‘Look beyond just medals’: Hong Kong Olympic chief Kenneth Fok defends athletes’ performance at Rio Games
Chef de mission says you can’t put a dollar value on the intangible benefits, including unity and positive attitude
Chef de mission Kenneth Fok Kai-kong urged Hong Kong people to avoid looking at Olympic medals as the be all and end all of sporting achievement, saying it is impossible to put a value on the intangible benefits of our athletes at international events.
Addressing those who have criticised Hong Kong’s failure to win a medal at the Rio Games, Fok said he was “satisfied” with their performances, even though best hope Sarah Lee Wai-sze was unable to at least repeat her track cycling bronze medal from London 2012.
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“I’m personally very satisfied,” said Fok. “Obviously, we came with high hopes and we know that Sarah had the ability because on the international stage – she has won world championships, so I’ll be lying to say we are not disappointed.
“I still feel a splinter [in my heart] because she fell [in the keirin race] but that’s competition and overall I hope we can see beyond the medals.
“Of course, medals are important no doubt, but I hope Hong Kong people and sports fans can see beyond that.
“A lot of these athletes achieved their personal bests – [fencer] Vivian Kong [Man-wai] went into the top 16 [she finished 11th], which no Hong Kong athlete has done before.
“The swimmers did well with PBs and winning heats. There are plenty of examples like this.”
Hong Kong fielded 38 athletes at the 2016 Olympics. Lee was a main hope for a medal and came into the Olympics in prime form. She appeared dominant in the women’s keirin but while leading in the semi-finals she was nudged by Australian rival Anna Meares and crashed out.
Hobbled by painful scrapes on her knee and shoulder, Lee soldiered on but was unable to go past the quarter-finals of the sprint event, losing 2-0 to Germany’s eventual gold medallist Kristina Vogel.
Also entering the Games with medal hopes were the men’s and women’s table tennis players, in the team events, and the mixed doubles badminton pair of Reginald Lee Chun-hei and Cathy Chau Hoi-wah.
The table tennis teams were knocked out in the quarter-finals, while Lee and Chau failed to emerge from their preliminary pool.
Fok, though, maintained that these athletes are world class, performed to the best of their abilities and praised their results in events outside of the Olympics.
“I’ve always wanted to say this and it is very important,” he said. “Look at Sarah. She won the world championship and actually the world championships have the same people, the same competitors and she beat them but everyone only has eyes on the Olympics.
“Let’s not look at the Olympics as all or nothing and also pay attention and support to events such as the world championships.
“We must educate the public about what is the world championship, what is the Asian Games and Asian championships, let them be more involved.”
He said Hong Kong sports fans had been generally supportive of the athletes and the city as a whole benefits from the positive energy.
“The media is actually very positive,” said Fok. “Sarah fell and didn’t get any medals but so far there is nothing negative about her.
“She didn’t bring a medal back to Hong Kong but she did bring back positive energy and highlighted the unity of Hong Kong people.
“Moving forward, I understand resources are tight but sports achievement, and sports legacy, it takes years. You can’t just inject capital now and next year we get a medal.
“Sometimes it takes eight to 12 years. Look at Great Britain after the London Games. There will always be critics and debates but when we organise these events it’s not dollar-for-dollar, it’s not cost-benefit analysis where we say we spend this much and this should be the result.
“What about the intangible results, the feeling, the unity and the positive attitude. You can’t put a dollar value on that.
“You can do that through sports and culture and these are the types of soft skills we need. It’s not a business plan or a business proposal.”