World Rowing Coastal Championships

Up to 700 competitors are anticipated for the 2019 World Rowing Coastal Championships, to be held in Hong Kong from the 1st to the 3rd of November this year. The organiser — the Hong Kong China Rowing Association (HKCRA) — wants the excitement of this major event to be shared by the local community and to boost coastal rowing development. It also wants the worldwide rowing community to see Hong Kong’s unique attractions.

The races will be in Victoria Harbour from Kellett Island, around a number of buoys, up to the Central harbourfront and then back around the Convention Centre and along the Wan Chai shoreline. The course will be 4km long for the preliminary heats and 6km for the finals and the races will be clearly and closely visible to the public.

The harbour is a natural water sports arena in the centre of the city and this event will provide local and international competitors with an unforgettable experience. Coastal rowing is an ideal sport for the harbour, with rowers and their boats revelling in rough conditions. As a world championship, television broadcasts of the races will enhance Hong Kong’s image and will attract competitors to future events here.

The HKCRA has the ambition to make Hong Kong a world-recognised venue for coastal rowing and the coming championships are an important part of this strategy as they will demonstrate the potential for community water sport in our greatest natural asset. There is pressure on land supply, but there is also growing pressure on government to provide facilities for a more active and healthy lifestyle. Water sports, with their advantage of small land footprints for large participation numbers, can provide a sporting and active lifestyle for a much larger number of people than is presently the case.

It is encouraging that the Government has stated its ambition to see more water sports in the harbour, but this has not, so far, been reflected in plans for the harbourfront. The Financial Secretary’s proposed allocation of HK$6 billion for harbourfront development omitted any reference to facilities for water sports, but this opportunity should not be lost, or the harbour will continue to be largely inaccessible for recreation.

As with other sports, water sport development is handicapped, firstly by the lack of an integrated government plan for sports development and, secondly, by the convention that facilities provided by the government are mainly to be managed by the government, whereas, as proven elsewhere, sport is best organised by the community. The government’s role should be to provide facilities, not to manage them.

These two problems are the principal causes of Hong Kong’s failure to make sport a major part of everyone’s lifestyle and of Hong Kong’s underperformance at the international level.

In conclusion, while it is encouraging to see the World Rowing Coastal Championships held here, it is important that there be a legacy, firstly in the government’s recognition of the benefits that water sports can bring to everyone and, secondly, in its determination to provide facilities for water sports in the harbour and elsewhere, with such facilities to be managed by community-based sports organisations.

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