Tomorrow, thank god, will see the back of the Olympics for another four years.
In Hong Kong – as in the rest of the world, no doubt – it’s been almost bloody impossible to escape from “The Games”.
The Games’ ubiquity has nearly driven me crazy: the TV channels and the local newspapers have been virtually taken over by it; images of the athletes, and The Games’ commercial sponsors and their products are plastered over all the bill-boards and posters; and The Games is the main (often, the only) topic of conver-sation.
Yet, of all the effects The Games has had on Hong Kong life, the most significant (in my view) is the way it has aided the rise of Chinese nationalism within Hong Kong’s Chinese population – something I first noticed with the arrival of the Olympic torch.
Let me be clear on this point: I don’t think it’s wrong or strange the Hong Kong Chinese are supporting and cheering the mainland Chinese athletes – in fact, I would think it strange if they didn’t; I just think the sudden apparent increase in intensity of support for any athlete wearing the Chinese flag is a development worthy of comment.
You see, when I first arrived in Hong Kong in 1995, most of the Chinese I worked with had a BNO passport. Some of them even applied for, and received, Australian or Canadian passports: I didn’t do a survey, but I gained the impres-sion the Hong Kong Chinese thought (at that time) they were different and separate from the mainland Chinese.
This impression was reinforced (perhaps, with hindsight, erroneously) after the 1997 handover when so much effort went into controlling and restricting the influx of mainlanders into Hong Kong.
However, I now realise the process of “reassimilation” of the Hong Kong Chinese is one of the logical and inevitable results of the British withdrawal from Hong Kong. I’m not suggesting the Beijing Games was the first step in this process – nor do I expect it to be the last – but I’m confident, when historians look back at these Games, they will credit it with awakening the Chinese soul within the Hong Kong Chinese heart.