Dead-goat polo for Hong Kong: how we get sport on board the One Belt, One Road bandwagon

CY Leung’s annual policy address predictably had little to offer the city’s sport-lovers

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 January, 2016, 9:15am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 January, 2016, 12:42pm

Last week, we were looking forward with bated breath to CY Leung’s policy address, that annual highlight of the Hong Kong calendar. I asked what sports lovers in Hong Kong could expect from CY, predicting ‘not a lot’. Now that Wednesday’s excitement has finally worn off, a more calm and measured look at the address reveals that to have been accurate.

Okay, as predictions go, that was about as difficult as forecasting that the sun will come up tomorrow. There was a total of 115 words devoted to sport, from a total of 19,294, a little below the average percentage. Us sports nerds love a stat.

For those who lapsed into catatonia before the one hour 57 minutes mark of the two-hour-plus address, here are those 115 in full (hey, this space isn’t going to fill itself):

“I have decided to implement the proposal in my Manifesto and appoint the Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs responsible for sports policies as the Commissioner for Sports to co-ordinate cross-bureau or cross-departmental sports initiatives.

“Commenced in last [sic] August, the detailed preparatory works for the Multi-purpose Sports Complex at Kai Tak are expected to be completed next year.

“The Government will formulate a career programme for retired athletes, under which schools and national sports associations will be subsidised and encouraged to employ retired athletes. This will help the athletes build a solid foundation for their career plans and future development, and assist schools and national sports associations in promoting sport and nurture sporting talent.”

There you go. That’s yer lot.

Sport was mentioned 10 times, according to a whizz-bang SCMP infographic. That was the same total as other concerns you might think would be of utmost priority to Hong Kong citizens – ‘air’, ‘family’, ‘life’, ‘security’, ‘strategy’, ‘welfare’ – but apparently are not that important to the government.

Clearly if sport is to register, it needs a tie-in to the One Belt, One Road masterplan that is going to enable China to dominate the world in a fashion not seen since Marco Polo stole the concept of ravioli.

Some might argue that buzkashi will be difficult to play in Hong Kong, requiring as it does huge flat open fields for hundreds of horsemen to drive a goat carcass toward goal.

To that end, I’m calling for interested parties to join me in establishing the Hong Kong Buzkashi Association.

Exciting Belt-related opportunities are in store as we bring the national sport of various central Asian groups – Kyrgyz, Pashtuns, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Uyghurs, Hazaras, Tajiks, and Turkmens (thanks Wikipedia) – to these shores for the first time.

Already popular in China’s Xinjiang, where they have not only horseback buzkashi but yak-back, the sport is perfectly primed to capitalise on Hong Kong’s vital role as a Belt “super-connector”.

As CY says, “Hong Kong has strong complementarity [sic] with the Belt and Road countries, and great potential to create synergy with them,” and buzkashi is perfect to “uniquely demonstrate the characteristics of ‘two systems’ in our many cities”.

Some might argue that buzkashi will be difficult to play in Hong Kong, requiring as it does huge flat open fields for hundreds of horsemen to drive a goat carcass toward goal.

And yes, there may be resistance from lily-livered animal rights campaigners regarding the aforementioned dead goat or calf that is intrinsic to the game. But the HKBA shall press on.

Meanwhile, CY’s three paragraphs of actual sports-related content can probably be dismissed in one sentence. Since this space remains unfilled, let’s examine them in more detail.

Giving retired athletes an employment boost seems a reasonable enough idea. In theory it will be good to have more former athletes involved in coaching, but it would be nice if they were doing it out of passion for their game.

Kai Tak ... a standard paragraph to remind us that it might possibly be built some time before 2046.

A sports commissioner would seem long overdue. Surely most first-world governments have a person whose brief is sport. It was greeted with guarded optimism from those in the sports community, but off the record some are disappointed that a high-profile former athlete was not appointed – Yeung Tak-keung may be a capable politician, but appears to have little sporting experience and will need to explain his vision.

Some feel it is little more than a title change – an easy way for CY to fulfil one of the terms of his manifesto in the last year of his term. Former deputy secretary of home affairs Yeung’s responsibilities appear to be exactly the same and he will still report to the secretary for home affairs.

But let’s be optimistic, and hope Yeung has the passion and vision required. We at the Hong Kong Buzkashi Association welcome his appointment with open arms.