Gay Games kick off in Hong Kong despite anti-LGBTQ+ opposition

Gay Games Hong Kong

This year’s Gay Games officially kicked off in Hong Kong this weekend, despite intense opposition from anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers.

It marks the first time that an Asian country has hosted the international competition.

The Gay Games, which were first held back in 1982 in San Francisco, will this year see almost 2,400 athletes from 45 territories worldwide compete in a range of games from tennis and swimming to fencing and martial arts.

Since it was first announced that this year’s games would be held in Hong Kong, there has been heavy backlash from both LGBTQ+ rights advocates and opposers, given the country’s stark restrictions on the rights of LGBTQ+ people.

Gay Games Hong Kong
This year marks the first time an Asian country has hosted the Gay Games. (Getty Images)

In Hong Kong, same-sex relationships are legal, but same-sex marriage is not and there are no anti-discrimination laws in place to protect the country’s LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ advocates have complained that the games should not be held in a country that doesn’t promote or support these athletes’ rights, noting Hong Kong’s security law, which has been used to arrest human rights activists and threaten them with up to life in prison.

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In June, five human rights activists joined together to call for the Games to be cancelled, arguing that organisers “have aligned themselves with pro-authoritarian figures responsible for widespread persecution against the people of Hong Kong.”

In order to protect its athletes, Taiwan is not sending competitors to Hong Kong, but to Guadalajara, Mexico – the Gay Games’ co-host.

Meanwhile, anti-LGBTQ+ lawmakers have warned that the event could see “bad ideologies” infiltrate the country.

Gay Games Hong Kong
The games went ahead despite opposition. (Getty Images)

Pro-establishment lawmaker Junius Ho warned in an open letter posted to Facebook that the nine-day event would advocate for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, AP News reports.

However, the Games’ organisers and supporters insist that the event taking place in Hong Kong can only be a good thing.

“We believe that hosting the Games for the very first time here will be a momentous experience and a cornerstone for our Asian community as well as for the whole world. GGHK can bring all of us together in the name of Sport, Fairness, Respect, and Friendship,” reads the official website.

Asked on Saturday (4 November) about the Games, Hong Kong’s recently installed Cardinal Stephen Chow told reporters: “Hong Kong is a diverse society and we should respect diversity.

“Even when you feel uncomfortable, some space should be given to others,” Chow told reporters.

The Gay Games opening ceremony was held on Saturday with performances including a Hong Kong lion dance. Its closing ceremony will be held this Saturday (11 November).

This year marks the first year that the Gay Games has had an all-gender category across a number of sports so that athletes can compete together regardless of their gender identity.

The Gay Games are open to athletes of all sexual orientations, meaning straight athletes can also take part.

Under their slogan, “Games of All”, their website reads: “Everyone aged 18+ is welcome to participate regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, or even training level.”