With Hong Kong becoming the first Asian city to host the “Gay Olympics” in 2022, the city should now do more to legally protect sexual minorities, the team behind the city’s successful bid said on Tuesday.
The stewards of the largest LGBT sporting event in the world announced in Paris on Monday night that Hong Kong had won the backing of a majority of its voting committee, beating Washington in the US and Guadalajara in Mexico to be the host city five years from now. It did not give a breakdown of how the 70 votes were cast.
No Asian city has hosted the games since the event began in 1982.
Hong Kong’s 13-member bid team on Friday made its case to the committee that bringing the games to the city would help tackle the stigma and cultural barriers faced by LGBT groups across the region.
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On Tuesday, the team said, “the real work” started now to make it the best Gay Games yet. Bid chair Dennis Philipse said. “We fought tirelessly and are elated to bring the games to Asia for the first time. Thank you all for your love and support.”
Paul Choi, director of government relations for the Hong Kong 2022 bid team, said he hoped the games would be a “catalyst” for the government to create national anti-discrimination laws protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
While conservative attitudes towards same-sex marriage still prevail across Asia, sentiment has shifted slightly, with Taiwan becoming the first country in the region earlier this year to allow same-sex marriage.
In Hong Kong, homosexuality was decriminalized in 1991 but same-sex marriage is not recognized. However, the city’s highest court issued a landmark ruling in September allowing a gay woman to get a dependant's visa through her same-sex partner in the city, an immigration status previously granted only to heterosexual couples.
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Hong Kong’s bid team received significant local support, with more than 120 groups and individuals from backgrounds encompassing government and politics, business, sports and cultural organizations. The heavy hitters included the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Tourism Board, businessman Allan Zeman and Cathay Pacific Airways.
While participants in the games need not be gay, online reaction to news of the city’s win was mixed, with some saying using “gay” in an event title served to emphasize that LGBT people were “different”.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board said it would support the promotion of the sporting event, but did not elaborate further. A spokeswoman also said the organization was “pleased” Hong Kong had been selected and it proved the city could be a major destination for “a rich diversity” of events.
Alfred Chan Cheung-ming, chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which backed the bid, said in a statement: “The EOC believes that it is another important step in promoting equality and a better understanding of LGBTI people in Hong Kong and across Asia.”
With 15,000 athletes and an estimated 40,000 people traveling to see the games, organizers have said it can bring in up to HK$1 billion for the city.
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Organisers are planning for 36 events, with local favorites trail running and dragon boat racing alongside traditional track and field events. Taking advantage of existing facilities, Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, Victoria Park swimming pool, and Kai Tak Cruise Terminal are all listed as key venues.
First held in San Francisco, the Gay Games are billed as the largest global sport and cultural gathering open to all. The event is held every four years, with 70 countries expected to participate in Paris next year.
Separately, on November 25, Hong Kong will host the ninth annual pride parade event under the theme “turn the tide, walk with pride, say goodbye to discrimination.”
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as HK’s LGBT community ‘needs legal protection’