About 30 Olympic stars from mainland China are to visit Hong Kong in early December to give public demonstrations. All will be exempt from undergoing Covid-19 quarantine, according to the Home Affairs Bureau.
The bureau told HKFP on Wednesday the visit was “hugely meaningful” and “serves the public interest of Hong Kong.”
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said they are expected to get an enthusiastic welcome after the city achieved its best-ever results in Tokyo this summer. The athletes from 12 sports will be in the city next Friday to Saturday, Lam announced Tuesday at her weekly press conference.
The Home Affairs Bureau told HKFP that all of the athletes had been vaccinated and will be tested 48-hours before arrival for Covid-19: “Mainland Olympians will share with Hongkongers their journey of participating in the Olympics and their joy of winning awards, will exchange sporting experiences with Hong Kong youth athletes, and will make Hongkongers proud of the great achievement of the nation.”
“The athletes have not been to high or mid-risk regions listed by the National Health Commission and will only attend approved schedules in Hong Kong with appropriate Covid-19 measures,” the bureau added.
The visitors will include sprinter Su Bingtian, the first Chinese runner ever to compete in an Olympics finals, and table tennis gold medallist Ma Long. The group will engage in multiple activities, including sport demonstrations and performances, but they are unlikely to be in close contact with the public, Lam said.
“In the Tokyo Olympics, needless to say, the national team achieved very good results. Hong Kong, as well, has gotten the best results in history. Therefore, I believe everyone will have enthusiastic reactions,” she added.
China ranked second in the gold medal tables with 38, while Hong Kong won one gold, two silver and three bronze for its best-ever showing.
Currently, most travellers from mainland China, Macau or Taiwan must quarantine for 14 days if unvaccinated, or seven if vaccinated.
Some Hong Kong athletes, including silver medallist swimmer Siobhan Haughey, had to undergo quarantine in Hong Kong when they returned from Japan in the summer.
Border reopening talks
Hong Kong has prioritised reopening of its border with the mainland over restoring quarantine-free travel with the rest of the world, even though foreign business groups say the current tough rules are damaging the city’s status as an international financial centre.
On Saturday, China sent a group of medical experts to Hong Kong for a four-day examination of the city’s Covid-19 situation and preventative measures. Lam described their visit as “the key” to reopening the border with the mainland.
She said experts from Hong Kong and the mainland would meet on Thursday in Shenzhen, describing the planned event as a “very positive message.”
Quarantine-free travel between Hong Kong and the mainland may partially resume as soon as early December, according to local media.
Rugby Sevens postponed again
Since the start of the pandemic the city has postponed several international sporting events. The Rugby Sevens have been repeatedly postponed and now been pushed back to November 2022.
Robbie McRobbie, the rugby union’s chief executive officer, told RTHK that staging the tournament was currently impossible because “the prevailing quarantine and travel restrictions are too difficult to bring in international teams”.
Lam was asked whether the city’s Covid rules would prevent it from holding other international sporting events. “Hong Kong has conducted quite a good number of these activities, under a very robust system of quarantine control,” she said.
She urged the public to be patient, saying a higher vaccination rate was needed for more international sporting events to resume.
Correction 14:19: Hong Kong fencer Edgar Cheung did not undergo quarantine, as per a previous version of this article. He went to Shenzhen after the Tokyo Olympics and was quarantined there, and he subsequently came back to Hong Kong under the Return2HK travel scheme.
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