Sports, Public Relations Risk in Focus for Hong Kong Finance

HSBC breathed a sigh of relief as it dodged a third consecutive cancellation of its Rugby Sevens event. The fate of the Standard Chartered Marathon follows this week.

Over the weekend, the Hong Kong Sevens and sponsor HSBC dodged a bullet after the city’s secretary for culture, sports and tourism. Kevin Yeung Yun-hung confirmed that the government had approved the landmark rugby event scheduled for November.

Speaking on a local radio program, Yeung said that athletes arriving overseas would undergo a bubble-like arrangement while the distance between them and the audience during the games will be maximized. Yeung also said the government gave the green light to the Hong Kong Masters snooker tournament.

The resumption of the Hong Kong Sevens is welcome news after the rugby tournament was canceled two years in a row in 2020 and 2021 over Covid concerns.

StanChart Marathon Undecided

Meanwhile, the fate of another UK bank-sponsored event in November could also be decided in the coming days.

Originally scheduled for February this year, rival British lender Standard Chartered’s marquee marathon was already postponed to November. But last Thursday, Hong Kong Association of Athletics Affiliates chairman Kwan Kee said the marathon could be canceled altogether if authorities fail to confirm the event this week to allow for time to contact athletes, workers, and sponsors.

The Month of PR Risks

This coming November, Hong Kong’s financial sector faces a handful of public relations risks linked to widely marketed events.

Despite its resumption, the Hong Kong Sevens could still risk disappointing fans as the event will feature eight fewer teams than previous tournaments and social distancing arrangements could impact the experience which has traditionally featured a party-like environment with heavy drinking.

As for Standard Chartered, it will not be out of the woods even if the government approves its marathon. After attracting unwanted media attention over the use of attire linked with pro-democracy symbols in 2021, the event will once again test political sensitivities this year by featuring a quota of 25,000 runners to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover.

Bank-sponsored events aside, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority’s financial summit is also scheduled for November and currently risks limited attendance due to ongoing travel curbs. Thus far, it has confirmed the attendance of HSBC CEO. Noel Quinn and, most recently, Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters with others reportedly joining only if there is no quarantine requirement for arrivals.

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