The 11th Gay Games are set to debut in Hong Kong on coming Friday, November 3. However, the grand international event, which aims to promote sexual diversity in the hosting city, has gained little public attention as, without government support, the majority of events will take place in private venues.
In fact, the number of athletes is merely 2,381, about 15 percent of the organizer's original anticipated figure.
Moreover, as the opening and closing of the games will be taking place indoor at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium with a maximum of 3500 seats, the scale of the grand international event poses a sharp contrast to Taiwan’s recent Gay Pride Event, where more than 175,000 came out in streets to celebrate gender and sexual diversity.
It is also noteworthy that the majority of participants at Taiwan’s Gay Pride came from East and Southeast Asian countries, while Hong Kong's Gay Games’ athletes would be from Austria, the US, China, France, the UK, and Canada, the chairperson Lisa Lam told online media The Collective.
The 11th Gay Games are co-hosted with Guadalajara, Mexico, in Latin America, to address the uncertainty of travel restrictions. The organizers previously assumed that participants from Asia would attend the games in Hong Kong. Yet, they were missing.
Delegates from Taiwan, for example, decided to take a long trip to Mexico because the local organizer allowed them to represent “Taiwan” in the event while in Hong Kong, they would be representatives coming from “Taipei, China” under Beijing's One China Policy.
In addition to the Taiwan issue, the Hong Kong Gay Games were highly politicized by both pro-Beijingers in Hong Kong and pro-democracy activists from overseas. The former accused the games of undermining Chinese tradition and the revival of Chinese civilization, hence, posing a national security risk, while the latter slammed the local organizers for dismissing the security risks of the participants.
In an opinion piece in Out-Sports published last June, five well-known overseas Hong Kong human rights activists accused the Hong Kong Gay Games organizers of “openly embracing the illegitimate regime tasked with crushing Hong Kong” and called for the cancellation of the event. The activists stressed:
With respect to the Games, which undoubtedly will be seen as a political event by authorities, the National Security Law’s vagueness means that Beijing could decide to either ignore the event entirely, or order arrests of participants for sedition or subversion—and there is simply no way to know which direction it will choose until the event itself.
Two months later, in August, the Hong Kong government told the Gay Games organizers that they “must comply with Hong Kong laws and regulations, regardless of where the events are held, including private venues, government venues or public spaces.”
As the games approach, Hong Kong Free Press found out that, on the games’ ticketing page, the attendees must agree to be filmed by police or security staff “for the purpose of ensuring public security at the Event and preventing crime.”
It looks as though Gay Games HK is condemned to either a) marginalized irrelevance (but nobody gets arrested) or b) platform for Beijing-backed repression (folks get arrested). @politico China Watcher lays out the stakes: https://t.co/j9bi37dLr2 https://t.co/rNG2uG55SM
— Phelim Kine “老 康“ (@PhelimKine) October 2, 2023
Although the Gay Games organizers have complied with all the security measures put forward by the Hong Kong government, the administration has done little to support the international event.
When the Hong Kong Gay Games organizing committee bid for the games in 2017, it submitted 131 supporting letters from around the world, 14 among which came from Hong Kong policy departments and public institutions including The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and the Equal Opportunities Commission.
As the organizers reached out for help, the government refused to grant advance booking of the games’ venues arguing that the games are not a recognized international sports event. Eventually, the organizers only managed to find one public venue, Queen Elizabeth Stadium for the games’ opening, closing and other sports activities. The venue only accommodates 3500. Other sports and cultural events are located in private venues in universities, sports clubs and non-profit organizations.
Though the government is desperate to attract tourists and talents to Hong Kong, no authority has indicated their support for the Gay Games — an event that signifies the openness and diversity of the society:
‘Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK) is not listed on any government websites and no government agencies or officials have spoken in support of the event.’
— Sports Media LGBT+ (@SportsMediaLGBT) October 2, 2023
Thanks to corporate support, quite a number of sports events have managed to take place in Central waterfront and registered participants are welcome to bring two friends along. However, they have to register under their real names with photo IDs presented on the spot:
Our upcoming Festival Villag is here!
AIA Vitality Park
To top it off, EACH participant can bring TWO guests, absolutely FREE! All they need to do is register on the spot with a photo ID. Let’s make this a celebration to remember together. pic.twitter.com/tsNA3CASq5
— GAY GAMES 11 HONG KONG 2023 (@GayGamesHK2023) October 24, 2023
In a nutshell, the Hong Kong Gay Games is happening and very much watched. Meanwhile, in Guadalajara, the event has full government support and there will be a massive Pride parade to let the LGBTQ+ community come out in public:
🏳️🌈🇲🇽 Guadalajara co-hosts the 11th Gay Games with Hong Kong from Nov 3-11. Mexico's vibrant second-largest city boasts a thriving LGBTQ+ scene, diverse businesses, LGBTQ+ bars, clubs, and a massive pride parade. 🌈👀👇 #Guadalajara #GayGames #LGBTQTravelhttps://t.co/8pAla4PhBE
— EDGE Media Network (@EdgeMediaNet) October 13, 2023