Spotlight on Olympics for Jackie Chan

HONG KONG (Reuters Life!) - Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan will take a break from movies this year to promote the Beijing Olympics, and hopes the Games will inspire today’s cyber-age Chinese kids to lead more active lives.

As a goodwill envoy for the Beijing Olympics, Chan has devoted himself this past year to promoting the Games, taking part in activities ranging from running with the Olympic torch in Greece to recording a countdown song.

He has also appeared in Olympic-themed commercials for credit card firm Visa, alongside Chinese basketball star Yao Ming.

“The Olympics isn’t just about sport. It encompasses love, solidarity and a kind of spirit,” the star of Hollywood films such as “Rush Hour” and “Rumble in the Bronx” told Reuters.

“This year, most of my time will be spent on promoting the Olympics,” said Chan. “I’ll have less time for films.”

While Kung Fu may be more his thing, Chan’s zeal recently saw him pull on horse-riding boots and hat for a video promoting Hong Kong’s role in the Olympics this summer, with Beijing having switched equestrian events to the city after it failed to establish a disease-free zone for horses.

“See you in Hong Kong 2008, Olympic equestrian co-host city,” said Chan, clad in full riding gear while holding the reins of a dark horse called “Fortune Tycoon”, as the cameras rolled.

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Chan, a horse owner and enthusiast, who has ridden horses in films such as “The Myth”, was filmed at the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Beas River country club, which will host some of the former British colony’s equestrian events during the Games.

Hong Kong is one of only a handful of Chinese cities to stage Olympic events outside of Beijing. The coastal city of Qingdao is another and will host some watersports events.

Hong Kong officials are hoping to cash in on its Olympic role by drawing more tourists and boosting the city’s aspirations to become an entertainment hub in Asia.

“It’s a golden opportunity for us to promote Hong Kong as an events capital and ... we’ll try our very best to try and boost the short-term arrivals during the event,” said Kenneth Wong, the head of consumer marketing at the Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Chan, who was trained in martial arts and acrobatics as a child and started his career as a stunt-man, also hopes the Olympic spirit will rub off on the current crop of Chinese and Hong Kong kids.

“In this age, it’s necessary to do more to promote sports, so that children don’t just sit at home and play computer games ... we need to do more to promote sports (as) sports can nurture more love and understanding between people,

“In the past, all I did every day was sport, sport and more sport. We didn’t even know how to switch on a computer,” Chan added with a laugh.

Editing by Sophie Hardach