By Martin Kwok and Kacee Ting Wong
Five years ago, Hong Kong’s athletes won 46 medals at the Jakarta Palembang Asian Games. At the recently concluded Hangzhou Asian Games, Hong Kong athletes scaled new heights by winning 53 medals. Not only has their excellent performance received praise, but it has also borne testimony to the success of Hong Kong’s elite sports policy.
The three main objectives of the sports policy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government are to promote sports in the community; support elite sports; and promote Hong Kong as a center for international sports events.
We will now examine how successfully these objectives have been implemented and what benefits they have brought about.
The elite sports policy, despite all the controversy over its huge price tag, has been successfully implemented in the past few years. It has also brought a lot of benefits to the community.
First, the policy has played an indispensable role in nurturing the growth of elite athletes in the city. What elite athletes need is adequate government funding. As then-chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor pointed out in her 2021 Policy Address, the success of Hong Kong’s athletes has not come about by chance. In addition to their own efforts and the support of different sectors, the government’s policy measures and allocation of resources are also indispensable.
Second, success breeds success. The distinguished performance of Hong Kong athletes at the Hangzhou Asian Games will boost the morale of aspiring athletes and young people in the city.
Third, the elite sports policy has also brought about benefits in terms of social cohesion. Of great significance is the strong unifying force unleashed by these elite athletes, whose strong performances in competitions have helped to foster collective pride within Hong Kong society, which in turn is conducive to mending social fissures.
The growing sense of belonging among Hong Kong people has created a favorable environment for social reconciliation in the post-insurrection period.
Hong Kong’s sports team deserves special credit for arousing national consciousness among fans. In addition to the success of the men’s rugby team, Hong Kong’s footballers’ extraordinary performance is also worthy of praise. Though our football team was defeated by Japan in the semi-final, it emerged as an ad hoc symbol of unity in the city. The unforgettable match between Hong Kong’s football team and Iran’s team has become part of our collective memory.
Much more needs to be done if we want to turn our football team into a long-lasting promoter of unity. Psychologists have suggested that our love of football has much to do with our need for social connection and tribalism. People naturally enjoy being part of a group and watching their favorite team play. Such experiences provide them with a sense of belonging and community.
If local football clubs are committed to developing young talent, Hong Kong will create a good incubating environment to nurture football stars. The domestic football league is also in urgent need of funding.
Let us turn to the third objective.The impressive performance of Hong Kong’s elite athletes at Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics and Hangzhou Asian Games 2023 has drawn considerable attention to the city’s competitive edge in elite sports. For example, the excellent performance of our men’s rugby team in Hangzhou can add further publicity to the Hong Kong Sevens. These international sports events will bring plenty of economic benefits to Hong Kong.
It is also of note that the 15th National Games will be co-hosted by Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in 2025. It has been proposed that as many as five mass participation events should be held in Hong Kong, along with competitions for football, fencing, handball, rugby sevens, cycling, golf, sailing and beach volleyball.
The co-hosting arrangement should further facilitate Hong Kong’s integration into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. As far as the second and third objectives are concerned, Hong Kong has implemented successful policies to meet public expectations. But do we have effective policies to promote sports in the community)? Our answer is mixed.
The compelling link between the severity of some chronic diseases and the unwillingness of patients to perform regular exercise has brought the importance of the first objective into sharp focus. To cite an example, recent studies suggest that one in every three Australian adults is suffering from fatty liver. In addition to a high alcohol intake and diabetes mellitus, their modern sedentary lifestyles can cause fatty tissues to build up inside the liver. The best way to avoid fatty liver is to maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
Exercising regularly reportedly can also help long-COVID patients regain their health.
Most Hong Kong residents get too little exercise and this is a major cause of the increasing number of health problems in the community. As the Hong Kong, China Rowing Association has correctly pointed out, the overwhelming problem with government-organized sports is that it can never expand participation beyond a relatively low level.
Nor can the government rely on schools and universities to promote sports in the community. Nevertheless, educational institutions have laid a good foundation for young athletes to pursue their sports calling after graduation. They have also helped popularize some sports.
The recreational nature of sports has encouraged us to exercise more regularly. But some sports are not popular in Hong Kong. For example, aspiring ice hockey players may not be able to pursue their calling because their favorite game is not actively supported by the government. Though a few local students play ice hockey during their leisure time, they will usually cease playing after graduation because of the lack of s facilities in their neighborhood. It seems that a strong ice hockey club would be in a better position to promote ice hockey in the city.
Like sports clubs in Denmark, local sports clubs can play a more active role in helping the government promote sports in the community. Finally, we should accord our utmost respect to those busy family doctors who are simultaneously taking on the role of fitness instructors in their clinics. Perhaps medical practitioners in district health centers can play a more active role in encouraging their patients to do more exercise. Prevention is always better than cure.
Martin Kwok ALMI ALHC ACS, is the founder of Oxford Sports Development, and Sports Promotion Director of Chinese Dream Think Tank.
Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister, part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center, chairman of Chinese Dream Think Tank.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
Martin Kwok & Kacee Ting：Promoting sports in the community essential to boost residents’ health (China Daily HK Edition, 10 Nov 2023)
This article is reproduced by Kwun Media with the consent of China Daily.
五年前，香港特區運動員在雅加達亞運會奪得46枚獎牌，在杭州亞運會上再創佳績，又奪得56枚獎牌。健兒們的卓越表現不僅使全港市民都引以為傲，也是香港特區精英體育政策的成功展現。政府的體育發展三大政策目標包括: (1)普及化；(2) 精英化；與(3) 盛事化(註1)。在接下來的討論中，筆者嘗試談談這3個目標的實施情況。
註 1: 文化體育及旅遊局「體育政策」09.09.2022 available at: https://www.cstb.gov.hk/tc/policies/sports-and-recreation/sports-policy.html
註 2: 行政長官2021年施政報告「齊心同行 開創未來」06.10.2021 第39頁, 第114段 available at: https://www.policyaddress.gov.hk/2021/chi/pdf/PA2021.pdf
註 3: Opinion「The psychology behind why we love watching football」Breakingthelines.com 09.05.2023 available at: https://breakingthelines.com/opinion/the-psychology-behind-why-we-love-watching-football/#:~:text=People%20naturally%20enjoy%20being%20part,the%20outcome%20of%20the%20game.
註 4: Wynna Wong「Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Sports Park has goal of hiring 2,000 workers by 2025 with city set to co-host National Games」SCMP 10.10.2023 available at: https://amp.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/society/article/3237479/hong-kongs-kai-tak-sports-park-has-goal-hiring-2000-workers-2025-city-set-co-host-national-games
註 5: Health direct「Fatty liver」available at: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/fatty-liver
註 6: Post-COVID Clinic, Oxford「The Long COVID」London: Green Tree 2022 Chapter 6
註 7: Hong Kong, China Rowing Association「The Report of the Sports Policy Review Team 2002」LC Paper No. CB(2)2526/01-02(02) available at: https://www.legco.gov.hk/yr01-02/english/panels/ha/papers/ha0709cb2-2526-2e-scan.pdf