Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung
Since its kick-off in 1976, the Hong Kong Sevens has grown into a world famous tournament and an important annual fixture in the World Rugby Sevens Series. It is one of the most popular M Mark sporting events in Hong Kong. This year it has attracted 40 international teams and some 120,000 spectators from different parts of the world. As the 2017 Hong Kong Sevens is also designed to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, there is therefore a special significance this year.
I am most appreciative that the Rugby Union, apart from bringing us many exciting rugby competitions, is also devoted to promoting various community and charity projects through its Community Foundation. In the past few days, the foundation teamed up with the New Zealand Consulate-General in Hong Kong and the Laureus to organise a variety of community activities under the theme of “Tackling Barriers through Sports”, which have been very well received and proved to be a huge success. I am delighted to note that over 8,000 youngsters from schools, NGOs and community groups all over Hong Kong will be able to enjoy the games this year free of charge.
What is more exciting is that the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, one of the most prestigious international organisations, has decided to set up its regional office here in Hong Kong within the next 12 months to look after the Asian region with Hong Kong as the hub, hence, completing its establishment of regional offices on all continents across the globe. This is certainly great news for the Rugby Union as well as other local sporting organisations, which are all looking forward to stronger ties with the Laureus. This is also a great honour for Hong Kong of course. As a leading hub for financial services in Asia, Hong Kong is well placed to exert a similarly strong influence within the social context through sports in the region.
The Laureus is a global sports-based charity that harnesses the power of sport to end violence, discrimination and disadvantage. A number of living legends of the sporting community are here today. Mr Li Xiaopeng, Mr Jean de Villiers and Sir Steven Redgrave are, among others, with us today. Other world-renowned athletes from Mainland China including Ms Deng Yaping, Ms Li Na, Ms Yang Yang and Mr Yao Ming are members of the Laureus World Sports Academy who serve as volunteers in taking forward the Laureus Sport for Good programme.
The Laureus Sport for Good has raised more than 100 million euros and supported more than 150 projects in 36 places across the world since its inception in 2000. It established its presence in Hong Kong over a decade ago. The Operation Breakthrough project, first introduced by the Hong Kong Police Force, is a good example. Since 2005, the project has been adopted by the Laureus as one of its Sport for Good projects, aiming to use sport as a means to keep young people from disadvantaged backgrounds or families away from crime and reduce juvenile delinquency in low-income and also of course immigrant communities.
The Hong Kong SAR Government is committed to building a caring, compassionate and inclusive community. Sport is indeed a powerful tool to improve physical and mental health, reinforce positive values and help strengthen social inclusion. We share the vision of the Laureus to improve people’s lives through the power of sport and provide support to initiatives in this respect. We have a local social enterprise called RunOurCity, which is devoted to inspiring and challenging our teenagers to train for long-distance running. The Government provides support to help them expand the programme to all secondary schools in Hong Kong to encourage running to become a part of life for Hong Kong’s youths and bring positive changes to our students’ physical and mental health. Another good example is the Homeless World Cup, a sporting tournament which provides opportunities for homeless people to change their lives through rebuilding self-confidence and social network both on and off the pitch.
The Hong Kong Government’s policy on sports development is three-fold: first, promote sports in the community; second, support elite sports; and finally develop Hong Kong into a centre for major international sports events. As announced in the recent 2017 Policy Address by our Chief Executive, the Government will inject HK$1 billion into the Elite Athletes Development Fund to support elite sport training. To promote sports in the community, HK$20 billion will also be spent on 26 projects to develop new sports and recreation facilities or improve some of the existing ones in Hong Kong in the coming five years. In parallel, more importantly, we are proceeding at full speed with the pre-construction works for our Kai Tak Sports Park, located on the former Kai Tak airport tarmac – the most important investment of the Government in recent years in sports infrastructure occupying 28 hectares of land. We believe that this mega and iconic sports facility will attract more major international sporting events to our Hong Kong after its completion in 2022. And by then I suppose the Rugby Sevens 2022 hopefully will be held in this stadium, with a covered stadium with air conditioning and also a seating capacity of 50,000 in Kai Tak.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung gave these remarks at the “Tackling Barriers through Sports” press briefing on April 8.