Hong Kong Athletics Championships
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Hurdler Vera Lui is aiming to secure a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: Reuters

Hong Kong athletics chief not giving up on staging 2020 championships despite pandemic fears

  • Officials will ask World Athletics for permission to hold the meet early next year, but government will have final say
  • The annual showpiece provides important ranking points for athletes trying to book their tickets for next year’s Tokyo Olympics

Organisers of the 2020 Hong Kong Athletics Championships are not giving up hope of staging the annual showpiece early next year, even though the odds are heavily stacked against them with the pandemic still gripping the city.

The Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates remains hopeful they will be given permission from the government to stage the event and provide a chance for athletes to gain more ranking points as they chase their tickets for next summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

HKAAA chairman Kwan Kee said the chance of staging the event in the current situation was unlikely given the seriousness of the fourth wave of the pandemic, but he said he would seek endorsement from the world governing body to stage it in early 2021.

“This is a very important event for our athletes, especially with Olympic qualification resuming,” said Kwan. “If we can’t run it, it means our athletes will have one less qualification opportunity [to qualify].

HKAAA chairman Kwan Kee. Photo: Chan Kin-wa

“We will take it [the case] to World Athletics to see if they will give us permission for postponing the event to early 2021 given the circumstances surrounding the pandemic. Of course, we still need support from the government to provide us the venue and allow us to go ahead.”

HK Athletics Championships postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions

The Hong Kong championships are considered a World Athletics category B event, offering an additional 100 ranking points to event winners. Local athletes such as Vera Lui Lai-yiu, Chan Ming-tai and Yue Ya-xin, who are trying to qualify for the Tokyo Games, would have their rankings boosted if they took part.

Organisers said if they were given the green light to stage the 2020 event – even if it is delayed by a few more months – they could also hold the 2021 event in May as scheduled, meaning Hong Kong athletes would have two opportunities to obtain bonus points in a home event.

Long jumper Chan Ming-tai wants to represent Hong Kong again at the Olympics after his debut in the 2016 Rio Games. Photo: Jonathan Wong

Taiwan, one of Hong Kong’s major competitors in many track and field events, completed their 2020 athletics championships in early December, with two of their women’s hurdlers now ranked ahead of Hong Kong’s Lui.

The pandemic has cost the HKAAA dearly with two events postponed in December, namely the Hong Kong Athletics Series 1 on December 5-6 and the Hong Kong championships on December 19-20 after the government stepped up restrictions.

Athletics officials ask government to allow major event to go ahead

Kwan said they had agreed to introduce stringent safety measures, including testing for all athletes at their own cost in order to get the go ahead to stage the Hong Kong championships but their efforts were in vain.

Yue Ya-xin wins the women’s long jump at the HKAAA trials in November. Photo: HKAAA

“The latest wave of the pandemic has been very serious and we fully acknowledge it,” he said. “But the number of recent cases seems to have plateaued and we hope the government may relax some measures when they announce the next round of social-distancing requirements next week.”

Kwan said they still planned to finish the Hong Kong championships in two days with a revised entry quota as they spread the events apart with no more than 200 people inside the field at one time.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Track and field chief still hopeful on championships