Hong Kong's best-ever Asian Games medal haul prompts call for more sports funding
City’s chief executive sends congratulations to athletes in Jakarta following rainy closing ceremony to games that saw Hong Kong bag eight gold medals and China again top the standings, with 132 golds
Top officials from Hong Kong heaped praise on the city’s Asian Games athletes on Sunday after a best-ever haul of 46 medals – including eight golds – in the Indonesian host cities of Jakarta and Palembang.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor led the plaudits as the Hong Kong team joined 45 other countries and territories from the region in bidding farewell to what many consider the best Asian Games in history at a wet and overcast Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta.
“They lived up to our expectations,” Lam said. “The Hong Kong athletes had endured arduous training over the years and fought hard in the competitions, displaying indomitable sportsmanship. With or without medals, the grace shown by all our athletes made me and, I believe, all Hong Kong people extremely proud.”
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung also sent his congratulations to the team.
Pouring rain fell on the stadium for the closing ceremony but it failed to dampen the enthusiasm of a packed stadium as Jakarta handed over the Asian Games flag to Xu Liyi, mayor of the Chinese city of Hangzhou, which will host the 2022 Games.
The handover show featured an appearance by Hangzhou native Jack Ma Yun, co-founder of Alibaba, which owns the South China Morning Post.
Hong Kong surpassed its previous best total of 42, from the 2014 Incheon Games, and equalled its best gold haul of eight, achieved at the 2010 Guangzhou Games. They also won 18 silver and 20 bronze.
China again topped the medal standings, with 132 gold medals, 92 silver and 65 bronze. Japan was a distant second with 75 gold medals out of a total of 205.
Hong Kong finished 13th in the final rankings.
Track cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze won gold medals in the women’s keirin and sprint and silver in the women’s team sprint.
There was also gold for the men’s cycling madison team, the women’s squash team, men’s individual squash champion Leo Au Chun-ming, equestrianism rider Jacqueline Siu Wing-ying and men’s gymnast Shek Wai-hung.
The last gold medal was delivered by the men’s rugby sevens team, who finally got the better of old rival Japan in the final on Saturday.
“We sent more than 800 athletes and officials from 36 sports associations and we achieved our best-ever result,” Hong Kong’s Asian Games chef de mission Herman Hu Shao-ming said. “Our athletes performed to the best of their abilities to bring glory to Hong Kong and I’m sure the people of Hong Kong are proud of them all.”
Vivien Lau Chiang-chu, vice-president of the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee (SF&OC), said she hoped the success would lead to more government funding. “We need more money for development,” Lau said. “Ideally, rising sports should have a full-time coach and more funds should be allocated to feeder systems.”
In February, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po announced in his budget speech that Hong Kong sport would receive an additional HK$5 billion to be added to the Elite Athletes Development Fund, which now stands at about HK$12.5 billion. The Hong Kong Sports Institute, which trains the city’s elite athletes, had a budget for 2017-18 of HK$558 million but can only access investment returns from the fund for its programmes.
Lam added that the Hong Kong government would continue to support sport in the city.
“The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government will continue to support Hong Kong athletes and the development of sports in Hong Kong,” she said.
“I announced in my policy address last year that we would take forward the Kai Tak Sports Park project and encourage public sector schools to open up their school facilities to promote a sporting culture, and provide funding support for the development of sports for athletes with disabilities and ball games played by teams.
“The government will continue to listen to athletes, coaches and people in the sports sector and respond proactively, with a view to providing the strongest backing to athletes in their endeavours to bring honour home.”
Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, a former Hong Kong Olympian who is honorary secretary general of the SF&OC, said he was delighted with the medal haul but felt Hong Kong could have done better.
“I’m pretty excited because we have done better than the past two Asian Games,” he said. “We could have done better because we missed out on a number of chances to win more golds, but with China and Japan taking these Games seriously ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, I think Hong Kong athletes did very, very well.”