Taipei, a city already renowned for its thriving queer scene is about to add another stripe to its rainbow resumé. We’re talking of course about the Asia Pride Games. Running from April 29 to May 3, the sporting event is back for its twentieth edition following a year of pandemic-imposed hiatus. This year, there’s eight new sports for fans to look forward to as well as a full billing of markets, talks, and live shows in between. In short, it’s pretty exciting stuff.
Back in Taipei 13 Years On
This is the second time that the Games have come to Taipei, the last being in 2009. That was before the city found its footing as a hub of queer rights in Asia. Same-sex marriage was barely on docket, World Pride wasn’t on its way to Kaohsiung, and Taipei hadn’t established itself as the kind of queer escape it is today. To give you an idea of just how much things have changed, about 25,000 people marched in the Taiwan Pride parade that year, compared to a whopping 200,000 in 2019.
“For the first time the Asia Pride Games are to be held in a country that has legalized same-sex marriage and that’s significant for LGBTQ+ movements in Taiwan and across Asia,” says Yang Chih-Chun, Chairman of the Taiwan Gay Sports and Movement Association. “In addition to representing the entire country, it’s an opportunity for Taipei to demonstrate its commitment to supporting and uplifting diversity.”
That commitment is likely also one of the reasons behind this year’s theme, “Sticking Together,” and its logo, a diamond of six interwoven colored stripes in the colors of the pride flag — which are incidentally also the colors of the Taipei MRT lines.
The Asia Pride Games are now in their twentieth year, though is the first year that they open under their new name. Formerly known as the Straits Games, the competition was first held in Malaysia in 2002. To date, it’s been hosted by twelve cities across eight countries and territories, with Taipei being the only East Asian city to do so twice. It was originally slated to host the 2021 games, but these were postponed following last year’s local COVID outbreak.
To match the increasingly diverse make up of the Games, eight new events have been added to the line-up this year, including new track and team sports and a couple of less conventional additions. E-Gaming makes its debut this year with a League of Legends tournament having been underway since April 23, the final of which will be held at Taipei City University of Science and Technology on May 1.
Bodybuilding will also be making its entry into the annual competition, notably as first Pride Games sport to include a non-binary category. Several other sports, including five-a-side soccer, softball, and swimming, have similarly included genderless categories.
Open to All
“Previously, the Straits Games was really all about gay men. We want the games to be more accessible to everyone, both for those who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community and those who don’t,” says Yang. Participation in the Games is open anyone who loves sports and is supportive of LGBTQ+ rights — provided they signed up during the registration period.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the Games is the opening ceremony, set to take place at Heping Basketball Gymnasium in Da’an District. Very much in the Olympian spirit, this will include parade of nations — and we for one are looking forward to seeing Taiwan, and not “Chinese Taipei,” making its lap of the venue. There’ll also be singing, dancing, and (of course) drag to look forward to, as well as a couple of particularly exciting celebrity appearances, including multiple Golden Melody winner Abao, who has us giddy with anticipation.
Needless to say, the ever-glowering spectre of COVID hangs over this years competition. A cosplay run scheduled for Saturday April 30 being one one Games event that has had to be canceled as a result. Side note: if you do still want to Demon Slayer up as Nezuko Kamado and dash up and down Ketagalan Boulevard, then go for it — we support you. Otherwise, organizers say the Games will go ahead as planned for the time being, with events being temporarily suspended to disinfect the facilities if a confirmed case is identified on the day of a competition. Participants and spectators will of course have show proof that they are fully vaccinated and boosted (don’t forget your yellow cards!). Masks, needless to say, are a must.
Cover photo: Braden Clollum