City should capitalise on recent sporting successes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 November, 2008, 12:00am

The success of the annual Rugby Sevens has made Hong Kong famous as a host for the sport. But yesterday's 15-a-side Bledisloe Cup match between Australia and New Zealand took our association with the sport to a new level. This was a ground-breaking occasion. It was the first time in the 76-year history of the cup that it has been played outside Australia or New Zealand.

The match, watched by a near sell-out crowd, also provided Hongkongers with a rare opportunity to watch a top-class mainstream sporting fixture. The hosting of the game should help boost the popularity of the sport in Asia while also bolstering our city's reputation as a venue for prime international sporting events. It was, therefore, a coup to bring the cup to the city. Those that made the fixture possible, including the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union, are to be commended for this bold step. Hopefully, more visits will follow.

Organising the cup here has not been without controversy. Many sportsmen don't like to be too far away from their fan base. But for the game of rugby to grow, it needs to attract new fans and sponsors. Clearly, Asia will be an important part of its commercial future. And, in the game's expansion, Hong Kong can play a pivotal role.

This is also true of other sports. The successful hosting of the Olympics equestrian events demonstrated what can be achieved. Although not a particularly popular sport here, the event was well-organised and local people took to it. Next year, our city hosts the East Asian Games. There is a need to capitalise on these opportunities and to build on the momentum created by events such as the Olympics and the Bledisloe Cup. Officials should strive to better understand Hong Kong's sporting needs and make more of a commitment to providing opportunities for people to participate and excel in sports - as well as bringing top events here.

The Bledisloe Cup has set a great precedent. The rugby union should strive to make sure yesterday's match will not be a one-off. The cup's magic - and that of other top sporting events - should be brought to Hong Kong more often.