The 2022 Gay Games, which Hong Kong was to host in just over a year, have been postponed until 2023 due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
Founder and co-chair Dennis Philipse told the Post the decision to delay the event, which has never been held in Asia, was unrelated to recent attacks by a small group of lawmakers and made “purely from a Covid perspective”. Postponing also gave organisers more time to secure venues and for athletes to train, he said.
We cannot have quarantine rules in place for our events. We cannot be in a bubble
Dennis Philipse, Gay Games Hong Kong co-chair
An estimated 12,000 people from 100 countries and regions were expected to take part in 36 sports competitions, as well as various arts and cultural activities, over nine days beginning on November 11 next year. Anyone can take part, regardless of sexual orientation.
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But amid the city’s quarantine requirements, some of the strictest in the world, only 1,540 pre-registrations had been confirmed so far.
“We cannot have quarantine rules in place for our events. We cannot be in a bubble,” Philipse said.
“We don’t want to have people excluded because they are not vaccinated or don’t have enough time to prepare. [So] we’re moving this one year out, and we really believe that this is an opportunity for everybody to get back to life, hopefully get vaccinated, and get back to the match, back to the pool.”
The group issued a formal notice of the postponement to the government on Thursday afternoon, with the approval from the Federation of Gay Games. The new dates would be announced shortly after consulting the federation, they said.
Less than three months ago, the Post reported organisers were having difficulty booking public venues, with existing rules requiring that such procedures be handled through national sports associations.
And because the Games are classified as a charitable organisation, bookings can only be made three to six months in advance.
The event was attacked by certain lawmakers in the Legislative Council. Junius Ho Kwan-yiu labelled it “disgraceful” during a session in June, leading Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to publicly condemn “unnecessarily divisive” comments.
Other legislators expressed concern the Games would encourage same-sex marriage in Hong Kong, which remains a controversial topic.
But Philipse described the organisers as committed.
“Anti-inclusion objections from this small but vocal minority … have galvanised the resolve of our 300 volunteers and brought out overwhelming support,” he said.
Some establishment lawmakers had told the group the economic benefits were clear to the government and the Games were condoned by Beijing as a non-political event, he added.
According to Philipse, the group has received a surge in inquiries from potential corporate sponsors and private venue partners since June.
“The Gay Games is not an activist event,” he said. “There will be arts and culture events, but there will be no pride parade, and it is not a platform to advocate for any particular legislation.
Pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee conveyed her support for the decision to postpone, stating in remarks published by the organisers that the Games would generate close to HK$1 billion for the local economy.
“The importance of the Games to Hong Kong’s global image as a forward-looking, cosmopolitan city should not be underestimated,” said Ip, who previously encouraged other lawmakers to support the event. “Postponing the Games to 2023 … will give the organisers more time and resources to focus on hosting a successful event.”
Allan Zeman, chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group that serves as a corporate sponsor, expressed confidence the delay would not diminish interest in the event.
“It is understandable that major sports events are delayed during the pandemic, but the worldwide audience still enjoyed the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics,” Zeman said. “I believe the same will happen with the Games in 2023.”
Some participants were taken aback by the news and shared their dismay on social media.
Cynthia Cheung, spokeswoman of the Hong Kong Pride Parade, intended to take part and although initially surprised at the news, she expressed hope the rescheduled event could go forward without further difficulties.
“We are planning to join and support the games … of course it’s a little unfortunate that the event has to [be] postponed, but we understand the concern,” she said.
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