Youth Olympics perfect for Hong Kong, says former federation official Pang Chung
He says the city should bid for a major games that is befitting of its global reputation
Three months after stepping down as one of the most influential officials for sport in Hong Kong, Pang Chung still harbours an Olympic vision for the city.
Pang shared Olympic glory with windsurfer Lee Lai-shan in Atlanta in 1996 and helped oversee a successful 2009 East Asian Games in Hong Kong, but he has one big regret - Hong Kong's failure to stage a truly major sports event.
With lawmakers seemingly against an Asian Games, Pang has a solution - "let's bid for the Youth Olympics".
He argues the infrastructure will be place for a 2023 Youth Olympics, the scale of the event suits the city and the East Asian Games showed Hong Kong can stage successful games.
"It was the first ever multisport games held in Hong Kong but so far it remains the only one," said Pang, the former secretary general of the Hong Kong Sports Federation & Olympic Committee (SF&OC) who is still an adviser to the body.
"We held a successful games in front of the home crowds and the good efforts should continue. Hong Kong is a world-leading city but there is a long way to go to live up to its reputation in terms of sports."
Two flirtations with the Asian Games have failed badly - losing to Doha (Qatar) for the 2006 Games and then having a bid for 2023 failing to even get off the ground when lawmakers voted it down in 2010.
Pang said the Asian Games, featuring 34 sports and more than 10,000 participants, may be a burden for a small city like Hong Kong, but the Youth Olympics are a perfect fit.
"The Youth Olympics features only 28 sports in a modified playing format and the number of participants is far less than the Asian Games," he said.
"There would be strong support from the community, schools and parents. It is an Olympic event and will boost the reputation of Hong Kong.
"It would also provide vast exposure for our young athletes who have already excelled at international level."
The IOC states all Youth Olympic events must be held within the same city and no new venues should be built. The 12-day Games feature more than 3,500 athletes aged between 14 and 18 and have been held in Singapore (2010) and Nanjing (2014). Buenos Aires is hosting in 2018, but the IOC will move the next edition to 2023 and out of the Summer Olympics cycle.
Hobart in Australia, New York, and Monterrey in Mexico have already expressed interest in the event.
"The Kai Tak project should be completed by that time and we don't have to worry too much about facilities," said Pang.
"Also we can borrow from the experience of the two previous hosts - Singapore and Nanjing - which are good working partners with Hong Kong in sport.
"If China wins the hosting rights for the 2022 Winter Olympics, we can also strengthen the impact of sport in the region by hosting the Youth Olympics the following year. There are many advantages and all the stakeholders in Hong Kong sport should seriously consider it," said Pang, who represented Hong Kong in the long jump at the 1962 Jakarta Asian Games and the 1966 Bangkok Games.
A University of Hong Kong graduate (1965 class), his first full-time job was as a teacher at Queen's College in Causeway Bay. In 1980, he joined the government's Urban Services Department. He retired in 1998 as the chief stadia manager of Queen Elizabeth Stadium and the Hong Kong Coliseum.
"I took over from Ramon Young as the SF&OC honorary secretary the same year I left the government," said the 77-year-old Pang.
"I have been involved in sport for most of my career and have learned a lot, from being an athlete to an administrator taking care of Hong Kong's participation in multisport games.
"Sport in Hong Kong has made tremendous progress from the day I first took part in the Asian Games more than half a century ago. It also owes a lot to former president A. de O. Sales."
One of the founders of the SF&OC in the early 1950s, Sales helped Hong Kong secure an independent identity after reunification with China in 1997.
Hong Kong has since produced two Olympic medallists through Ko Lai-chak and Li Ching in men's table tennis at the 2004 Athens Games and Sarah Lee Wai-sze in women's track cycling at the 2012 London Games.
"Sport can give people a strong sense of belonging and social cohesion. We can still remember the glorious moments when Hong Kong people welcomed these Olympic heroes or heroines home," said Pang.
Pang, however, is disappointed because he feels the SF&OC, which has four major areas under its umbrella - a secretariat office, Olympic House operations, an athlete retirement scheme and the operation of Hong Kong Anti Doping Committee - has never received a fair share of government funding.
"The training centre at the Fo Tan sports complex [Hong Kong Sports Institute] has accounted for over HK$400 million in funding a year but the SF&OC receives possibly one-twentieth of that amount," he said.
"Obviously there should be a revision of funding with a more balanced allocation. Sport is more than training. It has a role to play in education, in social solidarity, in helping youngsters to become a holistic person.
"We have a lot more work to do in these areas but we also need the required funding."