Zeal for Olympians dashes Hong Kong localists' plot: China Daily (Asia)

Members of the Chinese Olympics team arrive Victoria Park Swimming Pool in Hong Kong, China on Aug 28, 2016.
Members of the Chinese Olympics team arrive Victoria Park Swimming Pool in Hong Kong, China on Aug 28, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

Ma Chao

China Daily (Asia), Hong Kong

Sunday (Aug 28) was like a carnival for sports fans in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, because the elite Olympians from the national team, who had returned from the Rio Olympic Games, paid a three-day visit to the city, culminating in a number of entertaining shows presented by the athletes .

The warm welcome the Olympians received could be anticipated even before they arrived, as the 5,700 tickets for the three performance events, which went on sale on Aug 22, sold out in just a couple of hours.

Some diehard sports enthusiasts had even lined up a day before the tickets went on sale, and tickets with a face value of HK$20 (S$3.52), were scalped at over HK$1,000 on the Internet.

Nor were Sunday's performances a disappointment for local fans who were lucky enough to grab a ticket.

Those who attended were amazed by the sporting prowess of the athletes-fancy routines by the gold-sweeping divers, table tennis world champions Ma Long and Xu Xin playing three balls simultaneously, and badminton star Lin Dan using a badminton racket to play table tennis.

The spectators cheered and laughed, reveling in the antics of the nation's sports stars.

Hong Kong people's enthusiastic support for athletes of the Chinese national team dates back even before Hong Kong returned to China in 1997.

In the early 1980s, when the Chinese women's volleyball team swept the world and won five consecutive world championship titles, Hong Kong people, like their compatriots on the mainland, were over the moon about their marvelous achievements.

Whenever there was a final between China and another team, residents in the city grouped around TVs to watch. In 2008, when Beijing held the Summer Olympics, Hong Kong people welcomed the Olympic torch with great zeal, and cheered for the great performance by athletes from the national team at the games.

There is also profound cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland in the field of sports. For instance, local cycling star Sarah Lee Wai-sze, bronze medalist in the final of the women's Keirin event at the 2012 London Olympics, was trained by Shen Jinkang, who was a mainland cyclist and former head coach of the national men's cycling team.

Lee and her teammates went to Kunming in Yunnan province every year to train on the plateau with Shen.

However, in recent years, a vociferous minority in the city has exploited every occasion, including sporting events, to stoke anti-mainland sentiment and advocate separatist ideas.

On Aug 6, the first day of competition in the Rio Games, some Hong Kong netizens expressed their schadenfreude on the internet when the Chinese national team failed to win any gold medal and the women's volleyball team lost its first group match to the Netherlands.

On the night of Aug 12, exploiting the occasion of an Olympic badminton mixed doubles match between Chau Hoi-wah and Lee Chun-hei representing Hong Kong and Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan from the national team, a few local groups even organized a "watching event" in Mong Kok to promote separatist sentiment.

These deeds not only trampled the Olympic spirit of mutual respect and understanding, but also tarnished the image of Hong Kong.

Luckily these unscrupulous localists, despite the loud noise they have made, are just a fringe group in Hong Kong society.

The event in Mong Kok only managed to attract around 100 people, while the majority of the city's residents extended a very warm welcome to the mainland's Olympians, vividly demonstrating local residents' support and love for the national team.