Marie-Christine Lee is the founder of both the Sports for Hope Foundation and Sport Max.
You are the founder of the Sports for Hope Foundation. What led you to set up this particular charity?
I have always loved sports, ever since I was a child. I fundamentally believe that sport can be hugely beneficial – both mentally and physically. Sport gives people a goal and it teaches them to be persistent in many other areas of their lives. It instills in people a never-give-up attitude, something that is essential to have no matter what your aim in life.
“I tend to trust people too much and sometimes that leads to mistakes”
“There is one person in my life who is my greatest indulgence and my biggest secret”
I decided to set up my own charitable sports organisation five years ago. I really want to give back to society by helping financially-in-need children here in Hong Kong, particularly through the medium of sport. Overall, we try to use sport as a way of reaching out to help children in need, those who may come from poorer backgrounds. We aim to improve their self-respect and boost their confidence. Overall, we give them something to look forward to and help them with their self-esteem.
Is there anything that keeps you awake at night?
There is nothing that keeps me awake at night. If there is a problem it can be solved eventually. I like to be proactive. You can’t just reflect on a problem. You have to find ways to tackle it and that takes time and effort.
Do you enjoy fancy dress parties?
I kind of like to give people surprises. It’s a fun thing to surprise people in that way. My favourite fancy dress experience was when I dressed up as a character from Avatar because it was challenging to paint my whole face and body, standing up for two hours.
What is your favourite aroma?
Rose. It’s pure and elegant. Very romantic.
Are you a good listener or a good talker?
I think I’m a better talker than a listener. My friends always say to me: “Will you please listen to me before you talk.” That may be because I’m a very confident person, but it’s also a weakness. I may be the most confident, but I’m not necessarily the best or the most intelligent. I do have a lot of compassion, though, and a lot of empathy. Usually, I find the right thing for me to do is to talk first because I always talk from my heart.
Do you know your blood type?
Yes, I do. It’s B-positive.
What’s your favourite colour?
Blue, especially denim blue. I also love the sea. I love the bright, blue sky. They give out energy, hope and happiness.
English or Cantonese?
My mother tongue is Cantonese. But when it comes to expressing my feelings and emotions I feel more comfortable with English.
Famously, you rode a bike across the Uygur region of northern China. That must have been challenging…
It was part of a fund-raiser and a way of kick-starting my foundation. Whenever I can, I like to take myself out of my comfort zone, as I’ve been very fortunate with my own upbringing. I have always had a lot of love from my family and a lot of support from my friends. As a result, I’ve always lived in a very comfortable environment. So I realised, when I started the Foundation, that I had to show people that you shouldn’t always stay in your comfort zone. Everyone can take on new challenges.
The Uygur region was new to me and I’d never even thought about trying mountain cycling in my life. To make matters more challenging still, even though I had professional riders with me, they had never been there before either. So the whole thing was planned so that we could complete our mission through sheer determination and our ability to adapt to the unknown – the environment, the climate, the culture, the whole thing.
Do you have a secret you could share with us?
I only share my secrets with my family and best friends.
What was the last thing you got for free?
I never get anything for free.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Compassion. Empathy for people. Love for people.
What’s your astrological sign?
Aquarius. While I’m not too knowledgeable about astrology, I’ve been told I am a typical Aquarius. They are very passionate people and they’re very sensitive. It’s also a water sign – and that suits me too. I love the water.
What has been the best birthday present you have ever received?
My best birthday present is love and respect from my children.
If you could bring about world peace or end global famine, which one would you go for?
Can I say both? I don’t think the world’s problems can be separated out. You can’t establish a priority because the two can only be solved jointly.
Are you a radio listener?
Yes, if it’s about sports and health issues.
What are your favourite sports?
My favourite sports are the two I was introduced to when I was very young – tennis and swimming. I’m very competitive and that’s part of the fun of taking part in any sport. Of course, you also have to like the sport – and I love those two in particular.
“When it comes to expressing my feelings and emotions I’m more comfortable with English”
When you’re swimming, you’re basically competing against yourself and basically always striving to beat your personal best. With tennis, of course, you’re competing against others, so there’s also interaction in the mix. I basically love anything outdoors. I much prefer to swim in the sea or outside rather than in an indoor pool. And tennis always has to be outdoors for me.
What do you consider to be your biggest mistake?
I tend to trust people too much and sometimes that leads to mistakes.
Do you have a favourite food?
Rice. Steamed. I can even eat rice for breakfast. It’s very much my staple. I cannot eat anything if it’s not accompanied by rice.
Chopsticks or cutlery?
Chopsticks, of course, because my favourite cuisine is Chinese and Japanese.
What has been your greatest indulgence?
Does it have to be materialistic? Can my indulgence be a person? There is one very special person in my life that is my indulgence. This, though, I will keep a secret…
What’s next for you?
I am still very much committed to giving back. So, since the Foundation launched five years ago, I have had to keep coming up with events to raise funds and awareness. I need to spread this concept to the rest of Hong Kong to help make it a more sports-nurturing place. This is affected by the demographic of the city. We have very limited space and the school system is more geared to academic achievements than sporting excellence. On top of that, parents don’t see being an athlete as a long-term thing. They believe it’s better for the children to become doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers…
I truly don’t believe that is the case. While not everyone can be an Olympian, as long as you have a passion for a particular sport, that will benefit your whole mindset – as well as every other aspect of your life.