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IT was a proud moment for Hong Kong when the Chief Executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, handed over the Olympic Torch to Olympic gold medal-winning windsurfer Lee Lai-shan at the start of the Hong Kong leg of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay on May 2. But it was an even prouder moment for the city’s people when the relay ended more than seven hours later without so much as a glitch.

The Torch Relay was the first event held in Hong Kong in its official capacity as co-host of the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Equestrian Events (the Events). But the smooth running of the relay belied the intense preparation by various government departments.

The same can be said for every aspect of planning for Hong Kong’s historic co-hosting of the Events. In the months —— and in some cases, years —— of preparation by departments and bureaux, nothing has been overlooked. The scale and global importance of the Events have created special challenges for the civil service, even those sectors with absolutely no involvement in sports!

Watching our Ps and Qs

The Protocol Division, for instance, while not an organiser of any of the events related to the Olympics, will be constantly on its toes and has been working closely with the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB) to ensure that appropriate arrival and departure courtesies are extended to those international dignitaries visiting or transiting Hong Kong during the Games. HAB, in conjunction with the Equestrian Events (Hong Kong) of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad Company Limited (Equestrian Company), has the specific role of receiving heads of states, heads of governments, royalty and sports ministers who are officially accredited by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of XXIX Olympiad to attend the Olympics. In this regard, preparatory meetings with HAB and the Equestrian Company have been ongoing for a long time.

Cultural sensitivity

HAB estimates that the Equestrian Events will draw to Hong Kong some thousands of visitors comprising athletes, sporting officials and their entourages, equestrian spectators, as well as media. The construction of competition venues also creates more job opportunities. In the long run, Hong Kong will be able to raise its international profile, promote its credentials as “Asia’s world city” and further strengthen its status as a tourism and events city.


The Equestrian Company will be hosting welcome receptions to extend a warm welcome to the participating athletes, team officials and overseas parties who are not able to join the Beijing opening ceremony due to tight competition schedules. Live entertainment and cultural performances will be presented during the Events.

Catering services will provide a variety of safe, healthy and nutritious food and beverages for athletes who come from all around the world with varying dietary needs. At the athletes village, international cuisine will be available, and Chinese and Asian cuisines will also be showcased on a seven-day rotational menu. Hot and cold foods (including vegetarian options) and beverages in a buffet style will be served on a 24-hour basis. Halal and kosher foods will also be available.

Showcasing Hong Kong’s hospitality

The Tourism Commission (TC) has been working closely with the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) to