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After the success of the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, now what? Where’s the beef? And the sustainability?

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

In 2003 when Hong Kong was starting to get back on its feet and tell the world that we were back after fighting off the SARS- Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, the government department known as InvestHK came up with HarbourFest.

HarbourFest was a music festival that brought to Hong Kong- at considerable costs and a motley crew of strangers suddenly lurking in the background- some of the most popular international acts at the time including Prince, the Stones, Santana and others.

Though this Government driven initiative was marred by controversy that some say had to do with various personal agendas getting in the way of the heart of the matter plus some well known names in high places extremely lucky to escape “unscathed”, HarbourFest created some “awareness” that Hong Kong was okay and open for business.

The question is if there’s anything for the new Hong Kong to learn from Harbourfest other than not everyone can produce a world class event of this scale though some might think they can because they produced something like a school dance twenty years ago.

Those HarbourFest Festival type days happened whenever somewhere in the world was going through problems whether to do with creating awareness of AIDs, or raising funds for natural disasters in places like Fiji or the tsunami that ravaged Sri Lanka. Celebrities would band together, stage concerts, hold hands and sing anthemic songs.

This all came after the Live Aid concerts happened and had the necessary impact on the world. It was a global concert of epic proportions and the vision of game changer Bob Geldof.

It was the first epic concert of its kind. As anyone who knows something about anything, if not first in anything, you’re second, and if not second, one keeps sliding down the pecking order of relevance and importance. This is especially true in the clutter of today. Though there have been numerous concerts with messages that “We Are The World” and, with supposedly all proceeds going to charity, what pretty much disappeared from sight were the success rates of these events. Celebrities had their moment in the sun and quietly galloped off into irrelevance. It was interesting speaking to some people recently who were living in Hong Kong back then and are now “long ago and faraway” and facing their own problems wherever they are today. What we agreed on is that the world has changed forever and that no one thing is going to be the 99.9 percent solution. It’s a far more fragmented world with a completely new generation looking for inspiration and Hope.

Many of us are now twenty, and maybe even thirty years older and with extremely different life priorities. Are there any game changers for the new generation like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Sir Run Run Shaw, Bruce Lee, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg or Jim Henson were to some of us? Sadly, Elon Musk might be all we have. More sadly, thinking often driven by social media with numbers and words like the level of “engagement” trotted out as being gospel because algorithms say so show that common sense has gone ta-ta.

We’re also seeing a huge increase in the bulls*it quotient because just about everyone can be an expert on anything and are hired after graduating from the University Of Google and restyling themselves. I often think of the great Quincy Jones telling all those artists to “Check Your Ego At The Door” before starting to produce the “We Are The World” recording sessions. Not surprisingly, these ego turns happen when insecurities and personal agendas raise their heads in today’s new abnormal, and where the square root of everything returns to “What’s in it for me?”, or “How do I associate myself with something successful?” Communications with audiences are often rendered useless in click bait clutter. It’s a dumbed down world and where standards in everything have been lowered- and accepted- because real creative leadership is thin on the ground.

In Hong Kong, we might be finally seeing the flicker of a light at the end of a very long tunnel, but how many outside of this city see this, and if they do, believe this to be true? How many of US living in Hong Kong really believe this?

How many of us have lost confidence on one-time leaders and are waiting for Quinn The Eskimo to get here before we can jump for joy? Scare words and terms like “quarantine”, “social distancing measures”, maths based on 0+numbers plus numerous Leave Home Safe apps and the enforced wearing of masks combine to make that decision to travel a very tough one. These are elephants in the room that should be addressed and solved with “living with Covid” being an order though many continue to tiptoe around these issues. Maybe it’s because none of these decision makers and wannabe game changers really know what to do and so shuffle papers around to look relevant.

This again, shows a lack of anything to help create teamwork.

It also shows a lack of honesty. My recent partner often asked why I bother with things and entertain stupidity when I could just chill out and enjoy life.

I bother because I care. Without this care, there’s no pride in ownership of the “product” and no commitment to any cause embraced.

Who wants to be part of the great plastic fantastic?

Personally speaking, knowing those with whom I can have a meaningful conversation able to offer solutions are few and far between.

What often hits me are Eye Roll Moments.

These happen when hearing people furiously tap dance their way through life by desperately trying to be what they’re not and never can be and holding onto a past that’s disappearing fast.

Listening to these drowning people nattering has me screaming for Don Draper or Michael Corleone, Bob Dylan or Christopher Walken to save me from the steady flow of diatribe and dribble. And maybe this is what’s most missing in the world today: Street smarts.

These street smarts are what I picked up from Keith Reinhard, my mentor in advertising, and Daniel Ng, the late Chairman of McDonald’s in Hong Kong. Though highly educated and with every possible academic qualification, they were guided by everything that appealed to heart and head and enjoyed throwing curve balls to see what answers came back. Their internal Check Out System was something I instantly gravitated towards.

It’s been a hugely important tool in survival and winning in the corporate world and keeping true to one’s principles. Having Keith, and especially Daniel, as sounding boards and the give and take of our discussions about any subject is what I miss- terribly. Women come and they will go though, and three, like that tiny dancer, will always be in me and with me. Though very different to each other, their ability to sniff out the Bulls*it Factor and keep me honest is what will always remain attractive. It’s made me question many, myself included, and wonder what’s real enough to make the time to make it work, and what’s necessary to let go no matter how difficult this might be. As for what’s next for Hong Kong, of course the Hong Kong Government will have its own plans to get to wherever it is that the city is heading. All any of us who live here can do is offer our help and support and make suggestions to try and move things forward. As talk is cheap, and these days knowing how empty vessels make the most noise, here are three suggestions:

  • A Multi Media Year Long Celebration Of Hong Kong throughout the city featuring dancers-traditional and contemporary- ‘live’ music performances, floats with Hong Kong artists, sporting heroes etc. Basically, a Hong Kong Carnival of sight and sound.

  • A series of ‘live’ streams of concerts from international acts like Coldplay, a concert by the virtual ABBA etc.

  • One entire month dedicated to showcasing the new generation of Hong Kong multi media creative talent.

But all this is just something from one Hong Kong Belonger. It would be good to collate ideas from as many of us as possible. This-after all- is our home. And having a say in our future without bashing it up is real teamwork and as seen last week when Hong Kong came together to support and have FUN at the Rugby Sevens- the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

Needed are a chain reaction of more of these OneTeam and Feel Good moments. We owe these to ourselves.


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