Cover Hoyi Lam (Photo: Affa Chan/Tatler Hong Kong)

Hoyi Lam is hoping the Special Olympics Hong Kong will inspire hope, confidence and courage among aspiring athletes

When Hoyi Lam joined her family business in 2015, she knew she wanted to use her power and status for good. Her family is known for its real estate projects in Hong Kong and mainland China, but Lam has also thrown her support behind ensuring that people with disabilities get access to sport and education.

Alongside her role as senior vice president of Lai Fung Holdings and Lai Sun Development, Lam also serves as the CEO of her family’s charity, the Por Yen Charitable Foundation, and last year was appointed chairman of Special Olympics Hong Kong (SOHK), the city’s branch of the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Lam became involved with Special Olympics after Por Yen sponsored a bowling competition at the Special Olympics World Games. There, she saw how the event transcended politics, gender, age, culture and religion. “No other event in the world has the same social and emotional impact,” she says.

There are currently 5 million members of Special Olympics International aged eight and up, representing more than 170 countries. The organisation also has a Young Athletes programme for children aged two to seven. “At any age and in every country, our athletes are learning new skills, making new friends and gaining fitness and confidence,” says Lam, who oversees local sports training, coordinates competitions and liaises with other Hong Kong sports organisations.

Since 1976, SOHK has helped integrate its athletes into society by promoting inclusion and acceptance, and enhancing their self-esteem through sport. Wilson Man Wai-shing, a bowling, bocce and basketball athlete, is now a board member of SOHK; Kurtis Jon Siu, talented in both golf and the arts, is a graduate of the Savannah College of Arts and Design and one of only ten Sargent Shriver International Global Messengers, spokespeople tasked with spreading the spirit of inclusion of the Special Olympics International. Candy Wong, a speed skater, participated in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria and earned a silver and a bronze medal; she currently serves on the Global Athlete Leadership Council of Special Olympics International.

The biggest misconception about Special Olympics events is that they are no different from the Paralympics, which occur just after the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, and are held every four years with elite athletes who represent their countries and compete for medals. 

The Special Olympics events take place every two years and are for people whose intellectual disabilities mean they learn skills slowly.

Although Hong Kong has embraced the Special Olympics, Lam acknowledges there are still challenges around shifting perceptions towards its members. “There is discrimination and a lack of understanding. People underestimate just how strong our athletes are, and have a lack of patience when communicating with people with disabilities,” she says. Instead of dwelling on others’ ignorance, Lam and her team are focused on the World Summer and Winter Games in Russia in 2023, which have been on hold since last year. In-person training has resumed with training camps for athletes, and the organisation also offers year-round fitness training and mental health workshops.

A longtime sport enthusiast and former “kid who could never sit still”, Lam was encouraged by her parents to try lots of sports growing up, and she competed internationally for the Hong Kong ice hockey team. “My background in sport has allowed me to realise how it can bring different people and different races together,” says Lam, who was appointed Justice of the Peace, a title of honour given to community leaders by the Hong Kong government, in 2020.

As the organisation approaches its fifth decade, its goal is to reach up to 200 million people around the world, aided by Lam’s backing and unwavering dedication. “The power of SOHK is to inspire hope, confidence and courage,” she says

  • PhotographyAffa Chan/Tatler Hong Kong
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