Posts Tagged ‘HK’

One of the happiest moments in my life in HK was the day I finally cut the cord, or cable I should say, with Wharf. After years of the crappiest service every known in a civilized city, I finally made the switch to NOW TV last year and called cable to come collect their box and the fifty feet of cable snaking up and down the walls of my flat. It was liberating.

So it was not a happy day for me to open the paper and read that it is Cable — the company that excels at packaging major sporting events in ways to bleed fans dry — that has procurred the rights to air the 2008 Olympics.

Wow. Isn’t it great that HK is part of China ! – and even hosting an Olympic event!  but we still have to pay to watch it?! I mean, isn’t there any perks to this one country two system deal?

But then on the other hand –  it’ll be the first time I’ve been able to watch the Olympics in Hong Kong in years, so the good news is – it will actually be on TV.

I agree with the basis for the protests by TVB and ATV which claim this arrangement goes against  the Olympic spirit. But then again, did they even bid for the rights? They certainly couldn’t have cared less during the last Olympics.

I hope something comes from their protests. In the meantime, I’m reacquainting myself with the cable telephone hotline…maybe I can finally figure out how to get through to a real person before the Olympics start.


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Remember the good ol’ days? We didn’t have much money, but hell, we were happy. In those years, post SARS (OK, not that long ago), when the economy was just trying to find its feet, we were all humbled by the experience of living through dangerous times, but flush with the promise of better times possibly ahead.

We lived simply, not sure if our jobs were secure, but we enjoyed things more. A day at the beach, a hike in the park. And we could afford things too, like a family meal, a bouquet of flowers, or, I don’t know: even, school fees and rent.

Store clerks were still surly (I wouldn’t have it any other way) but more willing to provide service. Restaurants remembered their regulars, even by name, and even offered complimentary drinks after dinner to show their appreciation for your patronage. If something wasn’t right with a service or product you were buying, a genuine effort was made to ensure your satisfaction. In those times, your business was important.

Well those days are gone. Businesses that I frequent regularly, barely take notice of me. If I make a small complaint about something, they look at me blankly. They don’t care if I never come back, they are busy busy busy. cha-ching!

Landlords are raising rents by 60% or more. They dont’ care if you have to move. There are prospective tenants with bulging housing allowances waiting to pounce. (I understand that there is a supply-demand thing going on here, but its a vicious cycle: too many employers are willing to pay housing allowances that meet the escalating rent levels. It’s a landlord’s market. And while this is going on at the top end of the scale it is putting downward pressure on housing all the way down the line.)

The ESF has raised school fees, and has even asked for September fees to be paid in June. They don’t care if you can’t afford it. There are children lined up waiting for the chance to get in.

The manager at the Pizza Express that ‘lost’ my daughter’s birthday party reservation didn’t care that 10 girls had no place to go for their promised pizzas. He really couldn’t care less. He was booked up. Why would he care?
So I’ll admit it and you can verbally abuse me all you want. I liked Hong Kong better when it was scrapping itself back up (I’m talking a recovering economy here, not an economic crisis). Without the cushion of endless supplies of cash and customers, nothing could be taken for granted. With a little less cash flying around, we all had a little more value.

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We all knew it was in the cards. Two years ago, when the HKJC announced their plans to spend $800 million to host the Olympic equestrian events on the neighbouring site to the Sha Tin racecourse, we all predicted the day that the HKJC would find a way to keep the land. Last week, they showed their hand, announcing the need to lease the 44,000 square meters to use as stables for the Sha Tin Racecourse for at least another 7-10 years.

According to a friend who is well connected in JC circles, the club have had their eye on that piece of land for some time. The Olympics provided the ideal opportunity to take it over and even make it look like the JC was doing Hong Kong a great service.  Bring an Olympic event to Hong Kong! How Wonderful! (Applause).

Simonworld did an excellent job dissecting this deal back in 2005, which I highly recommend reading. You can find it here.

Never mind that Hong Kong’s finest athletes, who may only have this one opportunity to qualify and compete in an Olympic event, were kicked out of the only training facility equipped to train at an elite level.

Never mind that they were removed so that Hong Kong can host one of the least attended and least covered events in the Olympic program.

Never mind that Hong Kong people can’t even buy tickets to attend this event.

And how are they to be rewarded? Apparently a redevelopment of the Sports Institute (minus the 44,000 square meters) is being proposed. I haven’t yet seen the plan so cannot comment on it.

However, I found it interesting that the only sport in which Hong Kong has won an Olympic gold medal, has been left with no permanent training facilities. Again.

While the Jockey Club gets 44,000 square meters of space to house their horses, Hong Kong windsurfers are left high and dry.

According to the government, the various sporting associations supported the request from the Jockey Club. Yeah, I’d like to have been a fly on the wall in that meeting. Agree and get this….disagree and get nothing.

Yes, the Jockey Club have done what they do best, appear to be giving when in fact they are taking. They have been using this balance of give and take for years to pressure the government and the public to accept their agendas. They have perfected the art of “passive agressive” policy.

Why doesn’t the Hong Kong government have, as is the case in many other countries, a sports lottery to raise money for sports facilities and athlete training? Perhaps, it may erode the revenues of the Mark 6 lottery. Which of course is run by the JC.

Government officials claim it is because they don’t want to encourage the public to gamble. HELLO! Gamble! in Hong Kong?! And besides, the JC give so much to sport, don’t they?

The JC take on a lot of charity and social responsibility, which in any other country would be the responsibility of the government. In return, they are given many favours. In many areas, like the care of the elderly and financial support to children with disadvantages, they are doing a superb job.

But in the case of the future of Hong Kong sports, maybe it’s time to consider whether they are giving as much as they are getting.

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The Hong Kong Tennis Assiociation and the Hong Kong Amateur Athletics Association both appeared before the sports bureaucrats yesterday to plead their cases to remain in the elite sports category and retain the funding that comes with it.

Both associations had failed to attain the the points criteria necessary to remain in the program and face being kicked out in April. This news comes only two years before we host the East Asian Games, and one year before the Olympics. Without the funding that the elite status provides, neither of these association can hope to make a strong showing. This will come as a huge disappointment to all the young athletes and their families who have sacrificed their time to train and compete with the hope to be fully prepared for the most important events of their careers.

Sport programs in Hong Kong are under constant pressure to justify themselves. This contrasts sharply with what is needed to successfully grow and support an internationally competitive athletic program. The tennis association has seen some very promising young talent come through the program, but this talent soon leaves Hong Kong for countries that have better-funded and committed programs to develop their talent.

Sports programs cannot be judged in two-year cycles. Developing promising athletes and comprehensive training programs takes years. The British government implemented their elite athletic program and its funding to prepare for the 2012 Olympics, six years prior to the event. This full commitment of funding and support will see a young athlete straight through to the games. That is why their athletes stay in the UK and not go looking for greener pastures to fulfill their potential.

A wise woman once told me, “You can’t grow an elephant by measuring it.” If the government wants to see Hong Kong athletes give their best performances in the EAG and the 2008 Olympics, now is the time to put away the measuring sticks and give these athletes the funds and support they need to prepare.

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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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The Hong Kong Tourism Board announced, with great fanfare yesterday, the arrival of the first “Honest and Quality Tour” into Hong Kong. Yes, that’s right, tourists now can choose an “honest and quality” tour as opposed to…. I guess all the crap tours that have been offered before.

This new tour is HKTB response to the crisis involving mainland tourists being held hostage by tour guides who insisted they spend a certain amount of money in pre-arranged store visits before allowing them to continue the tour.

I realise that the HKTB must have been under tremendous pressure to come up with something to restore confidence in Hong Kong tours, but surely some of those high-salaried managers could have come up with a slogan that doesn’t beg to be ridiculed. Can you read the media coverage: “Hong Kong offers first honest tour!” “For the first time ever, Hong Kong Tourist Board offers quality tour!”

Doesn’t anyone in that office have a PR or advertising background?

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Margaret Chan has had an unlikely career. Much like Forrest Gump, she seems to have an uncanny knack for being at the right place at the right time. And this week, her gumption has landed her the top job at the World Health Organisation.

For most people, screwing up big time at work would be a career- ender. Not for Margaret. Accused of being partly responsible for the spread of SARS due to her complacency and mismangement of the crisis, she managed a quick evacuation to Geneva for a timely job offer at WHO, leaving her underlings to take the heat.

When WHO was looking for someone to take the Director-General role, Margaret was put in the running. Despite being pitted against a few more qualified candidates, Margaret managed to outwit, outplay and outlast her rivals. During the campaign, much SARS mud was dug up and slung in a bid to discredit her. But in the end, Margaret prevailed.

Insiders say that the vote ultimately favoured Margaret because the electors wanted to see an Asian in the top job (narrowing the selection down to Margaret and Dr Omi from Japan) and it was high time a woman had the honour. Margaret had the whole package. This seems a rather simple explanation for how the voting went down.

Margaret was China’s candidate. And China campaigned hard on her/their behalf. Despite the fact that Margaret’s failure over SARS stemmed from her inability to get answers from Guangdong (“either by phone or by fax!” she said in the post-SARS inquiry), her Chinese nationality was seen as being a key to getting better cooperation from China on possible health epidemics.

China recently hosted an unprecedented China-Africa conference where they agreed to double the amount of aid to the continent. Is it only coincidence then that Margaret mentions, in her first speech as DG, that, she would serve all countries equally but it was AFRICA that needed the most help? No mention of Afghanistan or Bangladesh.

When asked about the Africa connection, Margaret didn’t confirm or deny it. Instead she reiterated the importance of improving the health conditions in Africa, which of course is undeniably at a crisis level — all politics aside.

Margaret never planned to be a doctor, much less one with such a high profile. According to her, she only went to medical school to spend more time with her husband who was studying to be a doctor. ”As a traditional Asian woman, I followed my husband,” she is quoted as saying in a New York Times article.

She never planned to be a civil servant either, but took up a job with the Health Authority because of a lack of opportunities in her chosen field of paediatrics. She quickly rose up through the ranks mainly due, in her words, to the departure of many senior people before Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

Yes, it may seem that Margaret has managed to be in the right place at the right time and now, despite only every wanting to be a schoolteacher, she has found herself heading the world’s most powerful health agency. But this result is as much a credit to her ambition and skill as a political animal than it is to luck. Unlike the fluky Mr. Gump, Margaret has taken full advantage from every opportunity that presented itself. Life may be like a box of chocolates, but so far she has managed to pick all the right ones.

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