All in the family

Updated: 2012-08-05 08:06

By Fu Jing (China Daily)

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All in the family 

Timothy Fok is at the center of media attention at the launching ceremony of China House in London. Fu tian / China News Service

 All in the family

Timothy Fok with his son (middle) and future daughter-in-law Guo Jingjing (second from right), former Olympic champion, in London for the Games. Zou Guangping / Xinhua

Generations of Foks have given support to Chinese Olympians, Fu Jing reports from London.

From China's first Olympic gold medal in 1984, to Beijing 2008 and the ongoing London Olympics, Hong Kong's rags-to-riches Fok family has taken it as a journey. Along the way, their lasting passion and contributions have helped Chinese athletes shine at the global competitions.

Timothy Fok - with three sons and soon-to-be daughter-in-law Guo Jingjing, a well-recognized Olympic champion - is now in London cheering on the athletes and mobilizing resources to promote sports, culture and education for China and other parts of the world.

"I feel lucky I can become not only a witness but also a contributor during the journey," says Fok, who has "several hats" on his head at the Hong Kong, national and global levels.

Apart from being a business executive who manages a multi-billion-dollar business empire handed down by his late father Fok Ying-tung, Fok has been president of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee since 1997, when Hong Kong was returned to China.

Born in 1946, Fok has also been a member of the International Olympic Committee and now he is enlisted in the IOC commission for organizing the 31st Games in Rio de Janeiro after playing such a role for the 29th Summer Games in Beijing. He believes the 2008 Games were one of the most successful in Olympic history.

Though he says football is "a failure for him" and his favorite sport is tennis, Fok also acts as president of Hong Kong Football Association.

All the titles and responsibilities have resulted from the family's lasting contribution and most emotional moments in life. "We are passionate about Olympics mainly because it is beyond sports and gold medals," says Fok, whose family has a history of donating many sporting and cultural facilities throughout China. "It is more about legacies and showcasing and inspiring a country."

In London, he says, the opening ceremony last Friday showcased the British way of life and immense cultural heritage. Both the Beijing and London Games had the stamp of the UK's own cultural heritages, says Fok, who obtained part of his education in Britain and his native city was a British colony. For his family, he says, both Games "were very emotional moments."

At the Beijing Olympics, he says, "I can still remember the countdown at the opening it was an emotional moment which nearly half of the world's population was focusing on. And Chinese history was condensed into hours."

For Fok and his father, the most emotional Olympic moment happened in 1984, at the Los Angles Olympics, when Chinese athlete Xu Haifeng won the country's first gold medal in Olympics history.

"My father confessed to me that the moment had been the most emotional one in his life," Fok recalls, adding that his father was a very traditional Chinese with a poor and difficult childhood and who found it easy to hide feelings.

However, when they asked Chinese sports officials how the gold medalist could be rewarded, the answer was, "They can be treated to a nice dinner." Then, father and son decided to reward Chinese Olympic gold medalists with a kilogram of gold.

The practice was sustained until the Beijing Games. Now, the Fok family is thinking of changing the reward plan, since the number of sponsors for Chinese athletes has grown so much.

"I will focus on inspiring youth participation in sports and also bringing sports, culture and education into one," says Fok. "All in all, I am going to advocate the concept of sports for all, (instead of the wealthy) and new lifestyles among the Chinese youth."

The younger Fok says he will use Nansha, a growing modern coastal city in Guangdong province, as a base for the plan.

With his family's investment, Nansha, close to Hong Kong, has been turning into an active and flourishing business environment supported by a wide variety of social amenities and services from a fishing town in the 1980s.

Fok says he will recruit China's outstanding to advocate sports for all and new lifestyles in Nansha. With sports, culture and education in one package, Fok says Nansha will become an attractive city to work and live in.

"This is my late father's dream and we will fulfill it," says Fok. His father had a special love for Nansha, a place the Fok family has ancestral roots. It is reported that the elder Fok had visited Nansha 500 times. Once Fok's father famously said: "I will not do business in my homeland. I will not take a single cent from it. My investments and donations here are meant to boost the economy and make the nation wealthy and strong."

From the beginning, as the senior Fok was a frail person himself, he believed that for a country and its citizens to meet the challenges in life it was necessary to have a strong body and mind.

In support of this belief, he invested HK$100 million ($13 million) in the Sports and Physical Education Foundation in 1984 and devoted much personal time and effort developing sports and sports related activities. Up to now, this foundation has contributed in excess of HK$400 million to building more than 20 modern sports centers, gymnasiums, and facilities for nurturing talents in the mainland and Hong Kong.

In addition, the foundation has also promoted badminton and Chinese chess, two popular sports in the country, and nurtured talent to compete in the international arena.

It has also offered various incentives and bonuses to encourage sports excellence. In the early 1970s, the senior Fok successfully helped China restore its position in the international sports arena. During the past two decades, the family contributed to Beijing's bids in hosting Olympics. For Timothy Fok, his vision has gone beyond a strong body and mind for the nation.

"China now needs to find instruments to tell stories to the rest of the world and I believe sports and Olympics are ideal," he says.

The Fok family may be in expansion mode after former diving queen Guo Jingjing and his son Kenneth Fok get married. Timothy Fok says he is happy to see that they have a wonderful wedding. "But they will make up their own mind and I may be the last one to know," says Fok.

It is reported that the couple will be wed later this year.

After winning four gold medals in the Olympics, Guo retired last year. And Guo was with Fok's family in London to support the current Games.

"She is one of the most accomplished athletes," says Fok. "She is very disciplined, very focused. She is a pleasant young lady."

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