Ample facilities make Hong Kong a paradise for fitness enthusiasts

Updated: 2017-04-10 07:16

By Ma Chao(HK Edition)

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For a fitness enthusiast like me, Hong Kong is the perfect place to live in. The city is not only endowed with great natural sites for exercise, such as beaches for swimming and mountains and hills for hiking, but has also built numerous public sports facilities, which spread across all districts from the buzzing city center to the laid-back suburban towns. No matter what sports you like - be it jogging, swimming, cycling, soccer, basketball, tennis or badminton - you can find the proper venue without much hassle, and at a reasonable price.

Take the sports I like - jogging and swimming - as examples. If you love jogging, an abundance of venue choices await you. You may choose to jog in countless parks and promenades, which are all freely accessible for walkers and joggers. If you prefer to run on track, most of the 18 districts in Hong Kong have at least one multifunctional sports ground. The Southern District, where I live, has Aberdeen Sports Ground, equipped with a six-lane 400m running track. Runners and joggers can train on the track free of charge as long as the stadium is not rented out for sport events.

For swimmers, Hong Kong is truly a paradise. Twelve beaches on Hong Kong Island and 29 in the New Territories, manned with lifeguards, are all open to swimmers free of charge. If you prefer to swim in a pool, there are 43 public swimming pools available across all 18 districts of the city. The entrance fees at all public swimming pools are unbelievably low: HK$17 for adults on weekdays and HK$19 on weekends and public holidays. For seniors, students and children, the entrance fees are even lower - HK$8 on weekdays and HK$9 on weekends and holidays. Frequent swimmers can apply for a monthly pass at HK$300 (again, half price for seniors, students and children). In a city where a metro ride may cost more than HK$10 or even HK$20, and you may easily spend HK$40 or more for a fast food set lunch, the price for swimming is basically nothing.

Ample facilities make Hong Kong a paradise for fitness enthusiasts

Compared with Hong Kong, however, many mainland cities - including the most advanced metropolises - do not have sufficient public sports facilities for their citizens to enjoy. I lived in the Huilongguan area - home to more than 300,000 residents - in Beijing for several years but there was not a single public swimming pool in the area. To do my regular swimming exercise, I had to opt for privately owned pools. A 25-meter pool I regularly used, with not-so-satisfactory hygienic conditions, cost 30 yuan, or HK$34, for single entry. Even discounted fees for regular customers cost 20 yuan. A 50-meter pool located in a hotel with better hygiene charged 60 yuan for a single entry.

In Beijing, even public swimming pools charge much more than those in Hong Kong. The famous Water Cube charges every swimmer, including children and seniors, 60 yuan for each entrance. Though regular swimmers can buy a 10-time ticket (valid for one year) for 390 yuan, the price is still much less affordable, especially considering per capita income in Beijing is lower than Hong Kong's. In other cities like Shenzhen and Tianjin, the situation is similar - less options and higher charges.

Hong Kong has set a great example for mainland cities in terms of providing widespread, easily accessible and affordable public sports facilities, even if the city is famous for its scarce land supply. To encourage their citizens to engage more in sports activities and become fitter, mainland cities should learn from the special administrative region and earmark more funds for building public sports venues and subsidizing their operations to make entrance fees more affordable.

(HK Edition 04/10/2017 page8)