Olympics a timely reminder that we all need to exercise

Hong Kong may not rank highly on the world sporting stage but as we cheer on our athletes at the Rio Games, we should all remember that sports is for all

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 3:22am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 02 August, 2016, 3:22am

Twenty years ago, Hong Kong was basking in glory after winning its first Olympic gold medal. The history made by home-grown windsurfer Lee Lai-shan, affectionately known as San San, was no doubt the city’s greatest moment on the international sporting stage. But it also sadly remains the city’s only Olympic gold medal. As we send off our 38-member squad to Rio de Janeiro, we wish them the best and hope they achieve good results. Our medal hopes lie in cycling, badminton and table tennis.

Unlike the mainland, which has long taken centre stage along with sports giants like the United States and Russia, Hong Kong has yet to put itself on the world map of sports. Yet, the expenditure on elite sports training is substantial. For instance, the Hong Kong Sports Institute spends around HK$300 million a year on elite sports training. This is on top of the more than HK$260 million annually budgeted for various national sports bodies.

It would be wrong to say the money has not been well spent. Indeed, our athletes have attained good achievements overseas. This is reflected in the 268 gold, 228 silver and 249 bronze medals won in international and regional sports events last year. The successes were just not as high profile as the Olympics.

San San won gold in Atlanta at a time when the training budget was just a third of what it is today. As she rightly urged, the sports sector has to justify the handsome financial and technical support given to them. The responsibility is as much for the athletes as for those who coach them. Equally important is the development of a sports-for-all culture. Despite the establishment of a sports commission to better oversee the policy, the situation still leaves much to be desired. If a health department survey in 2014 is any reference, fewer than 40 per cent of Hongkongers are at the World Health Organisation’s recommended level of exercise. The city’s annual sports day will come as the Olympic Games begin this weekend. As we cheer for the Hong Kong team and other athletes in front of the TV screen, let’s all remember that we, too, should exercise.