The organiser of the city’s annual marathon plans to invite international sports legends of the calibre of soccer players Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney to cheer next year’s runners in its bid to promote the annual event as an international brand for Hong Kong. “We hope to be one of the best in Asia,” said Kwan Kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, the organiser of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, in an interview with the Post . READ MORE: Marathon official Kwan Kee wants public to be more tolerant “Just as Singapore’s marathon successfully invited Liverpool football legend John Barnes to be a special guest in 2013, we hope that we can make use of this superstar appeal next year to help forge a brand name for Hong Kong’s marathon,” he explained. Admitting he had some names in mind, Kwan, however, declined to say what superstars would be invited as guests for next year’s race. He expressed the hope that through various promotions and the use of more urban routes to reach out to the community, the race could prompt a city-wide sports culture promoting a healthy lifestyle and sustainable development and encouraging charity in the city. “I hope that the Hong Kong marathon can be an event that every Hongkonger is proud of and in which they feel they have a part to play. Unfortunately Hong Kong right now is riddled with conflict and controversy,” he said. READ MORE: Hong Kong Marathon: 61,000 runners, 10 hospitalised, one wedding proposal and Africans victorious in wet and rainy event Kwan spelt out his vision after celebrating the race’s successful conclusion last month, marking its 20th anniversary. Over 60,000 runners, representing 83 per cent of a record of nearly 74,000 registered racers, braved the cold and rain to compete in five race categories with the popular race extended to normally crowded Nathan Road in Mong Kok for the first time, enabling more bystanders to cheer the runners. The Hong Kong race, which attracted over 1,000 entries when it was launched in 1997, was recently ungraded to Gold Label Road Race Status – the highest level – by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), with the same status as races in London, Tokyo, Berlin and Boston. Kwan said he hoped to keep the urban route next year and also maybe extend it to other urban districts to reach out to more people. However, he said he was sad that the city’s sports culture was not as vibrant as in other international cities, saying many people were still reluctant to make concessions for the annual event. “Right now there is still too much noise and insufficient support for the race,” he said. “For example, we fought for a long time to make this new route happen because it required the closure of many roads nearby, which was a big challenge for us,” he added, saying the association needed to factor in public opinion and the impact on business, residents, traffic and public safety before they could reach a decision. READ MORE: Cold feet: 13,000 Hong Kong Marathon entrants fail to show up, but wet and windy weather can’t dampen spirits for the rest “If Hongkongers agree that we can give way to a city race, then we can have more options for new routes and fewer road closures to make the race more popular and representative,” he said. To further promote jogging in the city, Hongkongers’ favourite sport according to a government study a few years ago, Kwan hoped the government could lend more support, such as building a 10km running trail at the future Kai Tak Sports Complex and more trails in harbourfront areas for public enjoyment. “It is a fact that we don’t have enough space and running trails for jogging. We really hope that the government can formulate a holistic policy to promote jogging and provide more running routes for the public in its planning of the city’s sports scene,” he said. Travel Industry Council executive director Joseph Tung Yao-chung welcomed the idea of using more urban routes for the marathon, saying this would benefit tourism as foreigners could get a unique glimpse into the city’s urban districts due to extensive media coverage. “The use of more urban routes can attract more tourists. I understand that more roads need to be closed to facilitate them. I hope the public can show greater understanding and be more tolerant of the inconvenience,” he said.