Parents, government must share the blame for heartbreak in Rio

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Friday, 26 August, 2016, 11:35pm

Last Saturday, cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze returned to Hong Kong from Rio de Janeiro and was welcomed at Hung Hom Station by supporters (“Will I get married? Maybe, Lee says”, August 20).

However, unlike four years ago in London, she didn’t win any medals at the Rio Olympics. In fact, neither did any of the 37 other athletes in the Hong Kong squad.

Since its Olympics debut at Helsinki in 1952, Hong Kong has only got three medals from 15 Games: a gold in windsurfing at Atlanta 1996, a silver for the table tennis men’s doubles at Athens 2004, and a bronze in cycling, won by Lee, at London 2012.

About seven million people live in Hong Kong. It is quite amazing that the city has produced such poor results in the Olympics over the years.

In comparison, a country like Sweden with nine million people – two million more than Hong Kong – took 11 medals in Rio (two gold, six silver and three bronze).

Or better still, look at Hungary – also with a population of some nine million – which took eight gold, three silver and four bronze medals.

So what is the reason that Hong Kong cannot produce any top sports stars? I think a major reason is that parents of young talented children don’t want them to engage in sports that are not likely to mean anything for the likelihood of their getting into top universities.

If they, for example, have a talented daughter who is doing well in the 100 metre hurdles, they probably won’t encourage her. Instead, they will enrol her in lots of extra tutorial classes in piano, violin, maths and Putonghua.

Hong Kong’s government must also accept its share of the responsibility for the poor performance of the city’s athletes at most Olympic Games. In most other developed countries, there are lots of sports grounds everywhere that kids can go to after school. Here in the city, there are just a few.

The Swedish medallists are flying home and they will arrive to lively celebrations in the capital Stockholm, with hundreds of thousands of fans congratulating them for their efforts.

Think of the great excitement such a welcome could create – compared with a few diehard fans of Sarah Lee greeting her at the station. This could create a sense of belonging and, at least for a moment, unify a city that is now so divided by opinions.

Jan Hokerberg, Tuen Mun