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The Olympics and Gay Games are headed to China in 2022, with very different goals

While the IOC claims to ignore human rights as ‘politics,’ the Gay Games embrace their role as agents of change.

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Participants celebrates their medals during the synchronized swimming contest during the 10th edition of the international Gay Games. Organizers hope hosting the 2022 event in Hong Kong will attract athletes from across Asia and around the world.
Photo credit should read LUCAS BARIOULET/AFP via Getty Images

The Olympic Games and Gay Games are both hosting their quadrennial events in China in 2022, and they are approaching their impact on human rights very differently.

That’s the core of my conversation this week on the latest episode of the Five Rings To Rule Them All podcast. I take a look at the different approaches each organization is taking, and how they each ultimately contribute to conversations about human rights.

The International Olympic Committee has for years claimed to avoid politics, generally lumping human rights into that category. It’s false, as the IOC has taken stands against various countries — including South Africa and Afghanistan — in its treatment of classes of people.

Ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, questions are emerging about the thinking behind awarding China its second Olympics in 14 years despite massive human-rights violations, with the treatment of the Uyghur people most recently coming into focus.

Now some countries are talking about boycotting the Winter Games if China is allowed to host them. The IOC continues to maintain it is not political, despite the fact that the Olympics need China and other repressive governments to even exist. I discuss that in the podcast.

The Gay Games, on the other hand, will be held in Hong Kong in November of 2022 with a very different goal.

It is part of the mission of the Federation of Gay Games to use the quadrennial event specifically to advance cultural change, visibility of the LGBTQ community and build acceptance. No doubt the possibility of having an impact in Asia was part of the equation during the site selection process, as the FGG has made it a goal to include LGBTQ athletes from Asian, Africa and South America in the movement.

“The impact that the Gay Games has in host cities is incredible in terms of culture, sport, economic impact, history and most importantly elevating all matters of LGBT+ equality,” the FGG said in its 2017 press release announcing the selection of Hong Kong.

Up for debate is whether Hong Kong will be able to attract the 10,000 or so participants the event is used to. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest in the city, spurred by a clamping down by the Communist government of China, has raised concerns. At the time of selection, concerns about travel and cost — Hong Kong has the highest cost of living in the world — raised eyebrows. The Gay Games have announced a committed plotting contingency plans.

Still, the work being done by the organizing committee in Hong Kong, and the elevated profile that work gives the community there, has to help.

You can listen to the conversation about the Olympics, Gay Games, and inclusion of trans athletes as well as athletes from Iran, on the Megaphone player, or by visiting Spotify for an easy browser player. Five Rings To Rule Them All is also available on Google Podcasts, Apple podcasts and many more platforms. Just search for Outsports wherever you get your podcast.

And be sure to follow Five Rings To Rule Them All on Twitter.

You can follow the Federation of Gay Games, as well as Hong Kong 2022, on Twitter.