China’s Olympic champions send Hong Kong crowds, including a fair few mainland Chinese, into a frenzy
Some fans queued overnight to get the best seats and the best views of their idols in Queen Elizabeth Stadium
The nation’s Olympic champions spread out across Hong Kong on Sunday, greeting ordinary people and sending fans into a frenzy by demonstrating their medal-winning skills at a jam-packed variety show.
Over 3,000 fans filled Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai for the 1.5-hour variety show on Sunday.
Watch : Chinese Olympic medallists take Hong Kong by storm
Holding lit-up party clappers, fans screamed out the athletes’ names as they took turns performing their world-class skills. The show was televised by TVB.
Queued for hours
All 45 athletes in the 64-strong delegation took part in the fun and games. Zhang Mengxue, who clinched China’s first Games gold in shooting, dazzled fans as she took aim at balloons with an air gun while balancing on a vibrating exercise machine. Five weightlifting champions battled it out in a tug-of-war with 50 children.
Legendary badminton star Lin Dan also had fans guessing again about his retirement plans. “I know [Lee Chong Wei] will continue to play, and so I believe I will also continue,” he said.
The show, dubbed “a date” with the national medallists, had hundreds queueing up hours before the event started.
Xie Peixin, 22, from Beijing and her friend, Xie Yuanye, a 16-year-old student from Shanghai, arrived at the stadium at around 11pm on Saturday night to grab a good seat for the show, which would start 17 hours later. Seats were allocated on a first come first served basis.
‘Passionate and handsome’
Peixin said her friends in Hong Kong queued up for five hours to help her and Yuanye get tickets for the show. The two said they most wanted to see Zhang Jike, the national table tennis gold medallist.
“My voice has become hoarse from all the shouting [of Zhang’s name],” said Peixin. “He’s very passionate and handsome. I also like his hardworking [ethic].”
Sibyl Liao from Shenzhen started queuing up outside the venue at 5am on Sunday. The 25-year-old said she spent HK$900 buying two tickets for the show, over 22 times the original HK$20 ticket price.
The main variety performance for past Olympic visits was held at the 40,000-seater Hong Kong Stadium.
‘Deserve our respect’
Officials maintained the arrangement had nothing to do with security concerns amid anti-mainland sentiment, nor did it signal that the visit was being scaled back. They said a smaller venue could allow the audience “closer interaction” with the athletes and would allow the show to go on if there was bad weather.
A substantial number of people at the event were Putonghua speakers, but many Hongkongers were also there.
Helen Lee Man-ki, 15, said she started queuing up outside the stadium at 9.30am on Sunday. “There may be people who don’t like the national team, but I quite like them,” she said. “I think they deserve our respect because they did their best.”
The athletes, who also toured a home for the elderly and chatted with teenagers, head to Macau on Monday.
Additional reporting by Ng Kang-chung