Indonesian Police Tried to Shut It Down, But The Straits Games Went On as Planned
In mid-August, the 16th annual Straits Games (TSG) were set to take place in Bali, Indonesia. The Games included four days with six different sports competitions, social events and competitors from Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Australia. However, this year’s event experienced challenges from local authorities due to the country’s crackdown on LGBTQ individuals.
A change in plans after police interference
TSG organizers were asked to pull the event logo from all of its public venues and had to cancel outdoor sporting events, including swimming and beach volleyball.
“Thankfully, all participants enjoyed their time in Bali and didn’t complain much,” TSG organizer Kedung Soejaya tells us. “Maybe it’s because of the culture that TSG has built from the very beginning since 16 years ago. We could still feel many strong friendship moments in Bali.”
The competitions for indoor volleyball, bowling and badminton occurred as scheduled, with Malaysia and Indonesia both winning six medals each. Malaysia swept the team and individual bowling competitions, and Indonesia did the same with badminton. Singapore stopped a complete one-country sweep by snagging a medal in both bowling and badminton, and Thailand won the gold medal for indoor volleyball.
TSG also still held its beachside pool party as planned. Attendees reportedly enjoyed the event for a full four hours.
Raising money and awareness for HIV in Asia
in addition to its sporting and social events, the 16th annual TSG was also a charity event. TSG partnered with Bali Peduli, a local HIV organization, to provide three different testing clinics during the Games as well as a Sunday “Lunch and Learn” seminar with locally well-known Pacific-Asian HIV and LGBTQ activist Dede Oetomo.
By partnering with Senimart, a collective of local art communities from Jakarta, TSG held a silent auction of 17 artworks and collectively donated 10 million Indonesian Rupiahs (roughly $800) to Bali Peduli.
Indonesia’s Straits Games underscore the importance of “being yourself”
Luckily, TSG was allowed to display its logo alongside its sponsors’ logos at its concluding gala dinner, a private event and awards ceremony for organizers and competitors.
Although the Games’ alterations under local pressure seemed somewhat at odds with the 2017 TSG theme “Free to be Yourself,” the event highlighted the importance of continuing such gatherings despite such oppression.
“Last year, when we planned the whole event,” Soejaya says, “we picked Bali as the host city because of its tourism and gay-friendly places compared to other cities in Indonesia.”
Despite the alterations to this year’s Games, he says, “We closed the event with everyone being happy.”
Featured image by NicolasMcComber via iStock