Hong Kong Beach 5s faces online backlash over kit design

March 22, 2019

 Photo: Hong Kong Beach 5s Facebook 

 

"Disgusting."

 

"Appalling."

 

"#boycottbeach5s". 

 

These were the adjectives and hashtags that greeted the online release of the Hong Kong Beach 5s' kits for women's rugby last night, with comments deeming them to have been designed in bad taste.

 

Make no mistake, for there is no question that the design sticks out like a sore thumb.

 

For one, it runs diametrically opposed to a social climate in a perpetual shift against the objectification and over-sexualisation of women, be it inherent or explicit manifestations of such attitudes. 

 

When sexism does rear its ugly head, it is recognised as wrongful by our collective conscience, even when under the guise of capitalising on the prominence of superhero themes in pop culture and Hollywood (what do exaggerated mammaries have to do with saving the world anyway?). 

 

Photo credit: The HK Hub 

 

This campaign should have been better thought out by organisers TCOB Media, who also came under fire last year for leaving Repulse Bay beach strewn with plastic waste. 

 

Incidents where female athletes are cast in a superficial light, valued more for their appearance and sexuality instead of being afforded the respect their athletic prowess, effort and sporting accomplishments command, linger fresh in the memory. 

 

For instance, how Canadian tennis sensation Eugenie Bouchard was requested to "give us a twirl" in 2015, or more recently at the Ballon D'or ceremony in December 2018 where inaugural winner (and women's footballer of the year) Ada Hegerberg was asked if she knew how to twerk.

 

Photo credit: Hong Kong Beach 5s 

 

To the organisers' credit, they have learned from and responded quickly to complaints by replacing them with a more appropriate design, with Tournament Director Alex Brazendale taking on full responsibility by issuing a public apology.

 

"This year our kit has been way off the mark clearly and we, and I personally, meant no offence. The kit has been replaced but I understand that does not replace the hard feelings."

 

"As Tournament Director of the Beach 5s all responsibility is with me, Alex Brazendale."

 

Further, he has acknowledged the tremendous support from all sections of the community that the tournament has been able to draw on through the years, in its journey to becoming a highly-anticipated event in its own right. 

 

 

"I set up the Beach 5s 8 years ago as a platform for local teams to come together and play the sports they love on the sand in front of decent crowds," he added. 

 

"The beach has been very hard to get but with the support from the sports associations and the teams across all the sports we have managed to turn it into, what I hope is, an event looked forward to by many." 

 

Indeed, the allure of the Beach 5s is undeniable and the requisite nous to juggle the logistics of organising catering, booths, competitive netball, rugby, football, volleyball and even dodgeball fixtures unquestionable.

 

The event has a proven record of reeling in swathes of spectators, players numbering in the 20,000s, often times generating much interest and curiosity in the sports themselves among passers-by. 

 

For the sake of the Hong Kong sporting community, hopefully their contrition is enough to ensure that the Beach 5s retains its status as Asia's biggest beach festival and a mainstay in the Sevens weekend buildup. 

 

 

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