Former Olympian, World Champion, and Hong Kong cycling team representative Wong Kim Po joined the Hong Kong Cycling Team in 1990 and showed his talent to the Asia by winning the Asian Junior Cycling Championship in 1991. His major wins included gold medals in the Asian Games in 1998 and 2006, before becoming the first Chinese World Champion after winning the Men's Scratch 15km event at the Track Cycling Championships in 2007. He was also the flag bearer in the 2008 Olympic Games and participated in the Olympic Games again in 2012.
Can you tell us about the Sports Legacy Scheme, what does it bring to the grassroots community?
The Sports Legacy Scheme was originally developed by the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China in conjunction with the Hong Kong Athletes Career and Education Programme, to help student athletes and elite athletes who are retiring from the world of sport. When someone comes to the end of their sporting career it can often be difficult for them to adjust to normal life and so we aim to help carve out a path for themselves.
To do this we match athletes with schools so they can coach under-privileged students and provide them with specific fitness training. Through the project, we encourage the grassroots community to learn and spread the positive values of sport and even try to identify new students with potential to continue our initiatives. The project also builds a sustainable environment for local athletes to prepare for their retirement, offering them a platform to be coaches and succeed off the sporting field. Currently we have two on-going in-school programmes called Go Play Olympics! and The Jockey Club Flying High Sports Programme.
While not profit-making, the project has been getting financial support from the private sector. How much is the value of the sponsorships so far and how do you use the funds? How many schools and kids have benefited?
Since the project launched in 2012, more than 10,000 students and 30 elite athletes have benefited from the services we offer. We have received funding and support from a number of corporates since 2016, which has enabled us to maintain operations and provide training for athletes to become coaches. Aside from working with under-privileged schools and students, we also work with corporates to provide fitness training in the community.
The Sports Legacy Scheme is currently funded by the Lee Hysan Foundation of the Hysan Development Company, Chow Tai Fook Charity Foundation of Chow Tai Fook Group, and the Hope Sport Association.
Generally speaking, how would you describe the private sector’s approach to athlete and sport development?
Many corporates provide fitness and wellness training to their staff internally to make sure they stay fit and healthy. When choosing a partner for this kind of training programme, corporates tend to partner with non-profit-making athlete support groups like us, not only for CSR purposes but also to help facilitate a better environment for local athletes.
Externally, many corporates set up a charity branch or even their own charity foundations so they can work directly on public welfare projects. These charity foundations all focus on different elements but generally, community sport development seems to have become a very popular cause.
As a former athlete, how did you go about sourcing the right corporate partners?
Successful athletes tend to present a very healthy and positive image, which often aligns perfectly with the brand ambitions of corporate sponsors. I know what it takes – hard work and perseverance - and I hope this spirit can be something that lives with us even after we retire!
What are the benefits of a partnership with the private sector?
The funding has let us put our resources to efficient use: recruiting retired or current elite athletes, providing special coaching training, to liaise and work with schools, acquiring equipment for under-privileged schools, setting up school teams, sending high performance students to international tournaments. The support we have received from corporate or charity partners has helped us achieved all of this.
How do you evaluate the project, given that its audience is so broad?
The evaluation and quality control of the project is very critical to us so we have had to set standards and objectives at every step. We focus on specific goals and adapt to different evaluation methods as well as speak to our students, teachers and principals. We really have to modify our programmes with the athlete coaches according to the feedback we receive, and by doing so we are actually marketing ourselves in the community.
How do you see grassroots sports development in Hong Kong over the next few years? Will it be more goal-oriented?
I believe that there will be more and more community projects like ours and more corporates or charity foundations supporting the community projects. The main thing in this is to promote sport generally and make more people in the community, regardless of their financial situation, participate in sport.