Visit by mainland Olympic medalists boosts Macao’s sports development

Organized jointly by the Macao Special Administrative Region government, the General Administration of Sport and the Central People’s Government’s Liaison Office in the Macao SAR, a delegation of the mainland’s Tokyo Olympic medalists arrived in the Macao SAR on Dec 19 to kick off a three-day visit there. Comprising 29 athletes and three coaches from 12 sporting events, the visiting delegation includes the homeland’s sprinting icon Su Bingtian, table tennis Grand Slam winner Ma Long, veteran Olympic shot putter Gong Lijiao, and Sun Yiwen — China’s first Olympic gold medalist in women’s individual epee fencing. The Macao SAR government held a welcoming ceremony for the group of distinguished sportsmen, who were then further arranged to attend other activities to interact with Macao residents and youth, in addition to joining the commemorative assembly in honor of the 22nd anniversary of the establishment of the SAR of Macao.

Right after their visitation to Hong Kong early in December, the athletes had to undergo stringent anti-COVID-19 quarantine procedures before setting foot on the Macao SAR to start the program. Reportedly, sentiments ran high at both the giving and receiving ends of this sporting exchange. This is the first time for Gong Lijiao to have visited Macao, and she pledged to try her best to “pass on the Olympic spirit” during their brief stay in the city. In the meantime, students joining the welcoming reception for the delegation remarked enthusiastically that they were very excited to have a glimpse of the Olympians in person, holding that they were “really awesome” to contest in the international games.

Doubtlessly, this stimulating visit by a team of the mainland’s globally acclaimed athletes shows another “special gift” from the central government for the Macao SAR. It has manifested the deep admiration of the student community about the stunning achievements scored by the brilliant sportsmen in the national team following years of most intensive training and competitions that put big taxes on their time, energies, physiques, endurance and perseverance. These vital points of interest have won rounds of applause from all others who treasure the rare opportunity to witness in person the breathtaking attainments by members of the athletic delegation, which will drive up the imagination of Macao’s youth about the unlimited possibilities for sports engagement.

As in the case of students’ attendance at the livestreamed experimental demonstrations given earlier by the three Chinese taikonauts, as they are often addressed on the mainland, on board China’s spaceship Shenzhou XIII, direct interactions with the motherland’s athletic experts and practitioners surely bring to the Hong Kong and Macao SARs enviable gains in specialized knowledge and horizon extension, this time over personal and community development in popular and elitist sports. Invariably, students have also come to benefit substantially from the highly-valued opportunity of communicating direct with the world-recognized sports players who could address on-the-spot athletic questions of compelling curiosity to the attending young people.

China’s impressive accomplishments in global sports, among other things, would serve reliably to enhance the proper understanding and appreciation by students in the Macao SAR regarding their intimate relationship with the motherland. This significant realization is in tandem with the view expressed recently by HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, who has urged principals of the Hong Kong schools to promote sports as a viable way to create and strengthen students’ sense of national identity, which has just been incorporated as one of the key elements under the updated curriculum on values taught in schools. The HKSAR leader believes that many of the cherished values — perseverance, commitment and respect for others — could be nurtured on the part of adolescents in the process of receiving vigorous athletic training. Citing an example of sports helping to bolster students’ sense of belonging and patriotism, the HKSAR chief executive said that, in regional and international sports competitions, such as Olympic and Asian Games, country representatives standing on the trophy-presenting podium would “naturally feel a very strong sense of national identity” when the national anthem is played alongside the raising of the national flag. This observation was made in the wake of the landmark performance of the Hong Kong athletes during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics back in summer, which scored one gold, two silvers and three bronzes for the city on the medals list. Beyond any dispute, this is the most natural and logical approach to instill in the younger generation a very strong sense of nationhood and bonding with the motherland. The same delicate and positive impact speaks for the regular flying of the national flag in solemn school activities and ceremonies attended by the whole student body.

It is recalled that Beijing set the seal of approval in August on the co-hosting by the SARs of Hong Kong and Macao of the 2025 National Games with Guangdong province. It is indeed the first time that athletic events at the national level will be co-organized by multiple regions. In the light of the recent projection by two-time Olympic weightlifting champion Lu Xiaohui that China is set to grow into a “sports powerhouse in 2035”, there is a lot to gain by Macao through capitalizing on this visit by the national athletic team to forge closer ties with the athletic circles on the mainland. A multidisciplinary sports enterprise can be developed with specialist support from the national authorities and the Macao SAR government, which will draw patronage for holding regional or even international sporting activities and generating the associated revenue for grooming young talent in sports with a competitive edge in development.

The author is a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.