Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui will visit Hong Kong as part of mainland medallists’ tour

The bronze medal winner will join a 64-strong delegation, including the 12 ‘golden girls’ from the volleyball squad, for the Hong Kong visit

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 10:56am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 August, 2016, 11:26pm

Sports fans in Hong Kong will be in a for big treat this weekend, as some of China’s top sports stars will be among the Olympic medallists visiting the city, along with popular swimmer Fu Yuanhui.

The 64-strong delegation confirmed on Tuesday includes the 12 “golden girls” of the women’s volleyball squad and their celebrated head coach, Lang Ping.

Diving star Wu Minxia, winner of four consecutive Olympic golds will be there, as will swim star Sun Yang and badminton champ Chen Long. Fans will also get a chance to show their appreciation for Lin Dan, regardless of the badminton star’s unsuccessful defence of his Olympic title in Brazil.

Fu’s trip to Hong Kong was confirmed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying earlier on Tuesday. She only managed a bronze medal, but she made a quantum leap from relative obscurity to global fame at the Rio Games, becoming the darling of the crowds and fans back home with her charming, disarmingly frank “funny girl” image.

Organisers made the exception after the swimmer won hearts and minds with a theatrical post-race interview, which has been viewed on television and shared online by millions.

Following her 100-metre backstroke final on August 8, the 20-year-old athlete learned that she came third in the race only after speaking to a reporter.

“Beside the gold medallists, we were given support by the [central government] to invite Fu Yuanhui to meet Hongkongers and participate in various events,” Leung announced before his weekly cabinet meeting.

The chief executive said he would personally attend a ceremony to recognise the efforts of the Hong Kong Olympic delegation on Friday, and that the government would review its sports policies to boost public participation, support elite athletes and enhance the status of sports events.

“We have seen from overseas that cooperation between the government and schools is very important in sports development,” he said. “The United Kingdom’s success at the Rio Olympics can be traced back to the British government’s efforts to develop sports at campuses more than 10 years ago. This is something worth referencing for the SAR government.”

The mainland Olympic delegation will spend three days in Hong Kong, starting on Saturday. The athletes will stage table tennis and diving demonstrations at Queen Elizabeth Stadium and Victoria Park, as well as a variety show on Sunday.

They will also have a meet-and-greet session with youngsters in Ma On Shan and visit the Hong Kong Sports Institute to meet local athletes.

There have been concerns that possible protests by localists could embarrass the national sports stars and the local government.

But Home Affairs Secretary Lau Kong-wah brushed aside suggestions that support for the national athletes was not as keen as before, saying he expected the delegation to whip up “fervour” this weekend.

The trip, coming about a week before the Legislative Council elections, is seen in some quarters as Beijing’s charm offensive to ease tensions and boost support for pro-government candidates.

The 5,700 tickets for the various events on offer to the public sold out within hours on Monday. The HK$20 tickets were later scalped online for more than HK$900, although most listings were taken down by Tuesday.