HK should capitalise on momentum from Olympics

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 August, 2012, 2:06am


Hong Kong basks in glory whenever our athletes return with a medal from major international games. Last year, they brought home 747 medals from various competitions. The bronze medal clinched by track cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze, the third Olympics medal won by the city, has put us more firmly on the world's sporting map.

But when the fanfare subsides, the same questions remain. How can we capitalise on this momentum and raise the profile of elite and community sports in the city?

The problem goes back to the need for a more holistic sports policy. Admittedly, the city has come a long way from when home-grown wind surfing queen Lee Lai-shan won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympic Games. Today, few people think our athletes are necessarily inferior to their international counterparts. The community on the whole is also more physically active than before. Increasingly, people have become more sports conscious, which is a welcome phenomenon in a stressful city like ours. Besides, we host more international sporting events than we used to. A few have even become our signature events.

While a healthy sporting culture has gradually taken root, facilities for elite and community sports remain woefully inadequate. Unlike countries with a strong competitive sport culture from a young age, our scouting of young talents here is still ad hoc. It would be a shame if promising ones were denied better training due to a lack of opportunities and facilities.

Professional athletes also face other problems, such as limited financial support and career prospects. Commercial sponsorships are available for high-profile athletes, but they don't compare favourably with what's available overseas.

A HK$7 billion development fund has been set aside for elite athletes. That does not stop Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying from renewing his campaign promise to increase resources on sports. Whether or not a bigger budget is needed shall be a matter for public debate. Given our healthy public finances and a good record in international competition, there is no reason why we cannot afford to do more.

In the pursuit of a wider and deeper sporting culture, our government and the private sector have a role to play. Now that our athletes have once again inspired the community with their endurance and excellence, it is time for other players to contribute more.