Winning play

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 May, 2012, 12:00am

Leung Chun-ying's sports policy has three strands, according to the chief executive-elect's election manifesto - promote sport for the community, cultivate elite athletes and make Hong Kong a place for major sports events. And a new sports commissioner will review and refine existing management.

Currently, the Home Affairs Bureau formulates our sports policy. Its stated goals are to provide high-quality facilities, make Hong Kong a major location for international events and raise the standard and global profile of Hong Kong sport.

Hong Kong has the most wonderful mountains for hiking, rock faces for climbing and natural waters for all types of water sports. We have the potential to cater to activities ranging from a gentle hill stroll to extreme sports. Yet this potential has not yet been fully exploited.

The city also has many sports venues. Just take soccer pitches and swimming pools managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department - there are about 50 natural turf pitches, 24 artificial turf pitches and 231 hard court pitches, as well as 41 public swimming pool complexes. The challenge for any city is to manage its facilities well so that they can cater for all types of users, from the community and schools to elite sports.

In the case of soccer pitches, the demand far exceeds supply, and the quality of the pitches varies. Major users range from professional leagues to schools. For swimming pools, users range from families to schools and elite trainers. Each group requires special planning for their needs.

For example, soccer is a team sport, whereas a swimmer can swim on his own. Thus, by closing pools between noon and 1pm and for an hour in the evening, the department disadvantages individual swimmers, although group users such as swimming clubs can still book lanes for training.

An individual athlete who has a job is particularly disadvantaged by such time restrictions.

Should public facilities cater to such individuals? Against the total attendance of 9.5million in public pools in 2011, the convenience for an individual athlete seems insignificant. However, when seen against Hong Kong's ambition to cultivate elite athletes and raise the standard of sports internationally, then the management of facilities must cater for them, too.

The new commissioner needs to consider how to introduce flexibility into the management of facilities so that they can cater to the maximum number and types of users, and pay special attention to different types of elite users in all sports, including the less popular ones. Success for a world-class city like Hong Kong should be judged by how well each type of user can be facilitated, not just by how many are served.

Hong Kong also has outstanding events such as the Oxfam Trailwalker, the Rugby Sevens and the Hong Kong Marathon. What makes them so successful locally and internationally, while soccer - Hong Kong's most popular sport - is mired in such difficulties, including corruption among some young players? The new commissioner should ask the question.

Christine Loh Kung-wai is chief executive of the think tank Civic Exchange.


Send to a friend

To forward this article using your default email client (e.g. Outlook), click here.

Winning play

Enter multiple addresses separated by commas(,)