A delegation of Chinese mainland Olympians concluded their three-day visit to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Sunday, a journey hailed by residents and media as a new boost to local sports fever.
The delegation comprised 29 athletes and three coaches from 12 sporting events. Members included sprint icon Su Bingtian, table tennis Grand Slam winner Ma Long, and Sun Yiwen, who won China's first Olympic gold medal in women's individual epee fencing.
The Olympians on Saturday attended public events including sports demonstrations and a variety show at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium. On Sunday, they visited the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Sports Institute, and Yuen Long District Sports Association to share their experiences and insights.
Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao, one of the region's oldest Chinese-language newspapers, noted in a commentary that since 2000, delegations of Chinese mainland Olympians have visited Hong Kong after the Olympics as a "special rendezvous" with Hong Kong people.
The Olympic athletes' visit to Hong Kong has created a new sensation in sports, reflecting that Hong Kong needs the fighting spirit of perseverance and never giving up to overcome difficulties, said the newspaper.
For some young people, the Olympic spirit represents good medicine to cure the indolence of "lying flat", encouraging them to strive for improvement and live up to their youthfulness, said the commentary.
The Olympians received rapturous applause during their displays of athletic skill to packed crowds, with several of their quotes going viral.
Ma Long told fans "you are stronger than you think." Su Bingtian, who set a new Asian men's 100 meters record at the age of 32, had a simple but powerful message. "I think I can create more miracles in terms of age." Two-time Olympic weightlifting champion Lyu Xiaojun made a rallying call: "We want to achieve the goal of building China into a leading sports nation by 2035. Boys and girls, strive for the motherland!"
Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po said in an opinion piece that every visit of the mainland Olympian delegation has been warmly received by all sectors of the Hong Kong community.
"This time, after the announcement of the delegation's visit to Hong Kong, the tickets of related activities were almost sold out within three hours," said the newspaper. "The popularity not only shows the charm of Olympic athletes and competitive sports, but also conveys the love and support of Hong Kong people to the mainland Olympic athletes, as they want to share the joy and glory of making a name in the international arena as Chinese."
The visit forms part of a series entitled "The Spirit of the Times Shines upon Hong Kong" organized by the HKSAR government, China's State General Administration of Sport, and the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR, with the aim of further enhancing exchanges between the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.
Yang Ning, deputy director of China's State General Administration of Sport and head of the delegation, said, "We look forward to more sporting exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong in the future."
Noting that the 15th National Games will take place across Guangdong Province, HKSAR and Macao SAR in 2025, she said Hong Kong will have its say in determining the events of the Games, which is China's premier national-level sporting competition.
"I believe that the next National Games will be a new starting point and an opportunity. Co-hosting the Games can make more sports popular among the public," Yang said.