Regina Ip’s plan for Hong Kong to host 2021 China National Games – awarded to Shaanxi last year – sums up ignorance of sport
At least rival chief executive candidate Woo Kwok-hing doesn’t even pretend to know or care about sport
Recently in this space I wondered if the candidates for Hong Kong’s chief executive “election” might pay more than lip service to sport in their manifestos this time, given China’s determination to make sport a central part of the economy.
Well the first runners have declared and the signs are ... not good.
Retired judge Woo Kwok-hing is reckoned to have no chance of getting anywhere near the top seat, probably because he seems quite a decent fellow, but in the interests of balance, let’s look at his plans.
His manifesto is Chinese-only, and though it has several good ideas, sport, fitness, exercise, etc are not mentioned. At least he doesn’t pretend to know or care about the subject.
Which brings us on to the other candidate so far, the much-loved Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee.
She does have an English version of her plan to “Win Back Hong Kong” (from who?). It is riddled with typos and grammatical errors (obviously standards at Glasgow University’s English department were not as high when she did her Masters as when I did mine there), but still.
A skim of her ominously CCP-sounding “Three Relationships” and “Nine Major Areas” reveals Culture and Sport Development to be one of the nine, very promising.
“Hong Kong’s elite athletes have made impressive achievements in various international events in recent years,” she writes.
Can’t argue with that, good that they are being recognised. Continue please, Regina.
“With the development of the Internet, people are being increasingly passionate about sports activities.”
Wait, what now? Yes, apparently sport or at least passion for it was not much of a thing before the internet.
“Sports have also played an important role in pulling the society together amidst recent fragmenting and divisive social atmosphere,” she continues.
That is true in sense – Hong Kong’s football games for example certainly pulled fans together, uniting them in a cacophony of boos against the China national anthem. Probably not what she meant.
So, one paragraph in, we might be getting the feeling that Ip doesn’t have a clue, nor care, about sport, a feeling confirmed a few pars later, when she suggests that Hong Kong should bid to host the 2021 National Games of China.
There’s a couple of problems with that, the first that many Hong Kong sports fans’ opinion of China’s provincial multisports event would be somewhere on the spectrum from apathy to anthem-booing contempt.
The big problem though, is that the 2021 Games were already awarded to sole bidder Shaanxi in November 2015, which could make winning the right to host quite tricky.
Ip swiftly blamed a member of her campaign team, further deepening suspicions she probably had little input into the 350 words or so of sporting content in her masterplan.
It was still an embarrassing, easy-to-check blunder, swiftly pointed out by online publications such as Stand News. The paragraph has since been removed.
“We can change it to 2025, we can still fight for it,” Ip said on Friday on Commercial Radio. “The Kai Tak Sports Park is underway, we should have some mega events.”
She got some brownie points on the radio phone-in when she said she’d support Hong Kong athletes competing against mainland ones – current chief CY Leung was rightly mocked for dodging that question.
At least she’s heard of Kai Tak Sports Park, which is a plus. She says she will “ensure” it’s “completed on-time [sic]”, which would be nice.
Other key planks of her in-depth expert sporting platform are to establish a “Sports Development Council” with vague-yet-overarching responsibilities and to “invite commercial sectors to cooperate, assist local sports sector to move towards commercialised development”, which sounds potentially awful.
So, two down, several to go ... let’s hope the next candidates to come forward have something of more substance to offer the sporting community.
Yes the “election” is a sham to rubber-stamp Beijing’s approved pick, but whoever gets the nod will have some power to affect sport for better or worse in Hong Kong – one more reason to hope Ip is not Zhongnanhai’s top choice.