Why not put it on ice?

April 25, 2023 09:13
Photo: Hong Kong Ice Hockey Association

Ice Hockey must be the last sport that anyone would associate with Hong Kong, yet our young sportsmen and women have been achieving remarkable international success at this, the most violent of all sports.

You might have thought that given the current administration’s strenuous efforts to promote Hong Kong, our men’s ice hockey team’s prowess in an international competition would be hailed as demonstrating that we are back in business.

Sadly, but with that unerring propensity for petty-minded nit-picking that various of our worthy community leaders have, instead of congratulating these young sportsmen and women for putting Hong Kong firmly on the international ice hockey map, there is a furore over the mistake made by the Bosnia and Herzogovina Ice Hockey Association with regard to playing the national anthem.

The actual miscreants are the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, the SF&OC.

Hong Kong sportspeople participating in international events are provided, by the SF&OC with a kit which has a hyperlink. This link takes one to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau webpage on the Chinese National Anthem which, in turn, leads one to the page containing another hyperlink to the Standard Score and Official Recording.

The only problem is that these links are in Chinese and if you look for a translation, it takes you back to the Mainland Affairs Bureau webpage, also in Chinese.

You might have thought that as these links are intended to be used at international sporting events, the web pages would be in a language a trifle more accessible than Chinese.

You would be wrong.

I fully appreciate the depth of emotional investment in national anthems but the error was largely due to a faulty bit of kit with which the men’s ice hockey team were provided by Hong Kong’s Sports Administrators, not an artful bit of dodgy DJ work..

It must surely come as no great surprise that the good folk in Bosnia-Herzogovina, not people accustomed to having to read Chinese, foundered when endeavouring to play the appropriate piece of music to celebrate Hong Kong’s success.

We Hong Kongers would have no problem identifying the national anthem because we have the privilege of listening to it at 8.0 am every morning.

Now, I do not want to be misinterpreted. It is my unfailing habit to accord respect to everyone’s national anthem when called upon so to do. As an ex-soldier, I always stand to attention when any national anthem is played.

Nor do I wish to cast aspersions on either the stunning music or inspirational lyrics of the March of the Volunteers, a musical composition calculated to stir the blood of every true patriot.

But as a musician and lyricist, it is my wont to cast a leery over anthems of every description.

Take the British national anthem (please do); this dire piece of music began life as a German drinking song and ought to have ended there. Musically, it is as inspiring as the sound of water dripping off a gutter and the lyrics are a tribute to some misbegotten cleric charged with dreaming them up whilst on his knees.

The best that can be said for this dreary hymnal is that it should end with ‘God save us from whichever Prime Minister has been foisted upon us’.

The one national anthem that to my ears has musical merit and inspirational words is France’s La Marseillase, it has a real zing in its rhythmic structure and the European Union had the good taste to borrow from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for its ‘Ode to Joy’.

Perhaps my low regard for the musical quality of anthems generally can be traced back to my school song, written four hundred years after the school was founded.

Allegedly written by a drunken music master in the village pub, the melody – if that word can properly be ascribed to the tune – is beyond the vocal range of most pupils and the words, invoking the obligatory Latin phrases, string together some sentences notable only for their banality.

But back to the plight of Hong Kong’s triumphant ice hockey teams. Not only have the men triumphed but now the girls have too.

But some misbegotten soul has, apparently, set the plods onto identifying the guilty party. I hope they can find one who speaks Serbian.

At a time when we are desperate to put Hong Kong back firmly on the world map of financial centres, not to mention tourist destinations, why is what was plainly an unfortunate error by the worthy ice-hockey officials of Bosnia and Herzogovina, being blown into a national crisis instead of being laughed off?

Basic good manners dictates that the incident be quickly forgotten, in the interest of good relations with the host country.

Do we really want the rest of the world to snigger at us?

The sensible course would have been to focus on Hong Kong’s triumphant ice hockey team, coming out of nowhere to succeed at a sport for which they have almost no home facilities whatsoever; do we have more than one ice rink?

But those who have nothing better to do with their time than get their underwear in knots over an unfortunate musical glitch seem intent on burying a Hong Kong success story.

The truth is that these people don’t give a puck.

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