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Operation Santa Claus

Making a racket in fancy dress at Hong Kong charity squash event

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 December, 2016, 8:00pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 December, 2016, 10:35pm

Broker Andrew Sullivan swapped his usual suit and tie combination for an orc costume to play squash against surgeons, ballerinas and even Super Mario to raise money for a worthy cause.

The annual Wing Ding Squash Tournament encourages players to dress in comical outfits and sweat it out to help the underprivileged. The tournament’s slogan is “Going balls to the walls for Hong Kong’s most needy”.

Sullivan, a member of the Hong Kong Yacht Club, said he cherishes the tournament as an opportunity to have a good time while also raising money for ­worthy charity.

“Everyone is welcome, so ­people end up taking their families along for a day of good ­humoured competition,” he said.

“The key to the tournament’s success is that we’re raising money for charity by doing something that we enjoy anyway.”

The tournament has been held annually at the Hong Kong Football Club for almost two ­decades.

It raises money for ­Operation Santa Claus, the charity drive organised jointly by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

It was first staged to commemorate late employee Yuen Kam-Wing, who died young after being born severely disabled.

David Murray, the tournament’s chief organiser, said Wing never let his physical disabilities hold him back.

“The first Wing Ding was held in 1998 to remember Wing, who passed away earlier that year,”he said. “Wing was an employee at the Hong Kong Squash Centre. He was born severely handicapped and led a particularly difficult life.

“But he never let his disability stop him. He always had a sunshine smile on his face. [The tournament] started as a way of remembering a remarkable young man. He would be proud of the event that carries his name.”

This year’s event was held on November 19 from 7am to 11pm – 16 hours of non-stop racket ­action. Divided into 14 teams of 10 players, contestants hopped from court to court as they battled for victory.

Participants thoroughly relish the physical challenge of playing continuously for a whole day, the organisers said.

As former and even current national team players participate, winning a match feels like a great achievement, they added. And the higher a team’s score, the more they raise for the charity.

Many tournament contestants have been participating since its first edition 18 years ago, with many saying they would not miss it for the world.

Jon Barton, a long-time tournament participant, whose team dressed up as the Virgin Mary this year, said he was more than happy to dress outrageously to raise money for charity.

“The atmosphere is amazing,” he said. “The secret of the tournament is its silliness. We’re happy to make fools of ourselves.”

But Operation Santa remains in everyone’s mind. “It’s serious, but it’s also not,” Barton said.