We’re less than 500 days away from Hong Kong hosting Asia’s first Gay Games in November 2022, a region where two-thirds of the world’s population live. As momentum and excitement continue to build around our preparations, so does the socio-political commentary among certain quarters – both good and bad.
As organizers, we are unified in our commitment to the success and preserving the legacy of the Gay Games in Hong Kong, and remain confident that this celebration of the Games’ values of participation, inclusion and personal best will outshine and outlive any dissenting voices.
We recognize that Hong Kong – and indeed, the world – is a very different place from 2017 when we celebrated our city’s winning bid to host the 2022 Gay Games. The city has gone through two turbulent years: first, our normally peaceful and orderly city was rocked by protests and social unrest; then we, like the rest of the world, felt the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the many challenges and difficulties, there have been some bright spots during this time. To date, our city has one of the world’s lowest COVID-19 infection and death rates despite never being locked down, thanks to the community spirit of our population. Wearing masks for the greater good was never an issue here.
Our quintessentially Asian, vibrant city of seven million inhabitants has always been a melting pot of diversity and multiculturalism. This city’s LGBTQ+ community in 2021 is thriving more than ever before, with a growing public interest in pro-queer social groups and events, through long-established organizations such as Pink Alliance, Big Love Alliance, and Rainbow of Hong Kong, and widely-supported annual events such as the Hong Kong Pride Parade, the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival and Pink Dot.
Hong Kong enjoys one of the world’s lowest crime rates, one of the world’s highest life expectancies, and visa-free access for visitors from 145 countries and regions. We are proud of our reputation as a world city, ranked third in the Cato Institute’s 2020 Human Freedom Index behind only New Zealand and Switzerland. While 2021’s Pride parade was canceled due to public health concerns related to Covid-19, LGBTQ+ events have never encountered opposition from the Hong Kong Government.
Gay Games is organized by a diverse team of 180 passionate volunteers, and funded with the support of LGBTQ+ and ally communities, participants, commercial partners, and sponsors. The event also enjoys the support of many branches of the Hong Kong government, including the HK Tourism Board, InvestHK (department for foreign direct investment), Equal Opportunities Commission, and BrandHK (government news service). Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Ms. Carrie Lam has also voiced her support for its ideals and pledged her government’s support for the event.
The LGBTQ+ community has also made significant progress with notable advances in both legal rights and growing public acceptance and support.
It’s been 30 years since Hong Kong’s Legislative Council passed historic legislation to decriminalize homosexual acts and despite room for improvement when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights and protections, public support in 2021 is higher than ever before and trending in the right direction. For example, a 2019 longitudinal survey from the Chinese University’s Sexualities Research Programme found that 60% of Hong Kong residents agree that there should be legal protection against discrimination for people of different sexual orientations. This percentage surged to 80% among respondents in the 18 to 34 age bracket.
A number of legal victories have also been achieved in support of Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ movement in areas such as spousal rights.
Yet in spite of this progression on all fronts, there remains a level of conservatism with regards to LGBTQ+ rights both in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia. While there has been no direct opposition to LGBTQ+ rights in a legislative sense, to politicize the issue and suppress not only the Gay Games, but the entire LGBTQ+ community in Hong Kong. We are resolute and united against those efforts. As organizers of the Games, we know we must not be complacent, and why the work to spread messages of inclusivity and positivity must continue unabated.
This is the reason for us to bring the Gay Games to Hong Kong, the first time in Asia.
The event will bring diverse groups of people together to experience shared moments of joy through sports, arts and culture, community, and fun. We hope to build a sense of community that will last a lifetime. For people from Asia, it will be a great opportunity to join the event close to their hometowns. This will be an unforgettable experience, to feel the inclusiveness of joining a sport, arts, and culture event that’s bigger than themselves, together with more than 12,000 participants, and over 75,000 spectators and volunteers from 100 countries.
As the world emerges from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gay Games Hong Kong will be a symbol of the strength of the human spirit, resilience, and solidarity. We are saddened to witness so much division in the world today, but that is precisely the reason for our community to persevere, to stay united, and make Gay Games a resounding success.
During these turbulent times, our theme of “Unity in Diversity” is more salient than ever. We have the opportunity to make Gay Games a symbol of love triumphing over hate, of human connections trumping geopolitics, of understanding over misinformation.
Hong Kong and its people are ready to welcome participants and spectators from all over the world to Gay Games 2022 with arms and hearts open.
See you in November 2022!
Dennis Philipse and Lisa Lam are the co-chairs of Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2022.