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Posts Tagged ‘sport’

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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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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