 Hong Kong will be a historic moment for the world and its LGBTQ communities…” said Joanie Evans, Co-President, Federation of Gay Games. “It shows that the Federation of Gay Games and the LGBTQ communities we support, are continuing to push boundaries, change perceptions and promote acceptance and inclusion. We’re excited for participant registration opening up in June 2021 and we know, based on the planning that has been done to date, that this will be – as all Games are – a world-class sports and cultural event that everybody on the planet needs now, more than ever.”
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 or political unrest.
Given that the event isn’t scheduled to take place until November 2022, the prospect of a vaccine for Covid-19 looks hopeful that international travel will be broadly back on track.
The risk of political unrest is a bit harder to predict. China appears to be ramping up its control of Hong Kong and taking an increasingly confrontational approach against pro-democracy movements. If the situation deteriorates, there is the potential for events such as Gay Games to be caught up in the mix.
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.
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.
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 is the Gay Games?
The Hong Kong event in 2022 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
- 2022: 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 will be 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.
Planning ahead for 2026
The FGG has begun the selection process for the host city for the Gay Games in 2026.
20 cities have submitted an expression of interest in being selected as the 2026 host, and the process now moves to the next stage.
The cities that are in the running are:
- Brisbane, Australia
- São Paulo, Brazil
- Toronto, Canada
- Munich, Germany
- Dublin, Ireland
- Guadalajara, Mexico
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Auckland, New Zealand
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Durban, South Africa
- Valencia, Spain
- Taipei, Taiwan
- Liverpool, UK
- Austin, USA
- Fort Lauderdale, USA
- Minneapolis, USA
- New Orleans, USA
- San Diego, USA
- Seattle, USA