Sign-ups for the upcoming Gay Games in Hong Kong are currently more than 90 per cent below target, organisers have said, adding that the city’s Covid-19 rules had previously hampered publicity efforts.

gay games
Supporters promoting the Gay Games at a pride parade in Tokyo in April 2023. Photo: Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023, via Facebook.

However, a source familiar with the matter told HKFP that they believed leadership changes may also be impacting organisation efforts.

“The pandemic related travel restrictions for Hong Kong made it very difficult for us to plan our promotional activities, so we lost valuable time last year where we could not promote aggressively,” the organisers told HKFP.

They said they had achieved “close to 10 per cent” of their registration target for individual sign-ups, with tennis and dragon boat racing events seeing the most interest.

Gay Games participants can sign up as individuals or corporates. The organisation did not say how many corporate sign-ups they had seen. Registration to take part opened last October, according to the Gay Games Facebook page.

The games, which were postponed for a year due to Covid-19, will be co-hosted by Hong Kong and the Mexican city of Guadalajara from November 3 to 11 this year.

gay games
The Gay Games team. Photo: Gay Games 11 Hong Kong 2023, via Facebook.

Hong Kong was initially meant to be the sole host of the event. However, the organisers announced last year that Hong Kong and Guadalajara would co-host the event to allow more participants to take part should Hong Kong’s Covid-19 restrictions remain.

The city maintained some of the world’s strictest Covid-19 rules for almost three years, with travellers having to quarantine in a hotel for up to three weeks when restrictions were at their most stringent.

The organisers said they did not have figures for the number of people who had signed up for the event in Guadalajara.

The nine-day-long Gay Games will include a range of sporting events, as well as art and cultural programmes such as concerts featuring local and international artists, exhibitions, and a festival village, according to its website.

gay games
Hong Kong representatives at the 2018 Gay Games held in Paris, France. Photo: Gay Games Hong Kong.

“We began marketing registration in February after the Covid restrictions for Hong Kong were lifted, so we will host promotional activities in Hong Kong and globally over the next few months,” organisers said.

HKFP has reached out to the Gay Games for comment on what publicity efforts have already been undertaken, and what to expect in the lead up to the event.

According to the Gay Games’ Facebook page, organisers will hold a promotional booth at a fitness event at AsiaWorld-Expo this weekend.

First held in San Francisco in 1982, the Gay Games is a inclusive sporting event seeking to bring together athletes regardless of gender, age, ability, or physical challenge.

gay games
The first Gay Games in 1982 in San Francisco. Photo: Gay Games.

Prior to this year’s games, the event has been held in nine cities including New York City, Amsterdam and Paris. People who do not identify as part of the LGBTQ community are also welcome to join.

A source familiar with the matter said they believed that Covid-19 rules were not the only reason the event was struggling to attract participants. The person said there had been leadership changes, and that some in the new leadership team were not familiar with running a sporting event.

“They’ve never been to the Gay Games before, or equivalent events,” they said.

The organisers said they were “hopeful that the combined totals of Hong Kong and Guadalajara will exceed previous Gay Games,” as people are hungry to travel again” and that they expected to see registration numbers steadily increase.

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.