Sports Development in Hong Kong: A Group Left Ignored?

 

 

The Honma Hong Kong Open was successfully held at the Hong Kong Golf Club in Fanling over a consecutive of four days during the last weekend of November. Top golfers from all over the world flew to Hong Kong to compete, attracting more than four thousand audiences to go and support. On the surface, it seemed like a glorious achievement for Hong Kong to hold a world-class international golf tournament. But in fact, there are many conflicts surrounding the Fanling Golf Course in the society in recent years.

Hong Kong has been facing the problem of housing shortage for decades, and the government points the finger at the insufficient supply of land. The Fanling Golf Course was then brought into the disputes over land acquisition. Some people believed that there is not a significant usage of having a large-scaled golf course in Hong Kong, and the actual number of people benefiting from it is very minimal. They pointed out that it would be better to use the land for the construction of high-density housing estates.

The Government has proposed two development options. Firstly, it is the “Partial Development” of the golf course. It can provide 4,600 residential units, housing 13,000 people. The second option is the “All-round development” of the whole golf course, which can provide 13,200 units and to accommodate 37,000 people. Either way, it can be said that sports development in Hong Kong is put at the expense of the community’s housing problems.

On the other hand, The Hong Kong Golf Club has raised out that the Fanling Golf Course is extremely important to the future development of golfing in Hong Kong, and it is also an important venue in organising international golf events, such as the Hong Kong Golf Open and the Hong Kong Women’s Golf Open.

In fact, a lot of driving range centres in Hong Kong have already been closed down due to the high rent, such as the driving range centres at Cheung Sha Wan, Jordan, Shau Kei Wan and Kai Tak Airport. Hong Kong golfers have an insufficient amount of facilities to develop their skills professionally, and many are forced to go to the Mainland to look for golf courses in order to practice for their games.

Patrick Chow, 57, is a recreational golfer in Hong Kong. He has played golf as a hobby for almost thirty years, and he participates in local golf tournaments twice a year. “The number of golf centres in Hong Kong keeps decreasing, and it is very disappointing to witness this phenomenon,” claimed Patrick. “I used be able to able to play golf in Jordan, near where I live. Now the only few golf centres left are in the New Territories, and it is very inconvenient to travel there.”

It is worth noting that during the Hong Kong Golf Open, the organisation worked with several local primary schools, and invited groups of kids to the tournament as a way of localising the sport into the community. Kids were allowed to engage in putting practices at the putting green, and there were coaches to teach them the basic skills. However, with the government’s current attitude towards sports development, it is out of the question for the sport to be popularized among Hong Kong citizens anytime sooner.

Yet, is there a correct answer to solving the disputes over the Fanling Golf Course? What should the Hong Kong government do on this issue? No matter what the answer is, Hong Kong still has a long way to go in order to catch up on other countries in sports development.

Professional athletes may be a glorified occupation in many countries. But in Hong Kong, the lack of government funding and facilities deterred many potential sportsmen from continuing to develop their skill into a full-time career.

According to data from Hong Kong Sport Institute, monthly income for senior elite athletes can range from $5980 a month to $33040 a month, depending on the athlete’s performance. As a result, many athletes drop out of their sport even when they are still performing well, and start looking for jobs that would support themselves better in the competitive society.

Rainbow Ip is a swimmer in the Hong Kong Team. She is also one of Hong Kong’s top Breaststrokers. She represented the city in the Asian Games in August 2018. However, just three months after the competition, she is already talking about how swimming will soon become a hobby to her. Why is that the case?

In fact, Rainbow is a student athlete, and she is now in her final year studies. She hoped to continue to achieve her goals in swimming, but reality tells her that the prospects of being a professional athlete in Hong Kong is bleak. Her only option is to give up her biggest passion to look for jobs with a more stable income.

“Being a full-time athlete in Hong Kong is not a long-term career. We would not be able to swim till 50 or 60 years old,” said Rainbow, “but if I develop my career in the business field, it would at least provide me with a stable income.”

However, the situation is already improving. Rainbow explained that there was only one full-time swimmer in Hong Kong when she just joined the Hong Kong Team years ago. But currently, there are almost 20 full-time swimmers in the team. This is partly due to the increased support from the government. For instance, the Retired Athletes Transformation Programme is set up to helps athletes to be better equipped with relevant skills and knowledge in order to enter other fields to work after retiring from being an athlete.

Rainbow believes that she is born in a time that Hong Kong still lacks full appreciation and support for athletes. She hopes that there would be more support for developing professional athletes in Hong Kong in the future.

 

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Hong Kong, as a city, has won three Olympics medals which precedes many countries with population doubles or even triples its own. In Asian Games, Hong Kong athletes have also strived with flying colors. The number of medals Hong Kong has won has increased by 44.8% in 2 sessions. Despite of the outstanding performance of Hong Kong in international competitions, Hong Kong athletes are still facing a lot of struggles. One of the biggest problems is income. Compared to the situation in other countries, Hong Kong athletes are stagnant. The average yearly income of Fu Ka Chun, professional snooker player, is 430,000 USD. Meanwhile, the average yearly income of Lin Dan, professional badminton player, and Wei-yin Chen, professional baseball player, are 3,500,000 USD and 4,000,000 USD respectively. Grotesquely, the average yearly income of Floyd Mayweather, professional boxer, is 620,000,000 USD, which is 144 times of that of a Hong Kong sportsman.

This could potentially explain why would Hong Kong athletes have a high transferring rate. 64% of the athletes in Hong Kong have opted to transfer to other industries due to various reasons. According to a survey conducted by Hong Kong Sports Institute in 2015, more than 70% of the respondents have expressed a negative impression towards Hong Kong sportsmanship and a negative prospects of Hong Kong athletes.

In fact, the local government has offered enormous support to boost the sports development in Hong Kong. With a bigger surplus, Hong Kong government has formulated numerous policies targeted to foster Hong Kong’s sports development. Financial secretary has announced a 5 million HKD boost for this year’s budget. The Hong Kong Sports Institute, together with Hong Kong Jockey Club, have assisted a plenty of young athletes. The institute has also collaborated with an array of secondary schools and universities to launch a dual-career pathway for student athletes to gain more time to hone their skills while studying.

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Elite Athletes Study Programme in collaboration of City University of Hong Kong and HKSI.
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Hong Kong Athletes Career & Education Programme in collaboration with Kau Yan College.

However, a lot these help in different forms mentioned above are targeted to offer to elite athletes and popular sports. For amateur athletes and athletes in less popular sports, they might not be qualified for those sports programme offered by the institute or the government department and need to look elsewhere for help.

We might look forward to the future when Hong Kong a sports hub where both government and private sectors pour in more resources to recruit and train talented young athletes.