South Asia's first LGBTI sports festival kicks off
NEERAJ CHANDRA ROY
KATHMANDU, Oct 12: Blue Diamond Society (BDS)´s initiative of launching the First South Asian LGBTI Sports Festival - the first sporting event for sexual minorities in South Asia - gives a symbolic message that our society is heading toward ensuring equality and promoting human rights, according to the dignitaries present during the opening ceremony of the three-day event on Friday.
Speaking at the function, US Ambassador to Nepal Peter W Bodde said that the sports festival was a “model for all South Asia” and that it demonstrated equality and dignity toward the sexual minorities.
“This event shows Nepal´s commitment toward fundamental human rights,” said Bodde, adding, “The sports festival is serving as an agent of change.”
Sunil Babu Pant, director of BDS, said that the marginalized community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) would no longer remain shy.
“We will now come forward openly and show our presence through the medium of sports,” said Pant to the applause of the rapturous crowd of the LGBTI community.
“There is discrimination even in Olympics where the sexual minorities have to face humiliation and retract from the games when their identities are revealed. So we have taken a bold move to show that we too are capable of competing like other athletes. But there still lie plenty of challenges ahead,” added Pant.
National Sports Council´s Member-Secretary Yuvaraj Lama supported the initiative of the BDS saying that the sports festival has helped advocate equal rights for minorities of society.
“This event is helpful in creating general awareness among the athletes. It also gives a message that Nepal is the forerunner in promoting equality in South Asia,” said Lama.
The games kicked off at the Dasharath Stadium with a football and a kabbadi match and will continue until Sunday. A total of 571 athletes from Nepal and thirty other countries are participating in the games, according to the games coordinator Roshan Mahato.
“Most of our foreign friends will be showing their support by taking part in a four-kilometer fun run,” said Mahato.
The sports festival features 11 different sporting events including football, kabbadi, volleyball, track events, and karate among others, according to a press release issued by the organizers.
Four times US Olympics gold medalist Greg Louganis, an openly gay and HIV positive athlete, was the guest of honor at the opening ceremony.
Louganis, who won gold medals at the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games in diving, is the only male and the second diver in Olympic history to sweep diving golds in consecutive Olympic Games.
The 52-year-old athlete said, “Let us celebrate each other´s liberties.”
Earlier, Australian Ambassador to Nepal Susan Grace also expressed her happiness to be able to support the rights of the sexual and gender minority community here, just like her government does back in Australia.
She recalled how the Australian government had sponsored a cricket match on World AIDS Day 2011 in Kathmandu and expressed her government´s commitment to fighting the epidemic in Nepal and globally.