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Historic Gay Games Open in Hong Kong and Guadalajara Amid Criticisms

Hong Kong China Gay Games Water Polo Guadalajara Mexico
Images: Shutterstock; instagram @gaygames

It’s the first time the Gay Games will be hosted in Asia or Latin America, but critics have questions.

The Gay Games XI 2023 open this weekend in Hong Kong and Guadalajara, Mexico. Hong Kong was scheduled for 2017 before the global pandemic, and Guadalajara was selected in 2022 to allow for more athletes to compete. The 2023 Gay Games will be the first time the event has been hosted in Asia or Latin America. The Games have been criticized for the selection of Hong Kong due to its record on LGBTQ+ and human rights.

Primarily organized in 1982 by former Olympian Dr. Tom Wadell and others as the Gay Olympics, the event was forced to change its name to the Gay Games following a landmark copyright infringement lawsuit by the U.S. Olympic Committee that was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Each city is expected to host over 2,000 participants from up to 45 countries and territories.

“Not only have we been able to introduce the games to the region, we have the highest number of participants ever from Asia join the Gay Games in its 41-year history,” Alan Lang, the Gay Games co-chair, said at a press conference earlier today according to Reuters.

The choice of Hong Kong for the Games met with criticism from detractors from a variety of sources. LGBTQ+ and human rights advocates questioned the wisdom of holding the games in the city. While same-sex sexual relations are legal and a recent Supreme Court decision gave some legal rights to same-sex couples, Equaldex notes that Hong Kong does not recognize marriage equality and has no anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ+ community.

Taiwan chose not to participate in the Games, fearing the arrest of their athletes by Chinese authorities.

“The main reason ... this time is that the safety of Taiwanese players cannot be guaranteed,” said Yang Chih-chun, of Taiwan's Gay Sports and Movement Association, Reuters reported.

A group of 20 Hong Kong residents filed a legislative petition in opposition to the Games, saying they promoted “sexual indulgence” and undermined traditional values, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.

“Organizing the Gay Games is inviting trouble and threatening national security,” a statement from the petitioners read. “By infiltrating our culture, education, and legal systems, there is an attempt to undermine ethical values surrounding gender, marriage, and family and carry out a color revolution.”

The 2023 Gay Games XI continue through November 11.

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