Under the shadow of pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics (Olympics) brought people together from all over the world to show support for the athletes, people can also be feeding off by the positive energy of the Olympic winners. If we consider the pandemic as a competition, then each of us is an important player of this competition, as long as we all join our hands together and show the sportsmanship of “Keep on going and never give up”, we must be able to win over the pandemic. Although this Olympics was unlike any other, held in the middle of a pandemic, without live audiences; it is still believed to be the most meaningful and inspirational Olympics.

Alumnus Leong Hong Ian (Class of 1997, Bachelor of Science in Japanese Studies & Business Management) felt fortunate to represent Macao to participate into the Olympics from July to August 2021 as an international referee, he said, “I have never thought of giving up to participate into the Olympics despite all the obstacles.” Walking into the competition on the world’s biggest sporting stage, this journey has finally allowed him to transform his dream into reality.

On the road to becoming a referee at UM

Leong has been passionate about sports since he was a child. During his times in UM, he joined the Sports Association of UMSU (University of Macau Students’ Union) and later became the Chairman of the Association and the first Chairman of the Sport Association of the University of Macau to assist in organizing different sport competitions for students. After graduation, he continued to stay in UM and work in the sports field for 7 years, during which he had obtained international referee qualifications for mountain cycling, road cycling, track cycling and swimming. Moreover, he also served as a referee in the UCI Track Cycling World Championships, UCI Track Cycling World Cup, Asian Games and many international cycling competitions, he said, “These work experiences are very useful for my international referee jobs in future.”

Meaningful experience of working at the Olympics

Before the pandemic outbreak, representatives of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games had invited Leung to take up the referee position at the Olympics and Paralympic Games; however, due to the pandemic, he finally decided to participate into the Olympics only. Although his departure to Tokyo under pandemic was more difficult than expected, he firmly said, “If the athletes from all over the world can overcome the obstacles to join the Olympics, then I believe that I can also make it to Tokyo.” As one of the Olympic participants, although he was exempted from self-quarantine isolation after his arrival, he was asked to stay only at the designated stadiums and hotel and was required to take a daily nucleic acid test for his entire stay at Tokyo. Different from any of his past experiences, these unique work experiences made this journey the most memorable ones.

Leung served as a referee for the track cycling programme at the Olympics, his duties include assisting the team sprint cyclists to hold the bikes on track, recording the scores for the race, supervising the registration status and the clothing of the award-winning athletes. Score recording was his most familiar job, he said, “This job requires full concentration and a calmness mindset as you have to watch about 20-30 cyclists pedaling on track constantly, count their scores and compare with the records shown on those live electronic devices, allowing the athletes and audiences to receive the latest results of the race instantly.” As the result of the race was only within milliseconds, Leung’s sharing had illustrated the importance of the score recording job in the track cycling programme. Speaking of the most memorable experiences and moments during his times at the Olympics, he said, “As we have to supervise the award-winning athletes from the moment of result announcement till the award presentation ceremony, I can totally feel the joy and excitement of the athletes when they stepped on the stage. These moments have affirmed their tremendous and persisting efforts over the years and the positive attitude signified by the sportsmanship can also be carried over into my life.”

Future prospects and messages

As the most sacred symbol representing the Olympic spirit, many athletes want to fulfill their once-in-a-lifetime wishes to participate into the Olympic Games, Leung said, “As a small city, it is really difficult for Macao to seek out a place on the world stage; however, I believe that concentration, dedication and profound experiences will led you to achieve your goals.” He encouraged the Macao athletes, UM students and alumni with the self-challenging spirit of the sportsmanship “Move faster, stronger and higher”, he hoped that they could stick to their goals, devote their efforts and passions to achieve the goals. Leung felt fortunate for the opportunity to represent Macao to work at the Olympics and believed that this precious work experiences will become memorable moments in his career life.

Note: Photos provided by the interviewee