It wasn't riveting stuff by any stretch of the imagination, but like a few sorry souls, we were also glued to the television watching the Olympic torch meander through Hong Kong on Friday. One man who didn't watch the local politicos and businessmen enjoy their Kodak moment was A de O Sales, the former president of the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee. 'I was having a nap on my easy chair next to the telephone when you called me,' said the 88-year-old Sales. 'No, I wasn't watching the torch relay.' But we wanted to know what the grand old man of Hong Kong sport thought about the torch relay, because, 44 years ago, Sales was the man chiefly responsible for organising the relay when the flame arrived for the very first time in the run-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. A diplomat to the core, Sales didn't want to comment on the handling of the torch relay, other than imply that he handled the '64 run differently. To get a handle on it, let's lay down the bare facts, unearthed by digging into the archives of this newspaper. On September 4, 1964, the Olympic flame arrived at a wet Kai Tak Airport, where it was welcomed by Governor Sir David Trench. Seven Hong Kong athletes then relayed the torch to City Hall. The first runner was F.X. Monteiro and the last was John Cheung Kin-man, a swimmer who had represented Hong Kong at the 1952 Helsinki Games. The torch was kept overnight at City Hall. The closest any local politician or businessman got to the torch was at this point, during an all-night vigil. The following day, despite Typhoon Ruby having scored a direct hit on Hong Kong, the flame was relayed back to the airport, by another eight athletes. Please note - all the 15 torch-bearers were athletes. And they ran a healthy distance instead of the mincing 200 metres which each of the 120 torchbearers did on Friday. There were no politicians. There were no big businessmen. There were no flame attendants. The only escort was provided by cyclists from the Hong Kong Cycling Association. It was pure, simple and an unadulterated torch relay. 'We decided we should only have athletes because they are the ones who deserve the honour of carrying the torch. Every one of the torch-bearers belonged to the sporting community,' Sales recounted. Sadly, that was not the case this time. Of the 120, fewer than half - just 55 - were past or present athletes. There were 21 businessmen and 13 politicians - more than a quarter of the field. There were eight artists, too. Others were nominated by sponsors and by the Beijing Games organisers. When asked why non-sports figures were involved, Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, the president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee and Sales' successor, had this to say: 'This is not a celebration only for the sports sector, but for the whole community.' We can't find fault with that reasoning. But then why wasn't the whole community represented. Where was the domestic helper representing that most vital part of our community? Doesn't Hong Kong run smoothly because its movers and shakers don't have to worry about minding their kids at home? Why did the posse of district councillors run? Why didn't they pick a deserving member of the public from each of the districts to represent them? If politicians were involved, why wasn't there parity and members from the democratic camp included? Isn't Hong Kong a free society? Hong Kong should have taken its cue from places like Australia or the United States. More than one-third of the 80 Australian torch-bearers were past or present athletes. Others included respected members of the community such as cancer researcher Professor Ian Frazer, burns specialist Dr Fiona Wood and 2008 Australian of the Year Lee Kernaghan. The United States Olympic Committee picked 48 of their 80 runners from a torch-bearer's essay where each entrant had to say in a few words what the Olympic torch meant to them. Chris Chui, a 16-year-old, wrote in, saying: 'No one thought I could walk as a normal kid when I was three years old, because I was physically disabled with infantile paralysis [poliomyelitis]. However, against all the odds and challenges, I started running in my neighbourhood streets and eventually became captain of the track and field team in my high school. Chui added: 'More than a century ago, my great grandfather brought with him a jar of soil from his native village in China to San Francisco, and asked us to pass it on generation to generation. 'The jar of soil is the symbol of his love for his homeland, China. I would consider it a great honour to be considered a bearer to pass the torch, onwards to my ancestors' homeland.' He was a shoo-in as a torch-bearer. Compare his inspirational words to those from Canto-pop starlet Kelly Chen Wai-lam, whose biggest worry was whether she would look good in the white singlet and shorts. 'I was told that I would have to tuck the top into the trousers, which I never do. I am a bit concerned I won't look very good in it,' said a worried Kelly before the torch-run. Never mind the torch, and all the supposed ideals it symbolises, what mattered was to look good. That, sadly, seemed to be the essence behind the thinking of our local runners. For most of them, it was a chance to grab their moment of glory. We could feel Sales smiling on the telephone. He said: 'The sun shines for everybody.' We are certain he was referring to those who wanted to bask in the glow of the athletes.