(Bloomberg) -- Organizers of the Gay Games announced the event in Hong Kong has been postponed by a year to 2023 due to the spread of Covid-19 variants and travel curbs in the city and around the globe. 

The decision to postpone the international sporting event, which is held every four specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender athletes, came amid the “unpredictable progression” of variants as many countries in Asia struggled to contain the virus, Dennis Philipse, co-chair of the games in Hong Kong, said in a statement. 

“With many parts of the world, including many across Asia, still struggling to contain the virus and facing uneven access to vaccines, we felt that delaying the Games until November 2023 will enhance the likelihood of delivering on our promise to have the Hong Kong Games serve as a beacon of hope for the wider community across the region,” he said.

The Gay Games were expected to debut in Asia in November 2022, signaling a bright spot for progressive causes in Hong Kong after a Beijing-imposed national security law led to a crackdown on dissent. At least 145 individuals including opposition leaders and journalists have been arrested under the law, many for offenses related to political speech that is protected in most democracies.

In recent weeks, pro-establishment politicians have attacked the event in an apparent bid to win favor with Beijing, which has recently shut down WeChat accounts of LGBTQ university students and attacked “effiminate men” in state-run media. Hong Kong lawmaker Junius Ho last month called the Gay Games “disgraceful” and “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” that could pose a threat to national security.  

Acknowledging the recent politicization of the games, Philipse called attacks as coming from a “small but vocal minority,” while noting support Chief Executive Carrie Lam has expressed support for the games. The exact date they will take place will be confirmed soon, he said.

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