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Archive for December, 2006

Wong Kam Po wins gold Many things can affect an athlete’s ability to excel, but with Hong Kong athletes, the main deterent slowing them down is the policies of the Hong Kong government.

I have not written about what is going on in the Asian Games in Doha, not because I don’t have anything to say, but because I have so much to say I don’t know where to begin.

But the government’s announcement that several sports will be cut from the elite program (and thus be cut off from the only source of significant funding opportunities) if they did not come home with some metal, captures in a sound-bite, so much of what is going wrong with sports and government policy.

Developing elite athletes is a long-term plan. Like, say, invading Iraq, it cannot be done in half measures or it will not produce the desired results. It takes a big vision, goals to be set (as opposed to threats) a clear plan that is formulated from the ground up (i.e. from youth on up) by people who are involved in the sport (not bureaucrats), with funds invested steadily and prudently. Add in an unwavering commitment to see the plan through (and backed by the top levels of government) and you will have successful athletes that will win the pride and admiration of all Hong Kong people.

In my experience talking to government officials about sport policy, I found a great deal of self-deprecation when it came to Hong Kong’s athletic potential. “We are not much of a sporting culture” I heard. There is a lot of pessimism regarding the chances of Hong Kong athletes to win medals. So it is with little wonder that the athletes receive patchy funding and are constantly under pressure to justify their programs. I found it disheartening that while athletes were devoting hours of their lives to training and their families were making enormous sacrifices, that the people who were overseeing their futures had little belief in their ability to realise their dreams.

E ven Timothy Fok, head of the International Olympic Committee and Amateur Sport in Hong Kong told me that Hong Kong (Chinese) athletes don’t really have “the build” for sport, compared to athletes from western countries. What! don’t have the build!? How he accounts for the number of gold medals won by Chinese athletes, I don’t know. (steroids aside).

Another story, this one on a much smaller scale, also embodies what is wrong with sport policy in Hong Kong. Some friends of mine, through their hard-work and commitment, have started a children’s baseball team. It has taken a couple of years and finally it is all coming together – they have a team, uniforms, even sponsorship. A success story, right? Proof that sports are alive and well in Hong Kong? But wait.

They have been practicising on a vacant piece of land in Western that is zoned for redevelopment in 2008. They do this because finding a LCSD field to play baseball is impossible. Recently the Central and Western District Council met to find a way to stop this “illegal” activity and have blocked all access to the field. Your government in action!

That’s right, even on this small scale the government is attempting to snuff the life out of sport.

And yet, despite this sad state of affairs, our athletes still devote their lives to training and still dream of winnning medals. If they believe they can do it, they deserve nothing less than our full support.

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