Hong Kong Gay Games 2023
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The opening ceremony for the Gay Games 2014, in Cleveland, Ohio. Next year’s edition will be held in Paris, with Hong Kong hosting in 2022. Photo: Alamy Stock Photo

Gay Games 2022 will see Hong Kong values put to the test

Nigel Collett says hosting the event will be a chance for Hong Kong to boost its economy and global standing, and for its government to prove that it rules for all, and that the church and state do not mix

The government is in a bind. On October 30, the Federation of Gay Games selected Hong Kong to host in 2022. The organisers of Hong Kong’s successful bid beat Washington and Guadalajara to win the event.

The Hong Kong team sweated blood to achieve this, against the backdrop of an official indifference that masked hostility.

In Washington and Mexico’s Guadalajara, the city mayors turned out to welcome the visiting inspectors from the Gay Games, pledging facilities, money and public support.

Not so in Hong Kong, where no senior public official attended any of the events held to host the inspectors, no commitment was given to book venues in advance, and no money was promised.

That we won nevertheless is to the great credit of the many young, local volunteers.

Hong Kong delegates celebrate the city being chosen to host the Gay Games in 2022, the first time the event will come to Asia. Photo: AFP

The Gay Games is Hong Kong’s moment to show the city’s inclusivity. Are we ready?

This, though, has the government caught on the horns of a dilemma, for none of the options open to the government are attractive to those in power.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor made this abundantly clear when she would only state that she had “noted” the news. The government has made no move to welcome the Games to Hong Kong.

Lam and her government have three choices. One, they could oppose the Games being held. It is too late for this now and, were it to be attempted, the image it would send to the world of a government in hock to bigotry would be a public relations disaster.

It would also forfeit the very large sums to be made from the estimated 15,000 athletes and 40,000 spectators expected to attend. Sydney’s Gay Games of 2002 brought over A$100 million ­(HK$599 million) into its economy. The Cleveland Gay Games of 2014 netted US$52 million.

The business community is unlikely to forgive the Hong Kong government were it to turn away this flow of cash.

Gay Games Hong Kong 2022

Secondly, the government could ignore the Games, adhere to a policy of preventing the pre-booking of facilities, and refuse to hold out a helping hand.

But with such a high-profile event – involving men and women, straight as well as gay, from almost every country – to behave in such a fashion would be almost as calamitous as blocking the Games entirely. If a major sporting event turned out to be a damp squib because of a lack of official support, the status and reputation of our city would hit the skids.

Hong Kong must play the game over the Gay Games

The third avenue open to the government is to embrace the Games, turn on the taps of government largesse, ensure that all the necessary facilities are reserved in advance for the Games, and put out the red carpet to welcome them in 2022.

This is clearly the course that is best for Hong Kong, but it is one that would have to be taken by overriding the outcry – one that has already started – from those who decry any official acknowledgement of same-sex love.

An anti-LGBT group protests against rainbow versions of the iconic HSBC lions, at the bank’s headquarters in Central last December 14. The rainbow lions were part of the bank’s pro-LGBT “Celebrate Pride, Celebrate Unity” campaign. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Gay Games a chance to boost tolerance in Hong Kong

It would mean Lam having to ignore what the Roman Catholic cardinal will certainly be whispering in her ear. She herself would have to go to the Gay Games, welcome everyone warmly and thank them for being in our city. She will not find this easy to do.

It is clear that the issue of the Gay Games is of greater significance for Hong Kong than a mere matter of sport.

It is a fundamental test of our government’s ability to rule for all its citizens, not just for a minority of some kinds of Christian. It is a test, in fact, of the separation of church and state in our city.

Let’s hope that our government will grasp this nettle and take up the Gay Games torch on behalf of us all.

Nigel Collett is a writer, activist and secretary of the Pink Alliance. The views in this article are his own

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Gay Games gives Hong Kong a chance to reveal its true colours