Politicians condemn Olympics committee over decision to hold European Games in Polish ‘LGBT-free zone’

European Games

EU lawmakers have criticised the decision to host the 2023 European Games in a Polish “LGBT-free zone”, declaring the region is “not fit” to hold the event.

Some 50 nations are expected to compete in the third European Games, an Olympics-affiliated event which was announced to take place in Kraków, Poland last year. The city is located in the Małopolska region, which last year joined around 100 other municipalities in pledging to oppose acts of tolerance towards the LGBT+ community.

Two members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and two lawmakers in Britain and Belgium said Małopolska’s stance meant it was not a suitable venue for the games.

“The European Games is an Olympic event and as such it should uphold the values of excellence, respect and friendship,” said Liz Barker, a member of Britain’s House of Lords and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights, speaking to Reuters.

“Since the Malopolska region of Poland has declared itself an ‘LGBT-Free zone’ it is no longer fit to host this event.”

Her disapproval was shared by Terry Reintke and Marc Angel, who co-chair the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup. They raised concern that the European Olympic Committees (EOC), which owns and organises the games, had failed to take steps to protect LGBT+ athletes.

“It is incredible that such an organisation would not take further care of responding adequately to what are the questions many LGBTI persons will ask themselves when wanting to participate or watch these games,” they said.

However, EOC spokeswoman Donatella Del Gaudio insisted that provisions on respecting human rights and preventing discrimination would be included in the hosting contract.

“The (EOC) has sought assurances from the organisers of Kraków-Małopolska and the highest levels of government that the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter will be fully respected,” she said.

Poland’s so-called LGBT-free zones have been the subject of global condemnation, with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen declaring they have “no place” in the European Union.

Earlier this year six LGBT-free towns that applied for twinning partnership grants had their funding withheld by the EU, which stated that they had refused to respect “EU values and fundamental rights”.

It’s possible that other areas could be similarly penalised, as several towns across Europe have now ended twinning arrangements with their Polish counterparts.