There is no room for local politics on world sporting stage

The mainland’s Olympic champions will pay a visit to Hong Kong later this month and they should be given the heroes’ welcome that they deserve

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 1:12am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 1:12am

Olympic athletes compete not just for their themselves, but also for their countries. They therefore deserve a triumphant welcome when returning home. In Hong Kong, our unique status gives us the best of both worlds. Not only do we cheer for our own team, we also share in the pride of the winners from the mainland. So when the national team champions pay a visit to the city later this month, they deserve the same respect and support we extend to our own athletes.

The tradition for Chinese Olympic gold medallists to visit Hong Kong and Macau began in 2000. They are expected to give sports demonstrations and attend other events during the three-day visit. While it is an occasion for locals to meet their favourite athletes, it is also seen by some as a way to foster social harmony and to instil national pride and patriotism. The public response has always been so enthusiastic that some political observers claim that the visit might even affect how people vote in the Legislative Council elections, which usually come shortly after the Summer Games every four years.

Leave politics out of sports and make China’s Olympic stars feel at home during Hong Kong visit

But our changing social and political atmosphere has sparked concerns about whether the delegates will be warmly received this time. Our relations with the mainland have become further strained following the rise of localism and pro-independence forces in recent years. The live broadcast of a badminton match between the Hong Kong and national teams in Mong Kok last Friday, arranged by localists, is an example. Similarly, the display of hostility towards individual mainland athletes in social media speaks volumes for the changing sentiments in the city The nation’s failure to win a gold medal on the first day of Olympic competition was even greeted with joy by some locals.

That the tension between Hong Kong and the mainland has spilled into the sports arena is regrettable. The Olympic spirit is all about respect, equality and solidarity. Competitors are expected to demonstrate as much athletic excellence as sportsmanship. Likewise, spectators are expected to show admiration and support in return. Politics should be put aside.