China’s Olympic stars are set for a charm offensive during tour of Hong Kong

The delegation will visit an old folks’ home, meet uniformed groups and talk to residents, on top of sold-out public events, says a source

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 3:01pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 August, 2016, 2:47am

China’s Olympic stars are set to launch a charm offensive in Hong Kong during their three-day trip starting today , including visiting a home for the elderly, meeting children from grassroots families and chatting with ­teenagers.

These will be in addition to sold-out public events to showcase the sporting skills that won them acclaim at the Rio Olympics.

The 64-strong delegation ­includes the 12 “golden girls” of the women’s volleyball squad and their head coach Lang Ping, diver Wu Minxia, swim star Sun Yang and badminton champ Chen Long.

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At least 5,700 tickets to the demonstrations and a variety show were all sold out earlier this week.

Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, Hong Kong’s chef de mission for the 2016 Games, revealed yesterday that fans would also be able see their idols up close and personal ­without paying a cent.

Fok said the women’s volleyball team might visit an elderly care home, and a source later confirmed it was scheduled for ­tomorrow morning.

The source also revealed tentative meeting plans with a group of children from grassroots families at a major shopping mall on the same day, and a sharing ­session between two gold medal-winning cyclists and primary school students in Yau Tong. A session with uniformed groups and a visit to the Hong Kong Sports Institute to meet ­local athletes are also on the agenda.

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The delegation did not specify any hotel room requirements, but one athlete had a special request – to prepare a longer bed, according to the source.

“You know some of the athletes are so tall that even 2-metre long beds are not enough for them,” the source said.

“When Liu Xiang stayed at the same hotel in 2004, they somehow extended the 2-metre bed for him so he could sleep comfortably,” the source added, referring to the retired Olympic star hurdler who is 1.9 metres tall.

Star swimmer Sun Yang, who is on the guest list this year, towers at a height of 1.98 metres, while the 12 players on the women’s volleyball squad range from 1.8 to 2 metres in height.

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Traditionally, Hong Kong has only hosted gold medallists after every Olympics, but this time popular swimmer Fu Yuanhui is also on the list. Fok said while Fu had only managed a bronze ­medal, she was asked to join ­because of popular demand.

He explained that the idea of inviting the athletes was to have them bring positive energy and share their stories and ­experiences. Fok also urged Hongkongers to spare the visitors any political unpleasantness.

The visit comes at a time of controversy over calls for ­independence and the rising tide of localism in the city. Organisers are anxious to ensure political and social tensions between Hong Kong and the mainland do not ruin the welcome for the national squad.

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All the major localist groups, including Hong Kong Indigenous, the Hong Kong National Party, Youngspiration and Demosisto, have said they have no plans to stage protests during the visit.

It is understood that police will not mount any major security ­operation, having decided that the risk of trouble during the visit is relatively low.

The government expects to spend about HK$7 million for the entire visit and related events, while accommodation and meals at a five-star hotel will be paid for by a prominent pro-Beijing figure, according to a source.

The sponsor was identified as Kennedy Wong Ying-ho, a lawyer who previously footed the bill for Olympic delegations in 2004 and 2008. Wong has been a delegate to China’s top political advisory body since 2003.

ITINERARY OF THE CHINESE ATHLETES IN HONG KONG AND MACAU

27 AUG (SAT)

12 noon: Welcoming ceremony at the airport

Lunch: Intercontinental Hotel, Tsim Sha Tsui 3pm–4pm: Press conference at Intercontinental Hotel

Evening: Government cocktail reception and dinner party at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

28 AUG (SUN)

9.30am–11.30am: Badminton and table tennis demonstration at Queen Elizabeth Stadium

9.30am–10.10am: The volleyball team will visit an elderly home

10.30am–11.30: The volleyball team will visit a group of children from grass-roots families at a shopping mall

9.30am–11am: Exchange session with youth groups at Ma On Shan Sports Centre

9.30am–11.30am: Two cycling gold medallists will meet with a group of primary school students and other citizens

10am–11.30am: Diving demonstration at Victoria Park Swimming Pool

4.30pm–6pm: Variety show “A Date with the Mainland Olympic Gold Medallists” will be held at Queen Elizabeth Stadium

Dinner: Dinner with the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee

29 AUG (MON)

9.30am–11am: Visit the Hong Kong Sports Institute to share their experience with Hong Kong junior athletes

9.30am–11am: Taekwondo athletes to visit secondary school

9.30am–11am: Table tennis athletes to perform at Tai Po Sports Centre

9.30am–11am: Volleyball Team to perform a demonstration at a playground in Sha Tin

9.30am–11am: Athletes from Chaozhou to meet with members of Hong Kong Chiu Chow Chamber of Commerce at a school

Lunch with Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong SAR

3pm: Farewell and Depart for Macau from Ferry Terminal

Evening: Macau Chief Executive Chui Sai On will meet with the athletes, prior to a government welcoming banquet

30 AUG (TUE)

Morning: Share experience with young locals

Evening: Attend a variety show at the Macao East Asia Games Dome

31 AUG (WED) Visit a local community Take part in experience sharing session with young Macao athletes and local students at Tap Seac Multisport Pavilion.

1 SEP (THUR)

Morning: Leave Macau, bound for Beijing.