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In 2011-12, as I embark on my third year as the head of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), I am gratified by the progress made in all areas of our work during the year.

On the Cultural Services front, 2012 was a year filled with celebrations. Foremost among them was the Golden Jubilee of City Hall. Since it opened on March 2, 1962 as the first purpose-built cultural complex in Hong Kong, the venerated City Hall has enriched our city’s cultural life by promoting Chinese and Western arts and culture and nurturing local talent. To mark this momentous milestone, the LCSD, in collaboration with long-time partners of City Hall, organised an exciting array of cultural programmes covering music, theatre, Chinese opera, dance and film, areas in which Hong Kong has made remarkable achievements in the past 50 years.

Celebrations kicked off on March 2, 2012, with a commemorative exhibition on the nostalgic past of City Hall and a collection of over 200 photographs capturing fond memories of Hong Kong people taken at the historic building in different eras. World famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra graced the special occasion with a concert. That evening, many old friends joined us to relive fond memories of this cultural landmark. I am sure this venerable cultural icon, affectionately called the Golden Stage, will continue to play an important role in the city’s cultural life in the years to come.

The Hong Kong Museum of Art, which was first housed in the City Hall premises when it opened in 1962, also celebrated its 50th birthday in 2012. The museum celebrated the special occasion with a series of events. They included a large-scale display of the museum’s posters from 1962, and the Collecting for 50 Years exhibition highlighting its important events and close ties with partners over the past five decades. The museum also took the opportunity to share its precious collections with Hong Kong people and bring them exciting exhibitions.

Accompanying the Golden Jubilee of the Museum of Art was the good news that our public museums had attracted a total attendance of over 5.1 million in 2011-12. Several major exhibitions staged in collaboration with Mainland and overseas partners during the year contributed to the encouraging attendance figure. Major exhibitions included the blockbuster Pixar: 25 Years of Animation, which broke the attendance record at the Heritage Museum; Albert Einstein at the Science Museum, and Fantastic Creatures from the British Museum at the Museum of Art. Exhibitions on local themes such as Hong Kong currency, the legacy of Lam Kar Sing, and Hong Kong pop legend Roman Tam were also highly popular.

It is highly likely that our museums will set new records in 2012-13 with more blockbuster exhibitions such as Picasso, the First Emperor, Qianlong’s Secret Garden and Andy Warhol, providing inspiring and enjoyable experiences for all, in line with our vision.

We continued to work towards the new directions set for the public museums by strengthening the branding and marketing of our museums and reaching out to the community. We also deployed information technology to promote our museums and their attractions.

In 2011-12, we launched a new one-stop Museum Portal to make museum information more accessible, and joined the Google Art Project’s virtual wall-less museum to share rare artefacts from our museum collections with a global audience. The launch of the My Culture mobile application in September 2012 has enabled people on the go to access the whole range of cultural programmes held at our venues anytime, anywhere.

2011-12 was also an exciting and fruitful year for our public libraries. The LCSD operates one of the world’s largest bilingual computerised library systems and we have, for some time, been working towards a full upgrade of the library automation system. In late 2011, we launched a new-generation system to make online searching of the library catalogue faster and more user-friendly. At the same time, we carried out a pilot scheme to introduce Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in six selected libraries, including the major libraries of Sha Tin and City Hall and some district and small libraries. This system incorporates RFID-enabled self-charging terminals, self-returning stations and book sorter systems.

Turning to Leisure Services, the 3rd Hong Kong Games (HKG) was successfully held in May 2011. The games roster was boosted with the addition of volleyball and futsal to the original repertoire of athletics, badminton, basketball, swimming, table tennis and tennis. In all, 251 medals were won in 83 events at the 3rd HKG – 83 gold, 85 silver and 83 bronze. The roster of athletes increased from some 2 300 in the 2nd HKG to over 3 000 in the 3rd edition. Various activities designed to engage people – the opening ceremony, cheering team competition, photography contest, voting and guessing activities – drew more than 300 000 people, significantly higher than in the previous event.

We continued to spread the Sport for All message during the past year. The annual Sport for All Day held on the first Sunday of every August was the highlight. Over 200 000 Hong Kong people took part in the 2011 Sport for All Day, participating in different sports programmes for free and enjoying complimentary use of our facilities that day.

At the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, we were delighted to witness the birth of a lovely pair of Bornean orang-utans in July 2011 – a ‘first‘ for Hong Kong. The zoo organised tours for primary school students to introduce them to the orang-utans and to cultivate respect for endangered species in general. Up to March 2012, over 36 000 people, mostly children, have visited the twins.

We continued to enhance the provision of leisure and cultural facilities during the year. These include the Mong Kok Stadium which was renovated with state-of-art facilities; the new cycling facilities at Po Kong Village Road Park and skateboarding facilities at Fanling On Lok Mun Street Playground; the heated swimming pools at Kennedy Town and Ping Shan Tin Shui Wai; the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park Swimming Pool; the Siu Sai Wan Complex; the Tamar Park and Ngau Chi Wan Park.

As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR in 2012, the LCSD continues to work hard to boost sports and culture in the community to enhance the vital elements of the city’s soft power. Looking back at what our department has achieved over the past year, I have every confidence that my colleagues will continue to give their best to make 2012-13 another memorable and productive year.

Mrs Betty FUNG CHING Suk-yee
Director of Leisure and Cultural Services