The organizer of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, a major sports event in Hong Kong, announced on Sept. 16 the cancellation of this year’s event, mentioning that lengthy pending approval from the Hong Kong Government. Meanwhile, the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon is being promoted heavily, and the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships will be held in Thailand instead of Hong Kong next year. The anti-epidemic policy of Hong Kong has already driven talents out of the territory as well as international events.
The news came to the attention of Bernard Charnwut Chan, former Non-official Convenor of the Executive Council of Hong Kong, who pointed out that if the Government could not provide a clear timeline for reopening the border to international tourists, the international sports events might not return to Hong Kong and they will be held in other regions.
Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates (HKAAA), the organizer of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, announced that in view of the latest pandemic situation in Hong Kong, they had not yet received a notice of approval of the event, therefore it had decided to cancel the Marathon originally scheduled to be held on Nov. 20. It is now been rescheduled for Feb. 12, 2023.
The HKAAA explained that since there were only two months to the original event date, they had yet to receive approval from the government to hold the event, and the runners and stakeholders may not have sufficient preparation time, hence they decided to cancel the event.
Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism of Hong Kong, was then wide awake. He said that he just learned that HKAAA had canceled the event in the evening when the announcement was made and he had instructed his colleagues to understand the situation and “see if there is anything else that needs help.”
Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, member of the Legislative Council for Functional Constituency of Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication, felt very sorry for the cancellation.
He also revealed that many sports associations have recently asked him for help, expressing that it is still full of uncertainty whether their events can be held next year.
He hoped that the Government can announce clear guidelines as soon as possible so that the organizers can have enough preparation time and make good use of the sports events to promote Hong Kong’s recovery.
HK 10K Championships 2022 Canceled
Kenneth Fok had already questioned the Government’s policy of restricting sports events in August.
HKAAA also canceled the “Hong Kong 10K Championships 2022” in Aug., because the race quota had drastically been reduced by the Government.
At that time, Kenneth Fok questioned the scientific basis of the Government’s tightening of the number of participants to 500, and he criticized the Government for making the sports sector embarrassing.
He had already raised concerns at the time about whether the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon and the Hong Kong Sevens would not be held successfully.
Under the Government’s latest anti-epidemic measure, his worries came true.
On the other hand, Singapore is promoting the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon, which will be held in early Dec., with the slogan “Marathon is back.”
Do not Compromise
An article in the Hong Kong Economic Journal revealed that the internal workings of the government were “completely unaware” about the cancellation of the Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon which was made solely by HKAAA, because HKAAA’s submission of the application, had been passed to Eric Chan Kwok-ki, Chief Secretary for Administration of Hong Kong, for his handling, a week ago.
There was initial internal discussion from senior officials to support the event to be held as scheduled; however, the organizer did not set a deadline, and suddenly “said no” without any question or dissatisfaction.
The article also quoted sports industry practitioners saying that HKAAA may already consider the number of participants for “breakeven,” in order to avoid losing money.
The end of the article also pointed out that it “seemed not a coincidence” that the financial summit and the above-mentioned Marathon, both to be held in Nov., face competition with Singapore.
He believed that if the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens competition cannot be held in Nov., “the script of telling good Hong Kong stories will be poor.”
Chau Sze-tat, the current affairs commentator, analyzed in his online program that the government has never been so efficient, and questioned that HKAAA in fact were not “willing” to organize Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon, and they just canceled the event without having negotiated with the Government.
In addition, unlike Singapore, where there are no anti-epidemic restrictions at all, the Hong Kong Government has to implement “anti-epidemic measures,” putting on a show on a pretentious scale.
For example, it is reported that runners need to have three doses of vaccination and a negative PCR test result within 48 hours. They must also follow the “yellow code” of the Hong Kong Health Code System for travelers which will restrict them from entering bars and restaurants for seven days after they arrive in Hong Kong.
Chau said that maybe “HKAAA does not want to be the bad guy” and “does not compromise to be part of the show on a pretentious scale,” and even if the event had been held, many runners would have been discouraged from joining the event, as the current quarantine arrangement of “3+4” (three days of hotel quarantine and four days of home surveillance) for overseas inbound tourists will not attract as many foreign runners as in the past.
And after consideration, organizing the Marathon “may lose money,” so the lengthy pending approval from the Government is just an excuse for suspending the event.
Chau further pointed out that the financial summit and the Hong Kong Sevens, which are scheduled to be held in Nov, are intended to show the world that Hong Kong “had resumed to normal.” But as part of the promotion strategy, members of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong were sent to ASEAN countries to promote “good Hong Kong stories,” but even the Marathon has to be canceled, “how does Hong Kong resume normally?”
Dragon Boat World Championships Moves to Thailand
In addition to the above events, the International Dragon Boat Federation had also decided not to hold the event in Hong Kong.
The Federation said that the current quarantine and isolation arrangements in Hong Kong are stricter than those in other regions, therefore they had decided to hold the World Dragon Boat Racing Championships in Thailand next year instead of Hong Kong, which was the original venue.
Bernard Chan said that Hong Kong’s anti-epidemic prevention measures have discouraged tourists from visiting Hong Kong, especially since arrival tests and quarantine measures have mostly been lifted worldwide, creating a greater contrast and making Hong Kong’s situation even more disadvantaged.
If Hong Kong fails to provide a roadmap for reopening borders to international tourists in a timely manner, he worried that more international event organizers would change the event venues to other regions and they may not return to Hong Kong next year.