International Olympic Committee

Alvin Sallay

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 July, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 July, 2008, 12:00am

Everything will be forgiven if Timothy Fok Tsun-ting manages to land Hong Kong the IOC Congress in 2011.

Sports supremo Fok found himself in a rather embarrassing position this week when it was revealed that in the past year he had raised only one question in the Legislative Council.

Certain disgruntled elements in our close-knit community snidely remarked that Fok had raised his hand to ask permission to leave the chamber to address a call of nature.

Jokes aside, a large section believe sport would be better served if Fok was more vocal. They don't want a Cicero, but someone who would help make a case for sport inside Legco. But less talk, more action seems to be his way. We hope this credo will serve Fok well in Beijing next month when he will make a pitch before international sports chiefs for the 117th IOC Congress to be held in Hong Kong.

'We have a good chance and I'm confident,' says Fok. 'Hong Kong has a lot going for it. It is a beautiful city which is very safe and compact. And now we are making a contribution to the Olympic movement.'

When it matters, it seems he can succinctly sum up quite a persuasive argument. But then why the dismal record at Legco? Why only one question in the past 12 months? And that, too, not on sports. On February 20, six days after he turned 62, Fok rose from his seat to ask the Secretary for Home Affairs, Tsang Tak-sing, what the government had done to promote arts education in schools and the community.

Fok, who represents the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector, also has another dubious mark against his name, grabbing the bottom spot in the attendance record. His turnout rate of 79 per cent was the lowest among the 60 lawmakers.

We can hardly find fault with him on that. Watching paint dry could be more fun than most Legco sessions.

But it wasn't boredom which kept him away. Defending his poor presence, Fok said he could not attend many of the meetings because he was often out of town for international sports conferences.

This is true. Hello, we have an Olympics right on our doorstep. And preparing for the big day in Sha Tin would have meant totting up quite a lot of air miles. But the Olympic equestrian event is not the only reason for Fok failing to saddle up in Legco. On Wednesday, Fok celebrated his seventh year as an IOC member. He was elected as an IOC member at the 112th IOC Session in Moscow on July 16, 2001.

It was an especially auspicious day for him, for at that same occasion China won the bid for the Beijing Olympics.

'It was a great privilege to be there. It was a very emotional moment,' said Fok the other day. Of course, he was referring to Beijing winning the bid, not him turning 62.

Age is on his side. He has one more year to finish his eight-year term as an IOC member, one of the 111 (including IOC president Jacques Rogge) people - mostly heads of National Olympic Committees and International Federations, plus a handful of retired athletes.

Fok can seek re-election. He has already said he would be seeking re-election to Legco in September.

One is linked to the other. If he can pull off the IOC Congress bid, it is almost a done deal he will win back his functional constituency seat. Hong Kong has one opponent - Durban. The South African city has made a bold move to host the 2011 IOC Session, which among other things will vote on which city will win the right to stage the 2018 Winter Olympics.

But Fok remains confident. The game plan includes convincing the IOC what a safe environment Hong Kong has in comparison to the dangers in Durban.

And I can vouch for this personally. Way back, in my salad days, I accompanied the Hong Kong rugby team on a tour of South Africa and Namibia. The first stop was Durban. We all booked into a beachfront hotel where the staff was quick to advise guests to leave their belongings in the hotel safe downstairs rather than in the rooms.

A number of the players took the counsel to heart and kept their valuables in the hotel safe.

That night, a group of AK-47 wielding gunmen brazenly walked into the hotel, held the staff at gun-point and cleared the safe.

I have not been back to taste the Durban delights since and can't say whether things have got worse, but Fok's argument that Hong Kong is safe cannot be faulted.

Now all he has to do is to make a vocal case for it.

Since succeeding A de O Sales as president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee in March 1998, Fok's supporters say he has delivered on a number of occasions. They say he was instrumental in Hong Kong's first participation at the Winter Olympics - he took three young female athletes, all short-track skaters, to the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Then a couple of years ago, Fok led the bid which won Hong Kong the hosting rights for the East Asian Games, which will be held next year. This is the first time a multi-sports games will be held in Hong Kong. Of course, tiny Macau beat us to it, holding it in 2005. And now the IOC Congress. Never mind that Singapore hosted it in 2005.

On August 7, on the eve of the Beijing Olympics, Hong Kong will know if they have won the bid. If they do, it will be a major victory for Fok.

He can then boast to his detractors that silence is golden.