Government ambivalence to sport

With 586 members, Hong Kong’s largest ever team returned from the 2018 Asian Games with 46 medals, including 8 gold medals.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said of the team, “They lived up to our expectations. The Hong Kong athleteshad endured arduous training over the years and foughthard in the competitions, displaying indomitable sportsmanship. With or without medals, thegrace shown by all our athletes made me and, Ibelieve, all Hong Kong people extremely proud.”She added that, “The HKSAR Government will continue to support Hong Kong athletes and the development of sport in Hong Kong.” Chief Secretary Mathew Cheung Kin-chung also sent his congratulations to the team.

With the two highest Government officials expressing support for sport it is, therefore, bewildering and inexplicable that the Home Affairs Bureau and the Task Force on Land Supply are simultaneously attacking the very foundations of sport in the territory, the sports clubs.  HAB is proposing to impose a swingeinglevy that could cause some clubs to fold, or, by substantially increasing the cost of membership,put their facilities even further out of reach of many people. At the same time, the Task Force on Land Supply is seeking public support to take back land currently used for sport and use it for housing. At the very least these proposals indicatealack of understanding of how an effective sports system should be organized, a lack of understanding of its benefits to the community and a lack of a coordinated plan for developing sport. Is it simply official ignorance of the needs of the community, or is sport thought to be unnecessary for the community’s wellbeing?

All Hong Kong’s sports exist because enthusiasts founded clubs to promote them and to organize competitions, at first internally, then against other clubs and then against competitors from outside Hong Kong. This is the way that sport is and should be organized. The first sports club in Hong Kong was founded in 1849 as a rowing club. It expanded to include sailing, swimming and gymnastics. Other clubs followed suit, until the present situation was reached where the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong has 79 affiliated sportsgoverning bodies. None of these sports exist at the behest of the Government. They all exist because people in the community perceived value in practicing these sports and sought help from wherever available to create venues for the sports.

The HAB consultation paper begins by stating,  In the past, especially in the early colonial days, there was an acute shortage of public sports and recreational facilities in Hong Kong.” This is true, but what the HAB does not want to admit is that today there is an even greater shortage and that what Hong Kong needs are more land and more facilities for sport and more clubs organizing activity to meet the needs of substantially more members of the community.  When we have achieved these, Hong Kong might at last begin to achieve results at the international level commensurate with its population size and economic standing.

Water sports, with their small land needs, are an obvious avenue for development and water sports centres are needed at Kai Tak, Tseung Kwan O, Tung Chung and other locations.

Congratulatory and supportive words from the Chief Executive are not enough. The community needs Government support through the provision of facilities for community organized sport and where clubs are the driving force in expanding participation and raising performance standards.

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