By Rachael Hutchings
Beating Guadalajara and the ambitious Washington D.C in the bidding process, Hong Kong will be the hosts for the 2022 Gay Games – a series of sporting and cultural events that promote inclusion and tolerance of LGBTQ+ athletes and artists who wish to compete. This will mark the first time in history of the event taking place in Asia.
Similarly to the traditional structure of the Olympics which many are more familiar with, the Gay Games take place every four years and begin with an extravagant opening ceremony and the lighting of a flame. However, what makes this celebration of diversity so special and concomitant is the notion that there aren’t any qualifying standards. The competitions are open to anyone who wishes to partake and, more importantly, competitors are invited from countries all over the world, some of which still live by laws that make homosexuality illegal and encouraged to be kept hidden.
Many will definitely welcome the choice to host the games in Hong Kong with effervescent excitement, as it is a monumental step forward for Asian countries in regards to equality, expression and inclusion to an image that is understood and widely accepted in most Western countries. The rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community in Asia are currently far from what we experience here in the United Kingdom, for example; with same-sex activity being legal in only 27 out of 48 states, and gender expression and military service for LGBTQ+ people being legal in only 19. In countries such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, homosexuality is still, distressingly, punishable by death penalty. Hong Kong itself is still shy of legalising same-sex marriage, and despite small victories for the community over the past decade, what one might consider a basic human right (such as protection from domestic abuse) have been the matter-in-hand of many a complex legal battle.
The games being held in Hong Kong offers so much potential positive publicity for the community and its abilities, as well as a promise of $1 billion towards an economy that can benefit everyone, could perhaps giving governments and lawmakers a distinct shove in a different direction. In 1994, the Gay Games held in New York coincided with the 25th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This was considered the time of the ‘modern start of the LGBTQ+ movement’ and its fortuitous timing saw the games overtake the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in terms of size, with 10,864 athletes taking part that year in comparison to Barcelona’s 9,356. It is milestones such as this which demonstrate simply and effectively how much of a political, economic and social buzz can be created off the back of unity and embracing a serious issue through a gratifying format. This would not be the first time that the LGBTQ+ community have had to demonstrate their worth, despite the beauty and solidarity of their community.