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Open Days to rejuvenate residents through sports and culture


The SARS crisis is finally over, and there wouldn't seem to be a reason in the world for Hong Kong people not to pick up where they left off, living life with energy and exuberance.

Still, it's a sad fact that any sort of drastic disruption to peoples' normal routines can cause a kind of lethargy to set in. It's hard to get back in the swing - just ask any fitness buff who's been forced onto the sidelines by an injury.

For anyone who needs an excuse to get back in circulation, there couldn't be a better one than the chance to use Hong Kong's world-class sports and cultural facilities absolutely free of charge.

This is precisely what the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has planned for its five Open Days during the month of July.

On July 1, a public holiday, and on the four Sundays thereafter (July 6, 13, 20 and 27), the public is invited to use the indoor facilities of 83 sports centres, swim at any of 35 public pools and browse through our six major museums, all at no charge.

"This is an initiative which fits in perfectly with the Government's Relaunch Hong Kong campaign, which is designed to demonstrate for all to see that Hong Kong is still a world-class city and that not only have we brought the disease under control but we are shaking off its dampening effects on the economy and on morale," said Ms Anissa Wong Sean-yee, the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services.

"It also dovetails with the Department of Health's appeal to the public to get more exercise in order to strengthen their physiques and build up resistance to disease."

And in the longer term, the Open Days programme promotes one of the most important missions of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department - to enrich the quality of life for all through sports and culture.

"If you haven't been making use of these public facilities, the Open Days are an ideal way to familiarise yourself with them," Ms Wong said.

"Hong Kong has a host of sports and cultural facilities that are the envy of the world, and it would be a terrible shame not to use them."

It's scarcely an exaggeration to say that Hong Kong's indoor sports facilities are "as big as all outdoors". The number of activities on offer is truly impressive - not just the old reliables like badminton, squash, fitness and table tennis, but also less obvious choices like indoor golf driving ranges, wall climbing, American Pool and indoor lawn bowling.

To reserve a time slot, you'll need to obtain a permit. This you must do in person on the Mondays before Open Days (June 23 and 30 and July 7, 14 and 21) at the venue you plan to use. Each venue Booking Office will distribute one permit per person on a first-come, first-served basis as long as open time slots last.

People who wish to use the swimming pools and the museums need only show up at the venue of their choice, where they will be admitted subject to the normal capacity restrictions.

The six museums administered by the LCSD are Hong Kong's biggest and most comprehensive. Every one meets the highest international standards and is committed to being educational and entertaining at the same time:

Hong Kong Museum of History - Its permanent exhibition, the Hong Kong Story, walks visitors through the entire history of the territory, from ancient times to the present. Currently, its special exhibition is We Shall Overcome - Plagues in Hong Kong History.

Hong Kong Heritage Museum - Its five permanent exhibitions are dedicated to the culture of southern China and Hong Kong's place in it. Special exhibitions are More Than Just Food - Ceramic Art Exhibition, Alan Chan - The Art of Living (from July 6), City and Country Life - Sydney D. Gamble's Photographs of China 1908-1932.

Hong Kong Museum of Art - In addition to its four permanent exhibitions, the Museum of Art presents Sun Xingge - An Exhibition of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, devoted to one of Hong Kong's greatest 20th century artists, and Hong Kong Cityscapes - Ink Painting in Transition.

Hong Kong Science Museum - Home to 17 permanent exhibitions on science and technology, the Science Museum is also currently showing the special exhibitions SARS and Viruses, Sciencetunnel and Fruit Fly-Drosophila.

Hong Kong Space Museum (Exhibition Halls only) - The Space Museum houses 59 groups of exhibits on space science and astronomy.

Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence - Located on the site of the former Lei Yue Mun Fort, which guarded the sea approaches to Hong Kong and the Kowloon Peninsula, this museum shows how our coastal defences evolved over 600 years. There's also a special exhibition, Archery Traditions of Asia.

This isn't the first time that the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has staged an Open Day. It rolled out the concept on October 1, 2000, throwing open the doors of its facilities in honour of the new millennium.

It was a hit with the public. "But that was only one day," Ms Wong observed. "This time, with five Open Days in the same month, we're operating on a much bigger scale.

"Based on our experience in 2000, we expect a total of about 600,000 people to take part over the five days."

Ms Pureza Luk Pui-fong, the Deputy Manager of one of the most popular LCSD venues, Hong Kong Park, remembers the first Open Day and believes this new, larger exercise may be just what the doctor ordered for a community that has been severely tested by this year's health crisis.

"SARS had a very depressing effect on the mood of Hong Kong," she said. "Now that the disease has been controlled, the five July Open Days will be a great opportunity for people to come out and do some activities that will help both their physical health and their mental outlook."

Kevin Tin, a securities industry employee who often plays badminton on the Hong Kong Park indoor courts, praised the Open Days initiative and its timeliness. "Because of the bad impact of SARS on the economy, a lot of people who would have liked to use the facilities were reluctant to do so because they were worried about money for their basic needs," he said. "This will give them all a chance to come out and get active again."

For more information on Open Days, please visit the LCSD website or call 2414 5555.

End/Sunday, June 22, 2003

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