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Kong: A First-Rate Destination …


For Squash and Leisure…

Hong Kong goes up (Photo
R Reta)

AM OFTEN asked of all the places I have traveled to as a squash
player, which has been my favourite destination to visit.

having traveled to some incredibly exotic countries, there
is no place (in my opinion) that rivals the life and energy
of Hong Kong. In fact, despite the painfully long flight and
the horribly disorienting jet-lag, Hong Kong remains one of
the few places that continues to provoke child-like feelings
of excitement and anticipation upon arrival, no matter how
many times I go back. With a national sport’s commission
that is eager to bring first-class sporting events to this
small island, squash players will have a reason to keep returning
to this wondrous place. And wondrous it certainly is…             

Hong Kong mixes urban with
green. (Photo R Reta)

the moment you step off the plane and into the airport, it’s
clear that you’ve arrived in a place of inimitable class
and sophistication. Navigating through the various levels and
corridors of this impressively built, open-concept airport
(noted for its wide carpeted hallways and large windows opening
up to the surrounding hills of the airport) and boarding the
sky train- an incredibly sleek and futuristic-looking train
that leaves quite literally from inside the airport structure
and transports people from the mountainous outskirts of Hong
Kong to the core of the main island- the technological prowess
and efficiency of this specially-administered region of China
cannot be more prominently showcased.

Winding through the hills (Photo
R Reta)

are really no words that can do justice to the feeling one
gets from exiting the train terminal into the heart of downtown,
except that it is so breath-taking and awe-inspiring a sight
that no matter how many times one sees it, the effect remains
the same. To put it simply, skylines of great cities around
the world pale in comparison to the sheer enormity and grandeur
of the Hong Kong skyline. Driving through this concrete jungle,
winding around these massive structures, one cannot help
but look up, jaw dropped in amazement. At times, walking
through the crowded streets, lanes and overpasses where signs
in Cantonese flash in their fluorescent glory, accompanied
by the loud energy that is the natural by-product of considerable
human flows, it is easy to feel an overwhelming sense of
insignificance and anonymity in this place. But look up to
the sky at the towering forms of brilliantly carved concrete,
and one cannot help but feel a sense of euphoria and jubilation
over the architectural triumphs of man.

Diverse street scenes (Photo
R Reta)

this tiny yet densely populated island, the term “the
sky’s the
limit” has been adopted quite literally as increasing
numbers of residents seek places to live. As ground-space is
nearly non-existent, contractors build massive high rise apartments,
stacking lives upwards into the seemingly limitless sky. And
yet, as unnatural as this may seem, everything is functional
here; restaurants, cinemas, shops, hotels are all built seamlessly
into the sides of these buildings and skyscrapers, and in turn
are all interconnected through a series of walkways and overpasses.
Hong Kong is truly an architectural marvel.

The tranquil as well (Photo
R Reta)

Hong Kong redefines and outclasses most cities in the department
of imposing, big-city feel, what is particularly impressive
about this destination is its diversity, both culturally
and geographically.  Hong Kong is considered
a major international business hub, and this is reflected in
the various Western hotels, shops and restaurants that all
cater to the needs of the traveling businessman (it should
also be noted that Hong Kong was a British colony as recently
as 1997, so some of those influences still remain ie. driving
on the left-hand side). However, lying side by side to these
elements of Western influence are an equal number of Chinese
shops, stalls and markets laid out for the local population
as well as for the adventurous visitor. Whether you’re
purchasing a piece of jade from a roadside stall or some
rare form of animal (live or dead!) from a meat market, you
can find just about anything in these shops. Hong Kong seems
to be the place where East and West meet. There is no semblance
of a cultural clash here; only a simple and accepted co-existence
that is unique to this great island.

The beauty of the mountains
and water (Photo
R Reta)

many big cities, it often seems virtually impossible to escape
the frenetic, suffocating pace of life. In Hong Kong however,
this is not the case. In addition to the various parks and
gardens that are situated throughout the downtown area, it
is a short 20-minute drive to the other side of the island
where untouched nature and beauty abound. Rolling green hills,
white sand beaches and blue waters typify what can be found
on this side of the island, without as much as of a hint
to the mad frenzy that lies only miles away. Moreover, various
outlying islands can be reached by short ferry ride, allowing
one to feel altogether removed from the claustrophobia of
the city. The slow-paced, traditional lifestyles that persist
on these islands, unaffected by the sprawling growth and
modernization of the city, are a reminder of a once-prevalent
existence, not long ago. Visiting these islands is much like
being transported to an entirely different country and time.

Some traditional lifestyle
remains (Photo R Reta)

Kong is a fantastic destination for those who love both the
elements of the city and countryside. From shopping to rides
on the harbour, to picturesque hikes and visits to old temples
and boat markets, there is something for everyone. And it
is on this exciting background that some of the greatest
squash competitions of the year are held. In 2004, the government
formed the Major Sports Event Committee, a commission designated
with the mandate of developing sport and bringing high-class
events to Hong Kong. This committee (led by Herman Hu) along
with the sheer vision and innovation evinced by the Chairman
of Hong Kong Squash, David Mui, have been the two main driving
forces behind some of squash’s biggest events being
hosted here. And what events they put on! From marketing
to accommodation to media coverage, every single aspect of
the organizational process is meticulously and professionally
undertaken (I would be remiss not to mention the relentless
efforts of Tony Choi and Heather Deayton- two faces synonymous
with HK squash- who work tirelessly to direct these campaigns
and to ensure that the players’ needs are always being
looked after).

Breathtaking skylines. (Photo
R Reta)

2003 and 2005, Hong Kong hosted the World Open, considered
the biggest tournament of the year for both men and women.
For both events, the glass court was boldly erected on the
breathtaking harbour, thus aptly boasting the larger-than-life
nature of this amazing island, and using it as a spectacular
backdrop for the squash. This year, Hong Kong held the 2006
Cathay Pacific/Swiss Privilege Hong Kong Open, another major
event, bringing in all of the top players in the world. Again,
the innovation of Mr. Mui led to the glass court being built
in the Hollywood Plaza, a busy shopping mall. With large
crowds, television crews, and a massive LCD screen above
the court (that played the match in all its magnified glory),
it was a truly impressive display. While the players put
on an exciting show within the confines of the court, the
organizers set the stage beautifully, and showed themselves
what it was like to put on a first-class event.

the various sports commissions are happy to bring in the sponsors
necessary to hold such prestigious events, the second aspect
of their mandate is to develop their own athletes to a point
where they can excel on the world-stage. Surely, they must
be heartened to see that their efforts have born fruit. Last
year, Hong Kong won the Junior Women Worlds Team title for
the first time in history, and several of the girls are already
showing signs of success on the WISPA tour. With a steady
stream of tournaments in their own backyard that will help
to motivate and expose them to high level squash, these young
girls have a bright future and a real shot at one day joining
their older compatriot, Rebecca Chiu, in the top 20. With
continued support and encouragement, these goals could be
realized sooner than later.

squash community has benefited tremendously from the efforts
and commitment of the Major Sports Event Committee and HK Squash,
in putting on first-rate events each and every year. Their
enthusiasm for the game and willingness to provide ongoing
support is unrivalled by most, but appreciated by all. We
are indebted to their efforts, and will happily continue
to visit their beautiful island for as long as they will
have us back. 
– 12/6/2006



Reta is a WISPA touring pro based in Ottawa, Canada. She currently
holds a WISPA ranking of 39 as of 12-1-06.
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