Sport in Hong Kong, or Musings on a theme about playing sport from a learned one who doesn't (i.e. the Batpo!)

What is the national sport of Hong Kong? Well, since the 1996 Olympics, when the gracefully athletic Ms Lee Lai Shan put Hong Kong on the Windsurfing Map, I think we can honestly say she was the exception to the rule. Actually, let's throw the rule book away. Water sports are not high on HK school kids' list of sporting priorities. The thought of going swimming or even getting wet is a basic deterrent – look how locals cover their head by any means possible when it rains [using newspapers, tissues, pieces of cardboard, plastic bags and even one hand are the norm].

Fishing in Hong Kong is not so much a sport as a means to an end – it appeals to a large number of middle-aged gentlemen and the young unemployed, as they have the time and the inclination to kill something without a license. If they’re really lucky, they may even catch something big enough to eat without the ciguatera toxin.

Don’t even get me going about wannabe divers – a basic scuba diving course lasting 4 days in a tropical resort does not put them on par with Navy Seals no matter how expensive their equipment.

So on to land sports. Of course table tennis [ping pong] could be called the national sport of the Chinese, but we’re talking about Hong Kong here. I suppose there is always badminton. This is a great sport – it doesn’t rely so much on strength as on cunning deviousness and an understanding of the opponent’s weak spots. A degree of athleticism is required, but any couch potato can pick it up in a short while. It looks good, too. The urban council have many sports centres dotted around Hong Kong, and renting courts in them is very reasonably priced. There are of course many clubs which have excellent facilities, but then they do tend to have a lot of members with attitude, plus the fees are rather expensive.

Tennis – it’s a great spectator sport, isn’t it?

Cycling – well, Hong Kong is doing rather well in this field. This is amazing when one considers that cycling is prohibited in country parks, parks and any pleasant place suitable for cycling. Most people make do with the Tai Wai to Sha Tin cycling path, which frankly is dangerous enough to put anyone off cycling. On any given Sunday you can see about a thousand people who have barely learned to ride a bike on a concrete slalom course together with obstacles and concrete bollards going in different directions causing cataclysmic cycling chaos. Been there, done that!

Actually Hong Kong could be a great place to do sports – hiking, cycling, water sports, racket sports, track, ice-skating to name a few. Barring skiing, there aren’t that many sports which couldn’t be played in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, it's that old chestnut about cost and availability of facilities, etc. I personally think this can only change with a change of attitude to sport. If more people demanded more facilities and were willing to use them, then the authorities would be able to justify supplying better facilities and training. Our sportspeople are seriously under-funded when it comes to subsidies and training. There are far too many people in Hong Kong who prefer to sit in karaoke lounges or play computer games.

I haven't even mentioned that other evil – mahjongg. This should truly be called the national sport of the Chinese, but then let’s chat about that another time, shall we?