By Kate Madley
The eyes of the rugby world look to Hong Kong this weekend (June 1), as the British & Irish Lions play their first Asian tour match in their 125 year history.
The Asian stopover is the first leg of the ten-match tour, culminating with a three-match Test series against the Australian wallabies.
The warm-up game is attracting much attention, not only because it is one of the biggest international sporting events in Hong Kong, but it is also the first time in history that the Lions have played the Barbarians.
Lions coach, Warren Gatland, has selected 15 Welshmen as part of the 37-man squad, Wales’s largest Lions representation in 36 years. And, Wales will dominate the tour opener, with nine Welsh players picked to start against the Baa-Baas.
The visit to Asia strengthens the sports growing presence in the region, with Bledisloe Cup games between Australia and New Zealand also held in Hong Kong, and Japan hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
It also gives visiting fans the opportunity to explore the region, and its business opportunities. David Parker, head of investment promotion at Invest HK, an organisation dedicated to attracting businesses to the Asian hub, believes the Lions visit will have a positive impact for businesses in the region.
“InvestHK is delighted to be hosting a range of businesses at Saturday’s historic first ever visit to Hong Kong by the British & Irish Lions,” said David Parker.
“Every year, businesses are attracted to Hong Kong for major sporting occasions, not least the iconic World Rugby Sevens. Since arriving in Hong Kong, the British & Irish Lions have already enjoyed an evening at the Happy Valley Race Course.
“On Saturday, InvestHK will welcome clients representing businesses from around the world that have identified Hong Kong as the location of choice to grow their business in Asia.”
Invest HK, the government of the Hong Kong special administrative region, offers advice and services to support firms setting up and doing business in the region. It aims to attract and retain foreign direct investment which is of strategic importance to the economic development of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong is the number one city for business in Asia; the free market policies result in a level playing field for all companies, and acts as a springboard for those looking to enter mainland China.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s most open, and corruption free economies, ranking ahead of Japan, the UK, US and France.
The Lions face the Barbarians at the 40,000 seat Hong Kong stadium, the venue for the annual sevens tournament. The squad then head to Australia, determined to end a three-tour losing streak, having not come away with a Test series victory since the 1997 trip to South Africa.