Carrie Lam shows up at HKRU event to congratulate players on recent gold medal success
- Hong Kong’s top politician made a detour from her usual schedule to bask in recent rugby glory with some of the players
While she is probably the busiest person in Hong Kong, chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is apparently a closet rugby fan.
Lam, who seems bombarded by contentious issues lately, including a controversial reclamation project on Lantau Island, showed up on Friday at the Hong Kong Club to bask in some positive press for a change. Lam was on hand for a ceremony congratulating the men’s sevens gold at the recent Asian Games held in Jakarta. The ceremony was also for the Hong Kong Fire Services Sevens team, who won gold at the World Fire Fighters Games.
Lam has made infrequent appearances at rugby and sporting events in general over her tenure, however this may change given she recently addressed the building of a multimillion dollar facility at the Sha Tin Sports Institute, injecting the project with new gusto via her annual policy address.
Hong Kong had their best outing ever at the recent Asian Games, nabbing eight gold medals (and 46 in total), spurring a call for more sports funding across the region. Lam was also on hand to sound the gong for the new racing season at Sha Tin.
Dai Rees, the chief rugby operations officer for the HKRU, said all the gold Hong Kong have been bringing home lately makes it tough for anyone to ignore the state of rugby in the city right now.
“It is exceptionally important that outstanding sporting achievements are recognised and supported at this government level,” he said. Rees noted these wins help support the culture of sport all over Hong Kong as well because it “gives young people role models to create a healthy lifestyle and aspire to rise to the top levels of international sports”.
Lam may also be looking to capitalise politically on a juicy rugby calendar for Hong Kong over the next few years. The men’s team have a shot to grab the final spot at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan at a repechage tournament in November in France. Plus the sevens looks to be one of the premier events and crowd draws at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, which both the men and women have a chance to qualify for, if they finish in the top four when it comes to the 2019 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series (there is also a harder route to qualify regionally).
There’s also the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup, which could take place in nearby New Zealand or Australia. The women’s national team made their World Cup debut in 2017 in Ireland. All of these events fall within her term limit, which ends in 2022. Lam has not publicly declared if she will seek re-election.
The annual Hong Kong Sevens tournament also will not have to compete with the Commonwealth Games for its 2019 iteration, which many said diluted the talent pool for the rugby tournament, which is the largest sporting event every year in Hong Kong.
Jamie Hood, one of the players for the sevens team that won gold in Jakarta and who was also just named to the 35-man roster that will head to France, said it was a testament to how rugby is increasing its profile lately. The men’s premiership has also snagged a number of high profile foreign players this year.
“It was a huge honour to be in the presence of the chief executive,” said Hood about meeting Lam. “And I think it shows the growing importance of both rugby and the sport as a whole in Hong Kong today.”