Crowd warmed to equestrian events as tournament progressed, says chief executive

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 August, 2008, 12:00am

Hongkongers may have been slow to warm to equestrianism, but ended up embracing the Olympic events, says Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

Mr Tsang said he was very nervous on the first day over the apparent lack of interest, but detected mounting enthusiasm as the events wore on.

Writing on his blog after the 12 days of events closed on Thursday, he confessed that on the opening day, August 9, 'the nervousness and stress I felt ... were beyond words'.

'Despite our full preparation, some members of the audience dozed off and others left the venue ... as reported in the media in a negative way. I immediately asked myself: are we doing not well enough?'

Some members of the audience complained about being bored during the dressage event and about the early start time - many spectators had arrived at around 4am to get through the intense security.

Though he did not answer his own question directly, Mr Tsang defended the events. He said he was impressed by the exciting atmosphere and the overwhelmingly positive remarks from the audience when he watched the cross-country competition in Beas River on the third day.

'Afterwards, I visited workers in Sha Tin and cheered them on. Staffers and volunteers at different positions were all devoted to their work.'

The chief executive singled out the police force and medical team for their good performance.

'The competing teams and tourists from different places all put their thumbs up when commenting on the equestrian events.'

On Thursday night, he went to watch the finale with his wife, Selina Tsang Pou Siu-mei. Mr Tsang said he was deeply touched when he saw the winner in front of the emotional audience.

'The equestrian sport is absolutely a new thing to many ... including myself. It is understandable that the audience did not feel involved at the beginning as we did not know about the rules, and there was no fierce competition like basketball, table tennis, and track and field events,' he wrote. 'I believe citizens were just slow to warm up.'