On 1 February 1958, the inaugural Festival of Sport (hereafter FOS) was held at Queen Elizabeth II Youth Centre in Mong Kok. The Festival was co-organized by the ASF&OC and 11 sports associations. The Opening Ceremony kicked off with a music performance by New Method College. American World Women Badminton Champion Margaret Varner Bloss was also invited to perform at the Festival. On 23 February, the outdoor events of the Festival were held at the Hong Kong Government Stadium.
The inaugural Festival of Sport was a small-scale event, but it was so popular that the two-day programmes were almost full because such activities were scarcely found in Hong Kong. A report of the successful FOS was published by the Hong Kong Government in the Hong Kong Yearbook 1959.
Following the successful inaugural event, the ASF&OC organized the 2nd FOS in March 1959. Henceforth, the FOS became an annual event in Hong Kong. Renowned badminton player Ramon C.S. Young and other athletes joined the organization of the event. The FOS was initially held at the Hong Kong Government Stadium, Queen Elizabeth II Youth Centre in Mong Kok, Southorn Stadium and South China Athletic Association Stadium. In the 1960s, the Hong Kong Rifle Club and the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club joined the FOS by opening their facilities for visits by the public during the Festival.
After the Hong Kong Riots in 1966 and 1967, the Hong Kong Government acknowledged the FOS as an important means of promoting amateur sports, attracting young people to join sports, enhancing physical fitness, and advocating the spirit of friendship above competition. In addition, as young people comprised the majority of the Hong Kong population, the FOS became a platform to promote sports for young people by matching them with the suitable sports associations for specialized training. As reflected in the brochure for the 1969 Festival, the sports associations were requested to provide young people with the opportunities to join as many games as possible.
In order to create the appearance of social harmony after the Hong Kong riots, the Hong Kong Government provided young people with cultural and recreational activities by organizing “Festival of Hong Kong” in 1969, 1971 and 1973. Meanwhile, the FOS had been growing in scale. Apart from the daytime indoor and outdoor activities, evening activities were added in the 1968 Festival of Sport. The Kowloon Cricket Club, Club de Recreio, and the Hong Kong Lawn Bowls Association also joined the Festival. In addition, Wushu activities were included in the Festival. The organizer also cooperated with the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Chinese Recreation Club in the events. Starting from 1969, large-scale competitions such as the Hong Kong Youth Athletics Championships and the Davis Cup were included in the FOS programmes.
In March 1972, A. de O. Sales wrote to the new Hong Kong Governor Murray MacLehose during the FOS and said that the Festival had aroused young people’s interest in sports and created cooperation opportunities among the sports organizations. This attracted the Governor’s attention and gained his positive response.
In 1973, A. de O. Sales became the first elected Chairman of the Urban Council. In the FOS brochure published in the same year, he reiterated that the FOS aimed not only at promoting sports, but its ultimate objectives were to guide young people to engage in productive activities and to cultivate a healthy lifestyle, to advocate the mutually constructive and respectful team spirit, and to ensure that Hong Kong citizens were able to join their favorite sports.
In 1974, the SF&OC initiated for the first time “Sport for the People” as a slogan for the FOS.
From 1972 to 1974, the newly constructed Mong Kok Stadium, Victoria Park and Morrison Hill Swimming Pool were used as the venues for the FOS. The Mong Kok Stadium was even used for the Opening Ceremony of the FOS in 1974. The FOS was held for over ten days and attracted over 70,000 participants every year.
In 1975, the ASF&OC’s effort in promoting sports was recognized by the Hong Kong Government. As A. de O. Sales alluded to in the FOS brochure, the Hong Kong Government accepted the ASF&OC’s advice to advocate all kinds of activities for well-being and to encourage young people to join various healthy sports group activities. A. de O. Sales wrote to the Hong Kong Governor again in February of the same year and reported that the FOS had succeeded in attracting more young people to use the community sports facilities in their leisure time. To this Governor MacLehose responded positively, “I appreciate your contributions in promoting sports in Hong Kong and providing these positive and beneficial programmes for the Hong Kong people.”
At that time, the events were largely held in town due to limited venues and facilities.
In 1976, the Governor appointed the Recreation and Sports Service of the Education Department to join the organizing of the FOS so that sports events such as table tennis, volleyball, trampoline, cross country and district races would be held in the sports venues throughout Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories to reach all the citizens.
In 1977, FOS adopted “Sport for All” as its official slogan and this has prevailed up to the present time. In the same year, the Opening Ceremony of the FOS was held at Victoria Park.
In 1981, the Opening Ceremony of the FOS was held at Queen Elizabeth Stadium for the first time after its completion in 1980. The 11th Athletics Games for the Physically Disabled was included in the FOS after the Hong Kong Sports Association for the Physically Disabled, the Hong Kong Sports Association for the Mentally Handicapped, and the Hong Kong Society for the Deaf had joined the ASF&OC.
In 1982, the FOS celebrated its 25th Anniversary.
In 1983, A. de O. Sales mentioned in the FOS brochure the aspiration to bring sports to every corner in Hong Kong and to bring health and happiness to every family in Hong Kong. The School Sports Council also joined the planning and organization of the events that were held at the Jubilee Sports Centre (now Hong Kong Sports Institute) which had been newly constructed in Sha Tin in 1982.
In 1984, the FOS was sponsored by the Urban Council. The then IOC President Samaranch also wrote a letter to commend the contributions of the FOS in promoting sports for all people.
In 1985, the FOS was held with the theme of youth participation in support of the “International Youth Year”, in which 20 events of the Hong Kong School Sports Council’s Annual Inter-port School Competition were held in Macao.
In 1986, the Urban Services Department and Regional Services Department respectively under the Urban Council and Regional Council organized the FOS events replacing the Recreation and Sports Service. This year, FOS programmes also included the 8th Basketball Games for the Deaf, the Pentathlon for the Mentally Handicapped, and Table Tennis and Fencing Games for the Physically Disabled.
In 1988, A. de O. Sales stated that the FOS had already been promoted throughout Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories with new recreational facilities to meet citizens’ demands for recreational activities.
In 1993, he reiterated that the mission of the FOS was to promote “Sport for All”. This edition of the Festival was co-organized by the sports organizations, the Hong Kong Government and regional organizations, making it a truly inclusive and enriching local sports event. In the same year, the ASF&OC Honorary Secretary General Ramon C.S. Young resigned from the post of FOS Organization Committee after serving for over 33 years, and sadly passed away in 1996.
After the Hong Kong handover on 1 July 1997, Timothy T.T. Fok became the ASF&OC President in March 1998 to replace of A. de O. Sales who had served ASF&OC for over 47 years. Meanwhile, Timothy T.T. Fok took over A. de O. Sales’ Chairmanship of the FOS Organizing Committee. Hence, the Opening Ceremony at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium on 8 March 1998 was officiated by A. de O. Sales, while the Closing Ceremony at the Sha Tin Public Swimming Pool on 21 May 1998 was officiated by Timothy T.T. Fok. The succession of Chairmanship in the same event became a special moment for the ASF&OC.
In 1999, the FOS was held with the theme of “Women and Sports” for the first time, and its Opening Ceremony was first held at the Rugby Sevens tournament.
In 2000, the Home Affairs Bureau and Leisure and Cultural Services Department were established to take over the competencies of the Urban Council and Regional Council following their dissolution. The LCSD also became a partner of the SF&OC FOS Organizing Committee. Meanwhile, in support of Hong Kong’s bid for the 2006 Asian Games, Timothy T.T. Fok stated clearly in the FOS brochure that the 2000 FOS should be clear evidence of Hong Kong’s capacity to hold large-scale sports events. As a piece of evidence, the internationally renowned “15th HK International Golden Mile” became the first event at the Festival.
In 2003, Ronnie Wong Man-chiu became Chairman of the FOS Organizing Committee. The Festival was held as scheduled in spite of the SARS epidemic during this period. The athletes’ action of faith and courage inspired the citizens’ faith during this most difficult time.
In 2004, the FOS Organizing Committee set up a working group for elite athletes. The inaugural members of the group included Hung Chung-yam, Arthur Li Kai-yien, and Fenella Ng Gar-loc. With the prospective 2008 Beijing Olympics as its theme, the FOS included promotional programmes for the Beijing Olympics, such as the 2004 Athens Olympic Cup Dragon Boat Invitation Tournament and Wushu Show cum Celebration for the Olympics. The Olympic Day Run 2004 was also included for the first time in the Opening Ceremony programme. In addition, artists were invited to be sports ambassadors, such as Boy’z, SOLER, and Charles Szeto.
In 2005, the FOS became one of the three events that advocated “Sports for All” under the patronage of the IOC. IOC President Rogge officiated and delivered a speech at the FOS Opening Ceremony at Queen Elizabeth Stadium on 13 March 2005.
The 2006, 2007 and 2008 FOS included the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Olympic Equestrian events in support of Hong Kong’s organization of the Equestrian event for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In 2007, a celebrity interview was included in the FOS to advocate the message of “Sport for All”.
In 2008, athletes were invited to be sports ambassadors, such as Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Sam Wong Tak-sum, Wong Kam-po, Yung Ka-yan, Tsai Hiu-wai, So Wa-wai, Wu Siu-hong, Stephanie Au Hoi-shun, Ko Lai-chak, Yip Pui-yin, Ng On-yee, and Chan King-yin.
In 2009, the FOS also included the elements of “Hong Kong’s Readiness for the East Asian Games” to further promote the Hong Kong 2009 East Asian Games.
In 2010, “Sport for All. Lead a Healthy Life!” was the FOS theme.
In 2011, the 54th FOS was held in conjunction with the 60th Anniversary of the SF&OC, with sponsorship from the Bank of China (Hong Kong) Charitable Foundation, Xtep International Holdings Limited, Samsung Electronics H.K. Co. Ltd, Swire Coca-Cola HK Ltd and subvented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Over 60 sports associations held over 80 events throughout Hong Kong to celebrate this moment with the citizens and to advocate “Sport for All”.
In 2012, the Opening Ceremony of the 55th FOS was held at the Hong Kong Coliseum, the largest indoor sports stadium in Hong Kong. Besides, Festival of Sport Photo Contest was first organized, to further promote the message of “Sport for All”.
In 2013, 56th FOS Opening Ceremony will be held at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, Wan Chai to kick off the festival. The Photo Contest held in 2012 received positive response, this Contest was held again to attract more sports fans and photography lovers to participate in FOS.
In 2014, with the staunch support from Samsung Electronics H.K. Company, Limited being the Title Sponsor for the first time, and Leisure and Culture Services Department being the Subvented Organization, the Samsung 57th FOS organized around 80 outstanding sports activities for Hong Kong people.
In 2015, the Samsung 58th Festival of Sports first time launched a 7-day Opening Programme with a kick-off ceremony on 7 March 2015 at the Central Atrium of Olympic City 2. 22 NSAs offered various kinds of Sports Performance, Demonstration and Free Sport Trials attracting around 14,000 persons of public participating the Opening Programme from 7 – 13 March 2015.
In 2016, the 59th edition of FOS was kicked off at the Sha Tin Town Hall Plaza with a 4-day Opening Programme. The “Sport for All” Photo Contest has been organized again for 5 consecutive years. With the adoption of the social media platform “Facebook”, the no. of votes received from the general public for the “My Favourite Photos Awards” has reached a record high of approximately 9,000 votes.