26 October 2016
Nat Chan (right) lights his torch in Brazil.
Nat Chan (right) lights his torch in Brazil. Photo:

Why is this man representing Hong Kong at the Rio Olympics?

Most people outside Television Broadcasts Ltd. (00511.HK) scratched their heads when Natalis “Nat” Chan Pak-cheung was picked as the torchbearer for Hong Kong in the torch relay this week for this year’s Rio Olympics. 

Not windsurfing queen Lee Lai-shan, cycling prince Wong Kam-po nor the young track cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze, a potential Olympic medalist.

Any of the 120 Hong Kong torchbearers for the 2008 Beijing Olympics (except former Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. [00016.HK] managing director Thomas Kwok Ping-kwong, who is serving a jail sentence for corruption) would be less controversial than Chan, whose shortened first name, Nat, sounds like “smart” in Cantonese.

But TVB picked Chan, who is associated more with acting and gambling than sports.

The frequent guest host of the station’s Olympic Games coverage was the 95th torchbearer for the Rio Games, which start Aug. 5.

The selection of Chan to run 200 meters with the Olympic torch (400 meters as it turned out, because the next torchbearer in the relay didn’t show up) further dampened Hongkongers’ interest in the summer’s biggest sporting event, which was already lukewarm because most of the games will be broadcast in the morning because of the time difference with Brazil.

TVB, the exclusive broadcaster for the Games in Hong Kong, said Chan was a representative figure and the public should not challenge his qualifications.

Chan himself said he felt honored to be representing Hong Kong and the experience left an important mark on his life as a sports journalist.

Many in Hong Kong, however, doubt whether his nomination had more to do with his sports anchoring experience than his close relationship with TVB chairman Charles Chan Kwok-keung.

As a TV host and movie actor and producer, Nat Chan has always been a controversial figure, because he likes to make outrageous remarks that run against the opinion of most of the public.

Last year, he said on an RTHK show that Hong Kong should be taken over by China in 2047, because the Chinese government should always have overall jurisdiction over Hong Kong.

He also poured scorn on Joshua Wong Chi-fung, founder of now defunct student activist group Scholarism and a student at the Open University of Hong Kong, for not making it to one of the eight publicly funded universities in Hong Kong.

Nat Chan has also praised Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying for doing a better job than his immediate predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, because Leung has served the interests of the lower class.

Although he claims he has never lost betting on horses, Nat Chan has not had such luck with listed companies.

Back in the heyday of the internet at the end of the last century, Chan was an investor in Stareast, which ran restaurant outlets and websites.

Stareast was eventually sold to Rosedale Hotel Holdings Ltd. (01189.HK), in which Chan has been an independent non-executive director since 2002.

The value of the company has fallen 99 per cent since he became involved with it.

Why couldn’t Hong Kong find a better torchbearer?

How the generation gap is holding back Hong Kong (Dec. 21, 2015)

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter