The Gay Games Hong Kong 2023 – Asia's first LGBTQ+ games

The Gay Games is a global sports event all about promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports and culture.

The Gay Games Hong Kong 2023 – Asia's first LGBTQ+ games
Participants attend the opening ceremony of Gay Games in Hong Kong, China November 4, 2023. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

The backstory: The Gay Games is a global sports event all about promoting LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports and culture. It kicked off in San Francisco in 1982 and happens every four years, featuring various activities like swimming, volleyball, wrestling and more. In 2017, it was announced that the 2022 edition would take place in Hong Kong, marking the first time it would be hosted in Asia. But because of COVID restrictions, it had to be postponed to 2023. 

More recently: Earlier in November, several lawmakers called for the Games to be canceled, saying it didn’t mesh with Chinese values and could be a security risk. But a Games organizer argued that the event aims to strengthen inclusion across the board, saying that it’s non-political and promotes diversity. 

Hong Kong has recently made some strides in LGBTQ+ recognition. Although the city doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages, in September, a top court called for the government to come up with an "alternative framework" to recognize same-sex couples' rights. Then, in October, the city ruled in favor of giving housing benefits to same-sex couples the same as it does to hetero couples. 

The development: The Gay Games Hong Kong (GGHK) officially began on November 3, kicking off with an opening ceremony that included a march by organizers and delegations from around the world, followed by different performances that highlighted Chinese culture, including the Hong Kong lion dance. More than 2,300 people representing 45 countries are participating, engaging in a diverse mix of sporting and cultural events, including dragon boat racing and mahjong. The event is co-hosted by the Mexican city of Guadalajara, highlighting its global reach.

Even though it’s called the Gay Games, the event is all about promoting inclusion and diversity. Everyone is welcome to participate, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability or background. Also, this year marks the introduction of an all-genders category in multi-sports for the first time so that people of all genders can compete together. 

Key comments:

"The vision of the Gay Games has always been to create a sports, arts and culture festival that celebrates participation, inclusion and personal best," said Lisa Lam, co-chair of GGHK.

"We all need this platform where it doesn't matter who you are, how you identify. We all come together in this culture of respect and acceptance," said Lam at a news conference.

"The holding of the Gay Games in Hong Kong is strong testimony to the diversity, inclusion and unity of our city," said Regina Ip, convener of the city's top decision-making body, the Executive Council, in her welcoming speech. "Equal opportunity and non-discrimination are highly treasured by our government and our people."

"This is a good idea because especially China is not very fond of the gays. So this is to become visible in China as queer people," said Gerrit Schulz, a participant from Berlin.