Flemish sports minister Ben Weyts (N-VA) has criticised the decision by the European Olympic Committee (EOC) to award the 2023 European Games to Kraków-Małopolska in Poland.
The European Games, a multi-sports competition involving the nations of Europe, were first organised in 2015 in Baku in Azerbaijan. Like the Olympics, they take place every four years, in Minsk in Belarus in 2019, and the next edition is scheduled to take place in Kraków-Małopolska in 2023.
But the city has declared itself part of a LGBT-free zone, a situation which, Weyts said in a parliamentary answer, is “incompatible with the values of the Olympic Charter”.
Some 100 areas in Poland had declared themselves LGBT-free by June this year, under the influence of the ultra-conservative Catholic organisation Ordo Iuris. The European institutions reacted strongly.
The European Parliament as far back as December 2019, when the movement was still growing, voted 463 to 107 to condemn the 80 zones that existed at that time. The European Union, meanwhile, decided in July this year to stop funding from the Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund to municipalities who declared themselves LGBT-free.
Asking the question in the Flemish parliament, Annick Lambrecht (sp.a) said, “Flanders and Belgium must no longer support candidatures for international sporting events in gay and transphobic countries or regions.”
Weyts pointed out that decisions on the location of sporting events were not taken by governments, but by the sporting bodies themselves. However, he said, the choice of Kraków-Małopolska was clearly “incompatible with the values of the Olympic Charter,” which the Olympic Committee was supposed to reflect.
“We are pleased that minister Weyts acknowledges that for him the attitude of the region goes against the Olympic idea,” said Lambrecht.
“We hope that he will raise this with the [Belgian Olympic Committee] and that he will bring the Flemish sports world together, so that the sports federations give a clear signal regarding this problem. We expect they will no longer support international sporting events in anti-gay and transphobic regions or countries.”