Hong Kong, China – 8 August 2010
To understand Hong Kong, you must understand its history.
In the 19th century, this small island just off the coast of mainland China became a British colony (starting out as trading outpost), and remained so for a century until it was handed back to Chinese rule in the mid 1990s (as a modern city and a capital of Asian finance). Hong Kong therefore has a strong identity and link to Britain. At the same time, most of its citizens are of Chinese origin (especially from Cantonese region of southern China) which also gives it an unmistakable Chinese flavour. And though technically under the rule of mainland China, Hong Kong maintains independent self-government under a “one country/two systems” structure.
This unique identity is reflected in Hong Kong sport, and Why Sport Matters visited this tropical island to check it out.
The influence from Britain can be seen through the popularity and sport clubs for football, rugby, cricket as well as horse racing. The English Premiership remains the most popular spectator sport (via TV) and regular topic of conversation. Hong Kong has its own football league and championship. The Hong Kong Stadium (see photo at right) hosts the annual Hong Kong Sevens tournament, one of the most important stops on the international Rugby Sevens World Series circuit. Hong Kong maintains an independent National Olympic Committee that sends its own athletes to each Olympic Games.
Horse racing is a huge passion in Hong Kong with over 700 horse races taking place here every year. The influence is so deep that it was decided that all equestrian events for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games would take place in Hong Kong. (See photo of the monument to Hong Kong’s successful participation in China’s first ever Olympics).
The legendary Hong Kong Jockey Club remains one of the city’s grandest institutions, with a giant horse racetrack and multi-sport facility right in the middle of the downtown area. The club is also a social establishment with over 20,000 members and thus playing a key part of Hong Kong society. Why Sport Matters filmed the video (at top of blog) inside the grounds of the club.
The HK Jockey Club also fuels Hong Kong’s other passion – gambling. The club is in fact the only entity legally entitled to take and manage bets in Hong Kong, and its citizens are one of the most passionate betting societies in the world, specifically on football and horse racing. It is so popular and brings in so much income that the club is the largest taxpayer, providing over 10% of Hong Kong’s total tax revenue. In turn, HK Jockey Club remains a non-profit entity and is the single biggest contributor to charities in the city. A great example of how sport can benefit society.
In parallel, Hong Kong sport also takes some influence from China, including a love and appreciation for martial arts. Throughout the city, citizens can be seen every day practicing Tai Chi in the parks and opens spaces as a way to stay in shape (see photo). Martial arts master and movie star Bruce Lee is a Hong Kong son and is the only icon immortalized with their own giant statue along the Avenue of Stars boardwalk (see photo). The rise in popularity of basketball in China can also be seen. Why Sport Matters saw a full-sized wood-floor basketball court in the middle of a downtown shopping mall, as well as a replica of Yao Ming and his enormous shoe-size (see photo of Lisa with Yao).
As an island nation, the waterways around Hong Kong play a key part in both society and business, and the water traffic and activity is non-stop. Windsurfing and sailing are popular sports with regular regattas taking place in Hong Kong waters. Dragonboat races are not only a popular competition in Hong Kong but also reflect the ancient cultures of Chinese society, as well as important social gatherings during the season.
Though only a city of just over 7 million, Hong Kong continues to hold to its unique place in Asian society and multiple cultural influences. While not a sporting powerhouse, sport plays an important role in Hong Kong.
Why Sport Matters now heads to another old British colony in Asia – Singapore – which is hosting the first ever Youth Olympic Games in August. See the TRAVEL SCHEDULE for more info, and don’t forget to check out our dedicated pages on: