In today’s Talking Points column in the racing page of the SCMP, racing writer Sam Agars writes, “There is the thinking that Hongkongers need horse racing more than ever during periods of severe restrictions”.
This, after some lengthy ping ponging and guessing and double guessing under the headline “Could ‘lockdown’ wreak havoc on Champions Day?” “Havoc?” Isn’t this what’s going on in Hong Kong now? Havoc? There’s going to be even more havoc if Champions Day doesn’t happen?
So many questions about a pastime, popular, yes, but when an entire city is not only fighting for its life, but for its future well-being? Really?
Though enjoying my horse racing, does this take precedence over the welfare of family and children who are very much part of my life? Of course not.
My priority and that of all- all- my friends, some of whom even have more than a passing interest in horse racing, have already put this pastime to the side.
Like myself, their priority is placed on ensuring that their exit plans, at a time when flights to Australia, for example, are booked until June, can be fast tracked for the welfare of their families welfare and well-being.
Here’s what’s often a major problem with those in or outside of this bouncing ball called “the racing bubble”: Selfishness and a very old school and warped sense of self-importance.
Horse racing in Hong Kong is most definitely not discardable, BUT the role of the Hong Kong Jockey Club becomes more important than ever to Hong Kong Belongers, especially during a time like what we’re going through today.
Today, there’s extraordinary panic and fear brought on by months of meandering leadership by the government that was questioned this week in an open letter to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor by prominent businessman Alan Zeman, below.
Alan Zeman and the Chief Executive have had a cosy relationship for years. He could have picked up the phone and called her. But he didn’t. He chose to go “rogue” and go public and offered his services as he felt- and feels- that the ongoing ping pong match of, way too often, conflicting and mixed messages between various spokespeople for the government and the media, especially the international business media, is doing nothing for the image of Hong Kong.
With this once inviting and vibrant city looking like Toon Town and an also-ran, where does horse racing fit into today’s Hong Kong...and on an ongoing basis?
Other than everything to do with wagering and turnover and the enormous betting duty paid to the government, what else? Four hours of television viewing? Working out betting strategies when the wife or girlfriend is having an anxiety attack because she feels that she needs to escape from Hades with the kids?
It’s not Sam Agars fault. He’s brought up a rather unfortunate subject at the wrong time in the history of Hong Kong and when dealing with a city that’s never ever been more angry, frustrated and desperate due to the lack of any clearly defined answers.
This is why, as mentioned a few days ago, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which is much more than another racing club because of its Charities Trust- something I have written about at length for almost a decade- needs, now more than ever, the proven leadership and popularity with the community of Chief Executive Winfried Engelbrecht- Bresges.
He is needed to step up and show that the Hong Kong Jockey Club is not a one-trick pony caught up in some high stakes gambling bubble. There’s not exactly much empathy in that.
Instead, it’s about proving how through a strategic and well balanced programme, the Hong Kong Jockey Club, working with the government, is able to give the Hong Kong people what it really needs right now - Hope and not a serving of meaningless waffles about something lost to many called Champions Day.
It’s the Hong Kong people who are the REAL champions. Make all these days, starting from today, THEIR day.