Hong Kong set to make history by hosting Asia's first-ever Gay Games

Ambassadors of Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023 team pose for media after a news conference
Ambassadors of Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023 team pose for media after a news conference Copyright Louise Delmotte/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Louise Delmotte/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Theo FarrantAP
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The event is designed to promote diversity and inclusion and Chinese organisers say they are committed to providing an accepting environment for participants.


In 1982, queer people from across the world gathered in San Francisco to participate in what later became recognised as the inaugural Gay Games. 

This groundbreaking sporting event marked a pivotal moment in the history of LGBTQ+ individuals who, for far too long, had felt excluded from conventional sporting events due to their sexual orientation.

Now, Hong Kong is set to make history by hosting the first Gay Games (GGHK) in Asia this November, marking a significant milestone for the LGBTQ+ community. 

The "Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023" will feature a diverse range of sporting events and cultural activities, aimed at promoting inclusion and diversity.

"We believe that hosting the Games for the very first time here will be a momentous experience and a cornerstone for our Asian community as well as for the whole world," reads the GGHK website. 

What exactly is the Gay Games?

Hermann J. Knippertz/AP
A soccer team from Prague, Czech Republic in pink jerseys is seen at the Gay Games 2010 in Cologne, GermanyHermann J. Knippertz/AP

At the Gay Games, participants of all genders and sexual orientations can expect to compete in a wide range of sports, including traditional Olympic sports like athletics, swimming, and gymnastics, as well as more niche events like dodgeball, cheerleading, and bridge. 

It's a truly unique event as there are no qualifying categories and you can choose the level you want to compete in! 

For example in squash, there are four different skill levels for competitions to choose from, so competitors can play at a level that suits them, whether they're a total beginner or a seasoned pro. Plus, in gendered competitions, competitors get to pick which category they want to compete in, based on their own identity. 

There are also cultural events like band, chorus, and dance performances. Think of it like a giant party where everyone is welcome, and the only dress code is "be yourself."

A platform to promote inclusion and diversity in sport

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Alan Lang, Co-Chair of Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023 team, speaks during a news conference in Hong KongAP Photo

The current sporting landscape is a challenging environment for many LGBTQ+ individuals. 

This year's Football World Cup in Qatar brought several issues to light, including the criminalisation of homosexuality in the country and the abandonment of the OneLove armband, which cast a dark shadow over the tournament. 

In addition, sports governing bodies have struggled to establish new rules and categories for transgender athletes. 

But despite Hong Kong's recent political turmoil, organisers of the Gay Games 11 are committed to promoting an inclusive and accepting environment for all participants. 

At a recent press conference, the organisers unveiled a promotional video and introduced a group of advocates who will serve as "ambassadors" for the event, including Nathan Naidu.

"I think this phenomenon will help update Hong Kong's societal narratives around the LGBT+ community, because a society which fights for freedom, as we have seen in the past few years, should also believe in the freedom to love," says Naidu.

While some members of Hong Kong's establishment have criticised the decision to host the Gay Games, the city's authorities are keen to attract international events and boost the local economy after a challenging period due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, questions remain about how participants can express themselves during the games while the country still faces an on-going struggle to overcome homophobia and acceptance.

"I think that everyone who comes to Hong Kong will have to respect the local culture and laws and regulations in society here," explains Lisa Lam, the co-chair of Gay Games 11, Hong Kong 2023.


She adds, "But with that, at the same time, the games will promote inclusion and diversity, and we would like to provide a platform for everyone to feel that their identities are affirmed."

LGBTQ+ rights in Hong Kong

Anthony Kwan/AP
Transgender activist Henry Edward Tse holding a sign written 'Legal Victory' poses for a photograph outside of Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong, Feb. 6, 2023.Anthony Kwan/AP

In Hong Kong, where homosexuality was decriminalised in 1991, the LGBTQ+ community still faces significant challenges. 

While there is a growing awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ issues in urban areas, discrimination and persecution are still prevalent in many parts of the country.

There are still no laws that explicitly protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and same-sex marriage is not recognised. 

While there is still a lot of improvement to be made, there have been some positive developments in recent years, including a court ruling in 2018 that granted spousal visas to same-sex partners. 


Most recently, the top court in Hong Kong ruled that transgender individuals do not need to undergo full sex reassignment surgery to change their gender on official identity cards, marking a significant step forward for transgender rights in the country.

This year's Gay Games in Hong Kong will be taking place from 3-11 November 2023.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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