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Expanded reach:  Hong Kong Sports Institute Chairman Eric Li says more needs to be done to help elite athletes reach their full potential.

Sports Institute

The Hong Kong Sports Institute vision is to become the region's elite training systems delivery leader by providing state-of-the-art, evidence-based, elite sports training and athlete support systems resulting in sustainable world-class sports results.

Home Affairs Bureau

The Home Affairs Bureau aims to enrich life by supporting and promoting the development of the arts, culture, sports and recreation, preservation of cultural heritage and beautification of the environment, and to build Hong Kong as a vibrant, caring and harmonious community.

Long road to glory

December 23, 2010

Continued upgrades to the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s elite athlete management system has brought it on par with international standards, with the number of full-time athletes rising from 50 in 2005 to 200 at present.


Its chairman Eric Li recently told the institute needs to do more despite the encouraging progress, adding elite athletes will better reach their full potential if the education sector and employers show more flexibility in enrolling and hiring them.


Noting the 2023 Asian Games bid will help the sports community come up with a clear goal and roadmap to help athletes realise their potential, he said the bid will also offer a rare opportunity for Hong Kong to develop into a more balanced society.

Nurturing athletes

Mr Li said the tripartite partnership between the institute, the Home Affairs Bureau and the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee in promoting sports allows the institute to focus its efforts on nurturing elite athletes.


“We are now having an ambitious plan to redevelop our institute’s facilities, upgrading them from 30-year-old equipment to world-class facilities. To better cater for athletes’ needs and offer them more favourable training conditions, we have also made great progress in sports science as well as psychological and daily support for them.


“Athletes need to become full-time athletes if they want to elevate themselves to a higher level. We have done a lot to help young people become full-time athletes so they do not have to give up their formal education and still have the chance to enter university, allowing them to get employed when they retire.”


Unique qualities

Mr Li said he has been lobbying university chancellors and employers to understand the unique strength athletes possess.


“They are more mature and have stronger language ability than ordinary youngsters because they travel the world for tournaments. These advantages, in addition to their perseverance and self-reliance, make them outstanding candidates.”


Noting many universities prefer elite athletes enrol in sport and related subjects, Mr Li said more lobbying will be needed to explore more development alternatives for athletes. He urged secondary schools to give young full-time athletes more flexibility, allowing them to learn through tutorial classes without attending normal classes.


“More flexibility in examination schedules is crucial because they cannot stick to the routine examination timetable as they have to take part in many competitions.”


Sports promotion

Mr Li said sport has become more common and popular in Hong Kong because the younger generation are now more concerned about their health and parents are more supportive in their children's sports endeavours.


Hong Kong athletes’ outstanding performances at major events augments people’s awareness and eagerness to participate in sport, he said, adding public recognition and media attention in return gives athletes more confidence.


“When Lee Lai-shan won an Olympic gold medal, many young people rushed to learn windsurfing. Cyclist Wong Kam-po’s recent victory at the Guangzhou Asian Games has also helped create the latest craze for cycling. These achievements really encourage parents and children to pay more attention to sport in Hong Kong.”


Asian Games bid
Mr Li said he is confident a Hong Kong bid for the 2023 Asian Games will inspire local athletes, fuelling their determination to perform at their peak.


“We really need to set a clear target, a blueprint and a time-plan. Something like the Asian Games can help the entire community and the Government focus on a particular timeframe, and we will have a roadmap to realise our potential.


"Without this, we are just talking about supporting sports and there may not be a consistent plan. If there is no target, we will lose focus, so it is very important for the sports community to achieve something like this and there is nothing our elites can be more proud of than to be able to perform on home turf.”


Mr Li said he hopes anyone who objects to the bid will consider the matter from a wider, more long-term perspective.


“I certainly hope our city will become a more balanced community where people pay attention to the city’s long-term development and uphold the spirit of perseverance and self-reliance. We are looking for a more balanced society and the Asian Games will help promote that.”