2014_WingDing_Logo.jpg    THE 16TH WING DING RUNNING TEAMS TOURNAMENTOP_SantaClaus_Logo.jpg

(Written by Julian Harniess)

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(Full gallery of Wing Ding photos can be seen here) 

But the hour cometh, and now is – John 4.23

“The essence of humanity is thought, and deeds, for others whose fortune is not in equal measure” - Julian Harniess

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair" ~ Nelson Mandela

 

On the morning of 22nd November, 2014, the changing room at the Hong Kong Football Club was full: blue and red Captain Americas – with shields - were adjusting their enviable abs and huge arm muscles, red underpants securely hitched over blue tights; standing alongside were hirsute transvestite fairies, making sure that their black gossamer skirts were suitably flowing, while several very green and blue monsters sharpened claws next to Fred Flintstones, resplendent in prehistoric mud brown, fixing their red ties round unshaven necks. And that was only in the male changing room.

Judging by their later appearance, the same thing had been happening in the ladies’ changing room, but without the adjectives ‘hirsute’ and ‘transvestite’ to describe the fairies. In the concourse by the courts, it was reminiscent of that bar scene in ‘Star Wars’ where the denizens of a multifarious universe gathered to socialise: brown-robed mediaeval monks stood chatting to silver-spangled space travellers; starchy nurses to sooty chimney sweeps; cowboys to nuns, pink panthers to red-clad ‘footballers’; technicolour dreamboats to blue-clad avatars, all twitching tails and long, black hair.

Film extras preparing for some fantasy blockbuster? A huge fancy dress party? A bizarre conference of alternative dressers? A collection of kinky politicians?

No, just the day-long Hong Kong Football Club 16th Wing Ding Running Squash Tournament 2014, the annual competition involving many teams from the Hong Kong squash-playing community - The Hong Kong and Kowloon Cricket Clubs, the Royal Yacht Club, The American Club to name but a few – and the world.

The tournament was about to get under way: fourteen teams of bizarrely-clothed squash players preparing to battle it out in the name of Operation Santa Claus, the major charity money-raiser in Hong Kong’s annual calendar, under the auspices of RTHK and the SCMP.

Sport and, by association, sports clubs all over the world, are foremost in the drive to raise money for worthy charitable causes, but no club more so than the squash section at the Hong Kong Football club.

Why is it that sports people feel so sensitively for those less fortunate for themselves? I guess it’s because they are so aware of the idea that “there but for the grace of God go I”; and a profound gratitude for the strength and good health that enables them to play the sport they love.  

Under the year-long cajoling, ceaseless devotion to the cause of providing funds for those less advantaged, Hong Kong Football Club squash section member, Tim Everest – who himself has been through that Damascene experience in terms of health hinted at in the previous paragraph - has put the Wing Ding Tournament on Hong Kong’s fund-raising calendar for the last 15 years.

In that time the tournament has contributed over a staggering $10,000,000 to the RTHK/SCMP Operation Santa Claus Fund, making this tournament the third largest donor after the huge banks of UBS and Morgan Stanley.

This year (over $1,200,000) and last year alone (over $2,000,000), the Wing Ding Tournament contributed nearly $4,000,000 to the charity’s coffers. Not bad considering it is the work of one man’s dedication to charity’s cause. Undoubtedly, the Wing Ding Tournament is recognized as a “brand for goodness” in the squash world.

“The 16th running of the Wing Ding is a time to appreciate what we have achieved and also a chance to look forward to what more we can do in the future. We cannot change the world overnight, but I believe we are making a difference. One playing field or one squash court at a time is real progress. If we can change just one child's life for the better, you know it is worth the effort. I certainly believe this,” Tim said passionately, when I managed to catch up with him, just before he went on court resplendent in his technicolour glory.

Most squash players know the origins of the eponymous tournament and the legendary Yuen Kam Wing, the ever-cheerful, physically challenged staff member who worked at the Hong Kong Squash Centre on Garden Road and who died tragically in 1998. Wing was irrepressibly good-natured and was one of those rare people who never seemed to be anything but cheerful and in love with life.

Many of the present-day players who participate never knew Wing, but his memory remains strong and as potent as ever and continues to act as a magnet for squash players every year.

The amazing thing is that many, many squash players regularly take part in the annual event, travelling from as far away as Australia, Europe and all points south, east, west and north just to be part of a team dressed in the most ridiculous costumes ever conceived, costumes that constrict and stifle and make you make you itch and sweat, while dashing from court to court thirteen times for three minutes each time. Only squash players would put themselves through such torment and pay for the ‘privilege’ of doing so.

James, a previous Hong Kong resident of some four years’ standing, travelled back from UK to take part in the tournament, as well as renew acquaintance with the territory : “I always took part in the tournament when I lived here, “ he said, “and I’m a great supporter of such a worthy cause, so I make every effort to return and take part in such a great day. I dine out on the stories and experiences for the rest of the year back in the UK.”

Kim, a recently qualified lawyer and a life-long Hong Kong resident and club member, has taken part in the tournament ever since she could hold a squash racquet - “I’ve had squash injuries myself, so I’ve experienced the pain and anguish of not being able to move about easily and being incapacitated, even for a short time, so I count my blessings that I can play and contribute,” she smiled, dwarfed by the thick, heavy monster ‘onesie’ she was about to play in.

The squash section of the football club has never stinted on giving – of time, of money, of heart - but it is this Wing Ding Tournament that really struck a chord with squash players, in the Football Club, in clubs around Hong Kong and in the world, not only in memory of the legendary Wing himself, but also because the money accrued is for those whose fortunes do not match those who play on the day.

 “Although the Wing Ding takes place on a single Saturday in November, preparations for the event and the actual fund raising part, last the whole year. Post event, collecting the pledges takes a lot of time and effort so to raise this sort of amount really takes a year to realize, but if we can help a single child in a meaningful way, all that effort is fully justified. What will the next target be I wonder?” Tim muses, breathless after his 40 minutes-plus playing.

Long may the tournament continue and long may people like Tim Everest continue to prick our consciences and remind us of the good fortune that we are lucky enough to enjoy; we can’t swap places with those less fortunate, but we can help to raise funds to alleviate suffering and poverty.

Got to stop now; it’s my turn to play at number 7. I told Bjorn it was way above my capability given my bad knee.

Oh well, here goes…

(Written by Julian Harniess) 

Click on Pictures below to enlarge Results for Teams & Players

16th Wing Ding Squash Tournament 2014 ~ GOING BALLS TO THE WALLS FOR HONG KONG’S MOST NEEDY”
A community effort to raise funds for RTHK/SCMP Operation Santa Claus Appeal 2014 ~ 27th year in 2014 ~ “27 years making a difference in Hong Kong”