Popularity of mainland Olympic stars visiting Hong Kong causes ticket website breakdown
Published: Nov 27, 2021 12:15 AM
Athletes from both China and Hong Kong pose for photos together after the awards ceremony for the table tennis women's team event.(Photo: Xinhua)

Athletes from China's national and Hong Kong teams pose for photos together after the awards ceremony for the table tennis women's team event in Tokyo. China's national team won a gold medal while the Hong Kong team won a bronze. (Photo: Xinhua)

After the Hong Kong Olympic delegation achieved historic results in Tokyo this summer, a visit by mainland Olympic stars is set to wow the Special Administrative Region again on December 4. the booking website broke down on Friday after 5,300 tickets for three exchange events sold out quickly.

The 29 mainland Olympic stars include table tennis player Ma Long who won his second Olympic men's single gold in Tokyo, sprinter Su Bingtian who made history and was dubbed the "Asian flying man," as well as gold-winning fencer Sun Yiwen. Also attending will be weightlifter Lü Xiaojun who broke the record and won another gold at the age of 37 this summer. Three coaches are also in the delegation. 

The ticket sales started at 10 am but a local resident surnamed Cheung told the Global Times the ticket website soon broke down and she wasn't able to log in until about 11 am. Hotline for tickets was always busy. 

Such visits have become a routine for decades to enhance exchanges between the mainland and Hong Kong. Tickets for each of this year's events sell for HK$20 ($2.57). 

The scale of this year's events is smaller and there will not be face-to-face interactions due to the COVID-19 control requirements, Hong Kong officials said earlier. 

But public enthusiasm was not dampened, and people like Cheung who failed to snap up a ticket will be able to watch the event via broadcast.

The Olympic delegation will also visit elementary schools and high schools before returning to the mainland, according to the arrangement. 

Local resident Cynthia Wong told the Global Times that she's excited to watch the athletes, which is a tradition of such exchanges. Wong developed an interest in table tennis in 2016 and recalled that year the national team offered a funny "performance" with four paddlers circling around the table.

In that year's visit, badminton player Lin Dan competed with three Hong Kong teenagers in the event while mainland divers impressed the audience with their skills and amused them with some "clumsy jumps."

Sport can unite people and build solidarity and the mainland Olympic athletes' visit will drive Hong Kong residents' pride in the nation to a new high, observers said. 

The city also got its best results since the handover in 1997 - one gold medal for fencing for Edgar Cheung Ka-long and two swimming silver medals for Siobhan Bernadette Haughey.