Youth Olympians should inspire HK officials to bid for Asian Games
The Youth Olympics in Nanjing was not just about ushering in the next generation of athletes but also the next generation of officials who will carry the torch for Hong Kong in world sport. So it seemed as Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, scion of the Fok family, headed the 33-strong Hong Kong delegation of which 18 were athletes who returned home triumphant with seven medals in their clutches. Well done to the athletes, especially Siobhan Haughey, a star born to make an impact in the pool.
While our athletes returned with two gold medals, four silvers and a bronze to surpass the efforts at the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore four years ago (Hong Kong won two silver medals), the other star of the show was Fok, whose plea for Hong Kong to host more world events is timely.
Buoyed by the performances of Haughey, fencer Ryan Choi Chun-yin and company in Nanjing, Fok said he wished Hong Kong could host more major world competitions like the Fina Swimming World Cup next month.
"As Asia's World City we need to catch up and be more proactive in bidding for world sporting events, allowing more athletes to compete, which will help them grow," said Fok, the son of Hong Kong Sports Federation & Olympic Committee president Timothy Fok Tsun-ting.
While his dad is more reserved in public, the younger Fok does not seem to be afraid to come out and make bold statements which an optimist will interpret as a call for the government to get off its backside and bring a major multi-sport event to Hong Kong.
On the back of Fok's call, perhaps it's time for Hong Kong sport to look at another bid to host the Asian Games. We have made a couple of half-hearted attempts but we shouldn't give up on bringing the world's second-largest participatory event - next to the Olympics - to town.
The Olympic Council of Asia is yet to decide on the host of the 2019 Asian Games after Hanoi pulled out when the Vietnamese government took fright at the cost of building facilities and infrastructure. The OCA will now decide the new host city during next month's Asian Games in Incheon and it is widely believed Jakarta will be awarded the Games.
Hong Kong had originally wanted to bid for the 2019 Asian Games - the event will be moved back a year as the OCA wants its showpiece to take place one year before an Olympics - but our dear friends in the Legislative Council, haggling likes misers over a dropped dollar, threw cold water on the proposal. Fok's call can re-ignite the spark, and we should look at 2023 or 2027. By then even the long-delayed Hong Kong Sports Complex at Kai Tak will surely be up and running.
Our young athletes have proven they are ready to perform on the world stage. Haughey, 16, who won two silver medals - in the women's 100 metres freestyle and 200M individual medley (where she also lowered the Hong Kong mark) - and Choi, 16, who won a gold and a silver medal, led the way. Choi's gold came in the mixed continental team event where he and Albert Chien Kei-hsu teamed up with a Japanese and Korean to win the event. His silver was in the men's individual foil event where he came back from a hopeless position to defeat a French opponent. Hong Kong also won medals in badminton and table tennis, meaning four of the eight sports represented returning home successful.
Of the other four sports, equestrian, triathlon and windsurfing also had finishes from fourth to eighth positions which is encouraging considering this was an Olympics showcasing the cream of the next generation of world athletes. Inspired by these performances, it was no wonder that Fok said. "Our young athletes are now more competitive on the world stage."
While individual federations, like the swimming association which is behind the Fina Swimming World Cup, must look at bringing events solely for their own athletes, it is up to the Hong Kong Olympic Committee to seriously look at bringing an Asian Games to town which will cater for the entire sporting community.
It is the responsibility of the Olympic committee to make the decision. Once it has been made, then they will have to approach the government asking for its help. Let's start the ball rolling again. Our young guns have made us proud in Nanjing and showed the potential for success. We must now continue with this hard-earned momentum and put our hands up to host an Asian Games.