By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
In an answer to a question a lot of people were having, the Federation of the Gay Games and the Gay Games Hong Kong organizing committee announced that the 11th edition of the world most inclusive, quadrennial multi-sport event would be postponed until 2023. While a specific date has yet to be announced, it is expected that the event will also take place in November as the 2022 event was originally scheduled.
Co-chair of Gay Games Hong Kong, Dennis Philipse described the decision based on multiple factors,
“The unpredictable progression of Covid variants and corresponding travel restrictions continue to make it challenging for participants from around the world to make plans to travel to Hong Kong. The world today is radically different from 2017 when we won the bid to host the first Gay Games in Asia. GGHK remains steadfast and committed to our original vision of organizing the most inclusive and diverse Games celebrating its 40 year history. With many parts of the world, including many across Asia, still struggling to contain the virus and facing uneven access to vaccines, we felt that delaying the Games until November 2023 will enhance the likelihood of delivering on our promise to have the Hong Kong Games serve as a beacon of hope for the wider community across the region.”
“Given the ongoing uncertainty regarding the state of travel restrictions internationally and in Hong Kong, we have decided to postpone the Games now to give sufficient time for FGG member organizations to develop an appropriate training and rehearsal schedule for the Games and make alternate arrangements for their 2022 tournaments and events.”
He continued, “Recent attempts of a couple of lawmakers to politicize the Games have distracted the media from the true mission of the Games, an event open to all, focused on Unity in Diversity. Anti-inclusion objections from this small but vocal minority, however, have galvanized the resolve of our 300 volunteers, and brought overwhelming support from the general public, business community, establishment legislators and even the Chief Executive. We have enjoyed a surge in enquiries from potential corporate sponsors and private venue partners since June, when the Games were first debated in Legco.”
“The Hong Kong Games play a critical role to bolster our city’s modern, cosmopolitan image internationally. Chosen over 17 other cities, Hong Kong is also the first destination in Asia to host the 11th Gay Games, providing a highly visible platform for Hong Kong to show a global audience how and why it truly is Asia’s World City. Given the ongoing uncertainty regarding the state of travel restrictions internationally and in Hong Kong, we felt that a postponement now will increase the likelihood that our city’s return to the world stage would be a triumphant one which would most closely mirror our initial projections.”
Commenting on the decision, Sean Fitzgerald, co-president of FGG, said, “The FGG stands behind Hong Kong’s decision to postpone the Games and will continue to work with the GGHK team and our member organizations to ensure that our event in November 2023 delivers on meeting our core aims of participation, inclusion and personal best to the widest possible attendance from Asia and internationally.”
The Hon. Mrs. Regina Ip, member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong and chairperson of the New People’s Party, said, “The importance of the Gay Games to Hong Kong’s global image as a forward-looking, cosmopolitan city should not be underestimated. In addition, the 12,000 participants and 75,000 spectators that were expected in the original plans would bring in close to HK$1 billion to the local economy, providing a lifeline to the tourism and aviation sectors which have been so badly affected the last two years. I fully support postponing the Games to 2023, which will give the organizers more time and resources to focus on hosting a successful event, and encourage more multi-sports events to be hosted in our incredible city.”
Allan Zeman, Chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group in Hong Kong said that “It is understandable that major sports events are delayed during the pandemic, but the worldwide audience still enjoyed the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. I believe the same would happen to Gay Games 2023 which would allow a more engaging and a safe environment for everyone.”
Ming Wai Lau, Chairman of Ocean Park and member of GGHK’s Advisory Committee said that “In light of the circumstances with the pandemic, postponing the Games is prudent and necessary. I look forward to seeing the Games take place in 2023 and, in the meantime, continue its engagement with the local community.”
Lisa Lam, co-chair of GGHK, said, “Inclusion, solidarity, community, and resilience. These four words are the bedrock of identity for the Gay Games, guiding us through this major decision we announced today. Dr. Tom Waddell, who founded the Games in 1982, once said the Games transcends the traditional problems of ageism, sexism, and racism, and just as importantly, nationalism. All of us involved, envision a world without competing political ideologies, without national borders, without tribalism. Gay Games 2023 will hold even greater meaning as we head into a world buffeted by fear, uncertainty, and bigotry.”
“There are massive problems ahead of the human race, too overwhelming for any single nation or ideology to solve, so only through Unity can we overcome them together. The word gay in our name is an anachronism, a reminder of past decades when LGBTQ minorities were fighting a different beast. Today, our aim is to unite and celebrate diversity, whether you are straight or belong to a minority.”
In addition, sports leaders across the world have reacted to the news,
Chris Morgan is a Gay Games Ambassador, Technical Director for Gay Games Powerlifting and the Meet Director of the LGBT International Powerlifting Championships.
“We fully support the Federation of Gay Games and Hong Kong 2022 in their decision to postpone the Gay Games until 2023”.
“The return of powerlifting to Gay Games will sadly be delayed for one year, however we are looking forward to hosting the first Powerlifting Championship within Gay Games since 2014, which will now take place in November 2023.
“All of the administration, logistics and registration system for the Powerlifting Championships are in place already and we now await the right moment for the event to take place”.
“We would like to thank the Federation of Gay Games and Hong Kong 2023 for their support for the sport of Powerlifting and look forward to continuing to work with them to deliver the very best Gay Games Powerlifting Competition in 2023”.
“Powerlifting was one of the original core sports of Gay Games from San Francisco in 1982, it will be wonderful to see Powerlifting restored to the line-up of 36 sports in Hong Kong in 2023”.
“Those who still would like to compete in an LGBT Powerlifting Competition in 2022, are very welcome to attend the LGBT International Powerlifting Championships which are being held in Manchester, United Kingdom that are happening in July 2022”.