Will the Gay Games in Hong Kong go ahead?
The people of Hong Kong kicked off 2020 with a massive protest march, continuing the long period of unrest as the ‘special administrative region’ continues to push for greater democracy and less control from China.
It’s not clear how the situation is going to play out in the months ahead, creating uncertainty and instability for the people who live there, and the businesses that operate in one of Asia’s major commercial hubs.
The pro-democracy protests are also disrupting planning for major events – events such as the Gay Games, scheduled to be held in Hong Kong in 2022.
I caught up with Shiv Paul – Officer of Communications for the Federation of Gay Games – to check-in on what the Hong Kong protests mean for the world’s largest queer sporting event.
We’re still two years away from the Gay Games in 2022, but does the political unrest in Hong Kong make it difficult to progress the planning and preparation required for the event?
No – the HK games committee is working full-steam ahead to prepare for the first Gay Games in Asia.
The organising committee is well-connected to all the appropriate authorities to ensure they are fully apprised of goings on and can, if need be, adjust accordingly.
When do registrations open for 2022 Hong Kong
Registration will open around October of 2020.
Do you need to have a back-up plan in case the situation in Hong Kong deteriorates?
As of today, there is no other host city for the 2022 games.
Have there been any comparable situations where local conditions in a selected host city have made it difficult to plan the Gay Games?
Not exactly. There was a situation with GG 7 in 2006 which Montreal won the bid for in 2001. They didn’t sign the contract to host. Three years later, in 2003, the FGG decided to pull the games from Montreal as the host city had many demands that the FGG didn’t accept. As a result, the FGG opened up a ‘closed’ bidding process to the three runners-up and chose Chicago as the new host city for GG7 in 2006.
In November, the FGG released a statement that talked about the Gay Games as an opportunity to make a positive political statement. What do you hope that local LGBTQ people in Hong Kong feel when the Gay Games takes place in their city?
Activism takes many forms, but the first step is to show up. We believe strongly that we must show support to our communities around the word by having a presence in under-represented territories.
We aim to bring our culture and people to these areas in an attempt to allay fears that our people, culture and lifestyle may surface in these societies by showing our diversity and humanity, increasing connectedness between all people co-existing in these societies.
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.
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: The Gay Games were held in Vancouver
1994: The Gay Games were held in New York
1998: The Gay Games were held in Amsterdam
2002: The Gay Games were held in Sydney
2006: The Gay Games were held in Chicago
2010: The Gay Games were held in Cologne
2014: The Gay Games were held in Cleveland
2018: The Gay Games were held in 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 Gay Games had been scheduled to be held in Montreal in 2006, however in 2003 the Federation of Gay Games withdrew the licence from the Montreal organising committee due to concerns regarding the delivery of the event.
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 will be held in Dusseldorf
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.