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Were Hong Kong!: Olympic success improves mood in troubled city | Olympic Games News


Hong Kong, China When cyclist Sarah Lee beat her opponent with a 0.019 second photo finish in the sprint semifinal of the Tokyo 2020 Games, the crowd, glued to the Jumbotron screen at the Olympian City shopping center in Hong Kong, burst into deafening cheers , some pumped their fists in the air.

Lee, who rose to the podium at the 2012 London Olympics as a bronze medalist from humble beginnings in public housing, has long been hailed as a local sporting legend and an example of the territory’s signature grit that facilitated the transformation from a sleepy fishing village has made it possible to become a dynamic international city.

In the wake of the 2019 protests and with the imposition of the National Security Law by China, Hong Kong has seen its political freedoms diminished and pro-democracy politicians and supporters arrested or exiled. The United States and others have said the area no longer enjoys the high degree of autonomy promised under one country, the two systems under which the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

But during the two weeks during the Olympics, the status quo of one country, two teams not only granted validation to the people of Hong Kong who saw themselves as a separate people, but also bridged, albeit fleetingly, the political divide. who tore up the area.

The team returned home with a historic catch of one gold, two silvers and three bronzes, their best performance ever.

You can tell there was a brief moment of euphoria among the fans, but whether sport is a means of solidarity in the long run remains to be seen, Marcus Chu, a political scientist at Lingnan University in Hong Kong who studies the politics of sports, Al Jazeera told me. After all, the city does not have a deep tradition of sports culture.

Hong Kong Sarah Lee kicked her way to bronze in the women’s sprint at the Tokyo Olympics [File: Christian Hartmann/Reuters]

How Team Hong Kong came into its own has been shaped by the city’s history as a precursor to and beneficiary of China’s emergence as a sports powerhouse.

During the 1936 Berlin Games, colonial Hong Kong fielded eight football players and a swimmer as part of the fledgling Olympic delegation from the Chinese republics.

Even though sport at the time was almost exclusively a pastime for the elite, training to be stronger and faster appealed to the patriotic Hong Kong Chinese who aspired to save China. Grassroots sports clubs, such as the South China Athletic Association, sprang up to meet the growing demand for organized exercise.

That was why, even after Hong Kong made its debut in the 1952 Helsinki Games, the first to allow colonies to compete, some of the record-setting athletes chose to represent China to bring glory to the motherland.

In a city without professional competitions, the return to Chinese sovereignty has proved positive for the sport, sparking an influx of immigrant career athletes from the mainland. Before that, in 40 years Hong Kong only won a gold medal in wind sailing in the 1996 Atlanta Games.

In 2004 in Athens, two mainland trained ping pong players won silver for Hong Kong in the doubles table tennis. One of them, Li Ching, coached the women’s team to bronze in Tokyo.

We have changed from mainland players representing the team and now we are seeing Hong Kong born and raised results, this is something I am proud of, said Tony Yu, Chairman of the Hong Kong Table Tennis Association.

Hong Kong athletes regularly train in the mainland, especially those who practice the sports that are China’s strong points. Some of this year’s Hong Kong medalists signed up for coaching in the US.

Arrest for national anthem

While it is rare for Hong Kong to go head to head with China, the match-up is an opportunity for those annoyed by China’s alleged political encroachment to mount some form of resistance.

The thunderous chants of Were Hong Kong are expressions of a related, rather than ethnic, identity. Although Team Hong Kong flies its own flag, the Chinese national anthem plays for the city.

In recent years, so many sports fans have booed the national anthem to voice their opinion that legislation was passed last year to criminalize any disrespect for the Chinese national anthem.

Still, that didn’t stop some fans from cheering as the national anthem played at the gold medal ceremony for Hong Kong fencer Edgar Cheung. On July 30, a man was arrested on suspicion of insulting the Chinese national anthem and encouraging others to join him.

Hong Kong police arrested a man on July 30 on suspicion of insulting the national anthem after he was caught booing the Chinese national anthem and waving a Hong Kong colonial flag while watching an Olympic event in a shopping center [File: Vincent Yu/Reuters]

Cheung’s gold medal Hong Kong’s first since the transfer and the teams’ unprecedented distance may mean that the government’s efforts to increase the territory’s athletic prowess may finally be paying off. Tung Chee-hwa, the first chief executive after the handover, made it a priority to invest in elite sports as a means of enhancing the area’s soft power and forging a clear Hong Kong identity.

At a time when that identity appears to be under siege and Hong Kong’s core values ​​and cherished institutions are under unprecedented pressure from Beijing, the Tokyo Games have prompted people to come together.

That’s why last Saturday in Olympian City, so named on the occasion of Hong Kong’s first gold medal, Vincent Law and Rose Chan, in their 40s, stopped by to watch and cheer on Lee in the cycling semifinals. .

As a Hong Konger, I am proud of the athletes’ achievements, Chan said.

The pair also said that for pragmatic and sentimental reasons, they couldn’t imagine an Olympics without Team Hong Kong.

If the Hong Kongs team becomes part of China, our athletes will not stand a chance of qualifying.

I would be very sad, Chan said.




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