Hong Kong is set to co-host the first Gay Games in Asia with about 2,400 participants from 45 countries expected to take part in the groundbreaking event.
The games will kick off on Friday, and athletes are hoping the nine-day event will foster wider LGBTQ+ inclusion in the regional financial hub, according to The Associated Press. Hong Kong is co-hosting the event with the Mexican city of Guadalajara.
Athletes will compete in a range of games, including tennis, swimming and badminton, as well as culturally rich activities like dragon boat racing and mahjong. Squash, trail running, soccer, martial arts and dodgeball will also be on display.
Organizers say the event aims to promote inclusivity and diversity in the region.
Lisa Lam, co-chair of the Gay Games, said LGBTQ+ acceptance in Asia is still lower than in the rest of the world and that it is important to make sexual minorities visible in the community.
“Biases come from misunderstanding or stereotypes,” Lam told AP. “Bringing different people together, you are able to break down stereotypes.”
Hong Kong, a Chinese-ruled city, has no law against discrimination based on sexual orientation and does not recognize same-sex marriage, but its LGBTQ community has scored some legal wins this year, according to Reuters.
In September, a ruling by its top court set a two-year deadline for the government to establish a legal framework to recognize same-sex unions. Additionally, a court upheld a ruling last month that favored the granting of equal inheritance rights to same-sex couples.
Despite the wins, several Hong Kong lawmakers have voiced public opposition to the Gay Games saying it poses national security threats, subverts traditional Chinese family values and follows a “Western ideology,” according to Reuters.
Five Hong Kong human rights activists have also called for the games to be canceled, saying the organizers “aligned themselves with pro-authoritarian figures responsible for widespread persecution” in Hong Kong.
Nevertheless, organizers and participants are hoping the games can show the government the city’s strong support for equal rights for same-sex couples.
The Gay Games was conceived by Dr. Tom Waddell, an Olympic decathlete, and its inaugural event was held in San Francisco in 1982. The Gay Games have also been held in Vancouver (1990), New York (1994), Amsterdam (1998), Sydney (2002), Chicago (2006) and Cologne (2010).