LONDON, July 26: After a grueling flight delayed by more than 24 hours, athletes from table tennis, badminton and archery joined the rest of the Hong Kong squad at a colourful flag-raising ceremony at the Athlete’s Village in London.
Pang Chung, Hon. Secretary General of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, who accompanied the athletes whose flight on Wednesday night was delayed by Typhoon Vicente, was full of relieved smiles as he watched SF&OC President Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, who along with Chef de Mission Vivien Lau Chiang-chu, hand over a souvenir to the Village Mayor during the ceremony.
“I have never been through such an experience. We were in the plane and on the tarmac getting ready for takeoff when the pilot informed us that the winds were too strong and he had to abort. It was scary,” said Pang.
The three squads returned to the departure lounge only to find there was no way they could return home as all transport had stopped due to the typhoon.
“We stayed the night at the airport, then in the morning went home for a quick shower and then returned to catch our flight again. We were delayed 24 hours. I feel sorry for the athletes who had to undergo all this. It wasn’t a pleasant experience,” Pang added.
There was quite a different kind of experience awaiting the Hong Kong squad, numbering around 30-odd athletes - only the athletic squad and the cyclists were missing – as they marched smartly in their white blazers for the official welcome ceremony into the Athlete’s Village.
More than 50 men and women from the National Youth Theatre put on a brief display of song and dance – all to the music of Freddie Mercury and Queen – as Hong Kong watched. The Bauhinia Flag was raised to the sounds of the March of the Volunteers and it looked as if there was glint of a tear in the eye of windsurfer Hayley Chan Hei-man whose Olympic debut was almost ended by an injury she incurred during training.
“I have never seen anything like (song and dance) this at a welcome ceremony,” said a smiling Pang. “Perhaps it is a new concept and it seemed very English."
Hong Kong’s athletes will have to take part in another, much longer, ceremony on Friday – the Opening Ceremony.
“It will be longer. I guess we will be standing around for three or four hours but we are looking forward to it,” said Windsurfing coach Rene Appel.
After being based in Weymouth for the past two months, Appel and the small windsurfing squad had traveled to London to join the rest of the Hong Kong squad for the Opening Ceremony.
“We always miss out on this as at previous Games we have been based far from the main city. But this time we want to savour the excitement and since our competition only starts next Tuesday, we decided we should come. Also we needed a break from all our training,” Appel added.