China's gold medallists from the London Olympics arrived in Hong Kong yesterday to a politically charged reception as the local media grilled them about national education and reports that hurdler Liu Xiang's injury was covered up.
With the visit being seen by some as propaganda in support of introducing the controversial national education subject to local schools in September, the atmosphere contrasted with the more relaxed media sessions of previous visits in 2004 and 2008.
Asked whether the medallists' achievements should be included in the new curriculum, 1,500 metre freestyle swimming world record-holder, Sun Yang, 20, said Hong Kong and China were one nation.
"I think if we can merge some of our ways and components of education into Hong Kong, it can advance both sides and the future will be better."Badminton hero "Super Dan" Lin Dan, said the attributes of sports stars "such as persistence and hard work towards achieving every goal" were worthy models for young people.
Arriving a day after it was disclosed that mainland television chiefs knew about Liu's serious injury before he arrived in London but were prevented from reporting it, delegation head Liu Peng would not be drawn on the issue.
He said the hurdler was an outstanding athlete and regretted his withdrawal, adding that the injured athlete had demonstrated the Olympic spirit.
The 70-strong delegation, including all 47 gold medal winners, were greeted at the airport by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, deputy director of the central government's liaison office Li Gang and Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing.
Lam said the visit gave Hongkongers a great opportunity to see the athletes' sporting skills.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying welcomed the athletes at a reception in the afternoon, following their meeting with the Hong Kong media.
The medallists will take part in demonstrations of their sports at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai and the Kowloon Park swimming pool in Tsim Sha Tsui today, with a celebratory extravanganza planned in the evening.