Operation Santa Claus

Hong Kong police officers pull together for Operation Santa Claus in a day of fun and games

Tactical Unit’s Team Building Day offers the perfect combination of physical prowess and generosity

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 4:50pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 December, 2016, 9:48am

At the Police Tactical Unit headquarters, four teams of 10 burly officers compete to pull a 10-tonne armoured vehicle with a policeman on the roof for about 90 metres across the drill square.

Also known as the Unimog Pull, the event is a PTU tradition that dates back to the ‘70s, pitting two groups of new recruits against their trainers and officers from the Special Duties Unit.

The SDU team came out on top after its team members pulled the Unimog, the unit’s signature armoured car, from one side of the square to the other in the quickest time.

Besides being a showcase of physical prowess, the game is also a display of generosity. On its annual Team Building Day, the PTU raised more than HK$130,000 for this year’s Operation Santa Claus, the annual charity campaign organised by the South China Morning Post and RTHK.

About 500 officers took part in the Team Building Day, said Inspector of Police James Tang Chun-Ho. The unit raised funds by having its officers bid money to push their teammates to go the extra mile in each of the six games of the day.

He said this year was the first time the Unimog Pull featured a policeman sitting on the roof. “Whoever bid the most [would be able to] sit there and be pulled by others,” he said.

Another signature game of the day was the “Redman Rumble”, during which four officers, each representing a team, were dressed in protective suits and used foam batons to burst balloons taped to their opponents. “The catch is that the teams can buy more balloons to keep their players alive,” Tang said. “And all the money also goes towards our donation.”

He said the game, which started in the early 2000s, got its name because contestants used to wear red protective suits, although this year they were decked out in blue.

How Operation Santa Claus started

Wong Tak Cheong, the officer who won the game for the trainers’ team, said the event was very competitive this year. “The SDU officer was all business from the start,” he jokingly said. “My winning strategy was to wait for the opponents to strike first and then hit them as they recovered.”

He said he was delighted to see morale so high among officers and he enjoyed all the games of the day. “[In one game], we had to thread a needle after we did 40 curls with dumbbells, 10 squats, went through a set of shuttle run and spun 10 times.”

In addition to the games, the Team Building Day also featured auctions and a flea market, all adding to the pot for Operation Santa Claus.

The unit has supported the campaign every year since 1993, except for 2014 when most police officers were busy during the Occupy movement. The latest donation is the highest in recent years.