Hong Kong will become the first Asian city to host the Gay Games in 2022 with rights campaigners celebrating the winning bid for a city often criticized for lagging on LGBT rights.
Hong Kong beat Mexico’s Guadalajara and Washington DC to host the 11th edition of the event, with the jubilant bid team saying it would attract 15,000 participants and bring 1 billion Hong Kong dollars into the local economy.
Organized by the LGBT community, the Gay Games features a range of sports and is open to all participants, “without regard to sexual orientation, and there are no qualifying standards,” the Hong Kong bid team said in a statement.
Competitors come from many countries, including those where homosexuality remains illegal, it added.
The Gay Games was founded by former Olympic decathlete Tom Waddell and first held in San Francisco in 1982. The next edition will be held in Paris in August next year, featuring 36 sports, from mountain biking to fencing and athletics.
Hong Kong’s Pink Alliance, which promotes equal rights for the LGBT community, said the games would “help to bring a wider understanding and acceptance of our community”, not only in the southern Chinese city but throughout the region.
When the constitutional court in neighboring Taiwan ruled in favor of allowing gay marriage in May, campaigners in socially conservative Hong Kong highlighted the city’s lack of progress on equality issues.
Hong Kong does not recognize gay marriage and only decriminalized homosexuality in 1991.
But a landmark court decision in September that granted a British lesbian in Hong Kong — known as “QT” — the right to live and work in the city as a dependant of her long-term partner was hailed as a decision that could reduce more hurdles for same-sex couples.
QT had previously been denied a dependant visa by immigration authorities, forcing her instead to stay in Hong Kong on a visitor visa, which did not allow her to work.
Hong Kong’s Gay Games bid chair Dennis Philipse said there was a “spirit and passion for increased inclusion and diversity” in Hong Kong.
However, the campaign for LGBT rights continues to elicit fury from anti-gay campaigners.
Last year, banking giant HSBC placed a pair of rainbow-painted lions in front of its landmark building in the heart of the city to promote support of gay rights, a move slammed as “disgusting” by opponents who rallied in protest.
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