Since 1985, when world-famous airline Cathay Pacific first sponsored the Hong Kong Squash Open, the international event has regularly attracted the world’s best players. But this week’s 27th edition of the Cathay Pacific Sun Hung Kai Financial Hong Kong Open — which will reach its climax with semifinals and final staged on an all-glass show court erected at the Cultural Centre on the waterfront at Tsim Sha Tsui — takes on additional significance as the event was chosen by the International Olympic Committee to judge the sport’s credentials to join the Olympic Games programme in 2020.
World Squash Federation President N Ramachandran believes the event can showcase the essence of the sport. “The Hong Kong Open is an event that Squash cherishes and we are delighted that the IOC has chosen to come to it to evaluate our sport. It shows off so much of the essence of professional squash and what we mean by the ability to showcase host cities. We look forward to them seeing this for themselves, along with the strong international broadcast output, first class sports presentation - and some great squash matches too!” he said.
Men’s title-holder James Willstrop is also pleased that the IOC chose Hong Kong: “It’s a wonderful backdrop for the IOC delegates to see - there are few that could be more exciting and spectacular as this Hong Kong location. As a player, when you’re on the court and peer through the glass walls, it’s a staggering view. It’s unbelievable how far we’ve come as a sport in such a short time.”
Egyptian Amr Shabana, the former world No1 and four-time world champion who is making a record 16th appearance in the event and has his sights on a sixth Hong Kong title, added: “Having the IOC come to Hong Kong will show them what a great experience it is, watching the world’s best squash. Squash players are some of the strongest, if not the strongest athletes in this world.”
Australian No 1 Cameron Pilley pointed out: “The Hong Kong Open is one of the longest running and biggest events on Tour, not only for prize money but because of the history behind it.”