‘Runners add oil’ would be better than politicized ‘HK add oil’ slogan, marathon organizer says

Supporters with yellow umbrellas and a sign reading “marathon cheerleading squad” cheer on runners at the 2015 Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. Photo: Facebook/Pete Chong
Supporters with yellow umbrellas and a sign reading “marathon cheerleading squad” cheer on runners at the 2015 Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. Photo: Facebook/Pete Chong

The organizer of this Sunday’s Standard Chartered marathon said the slogan “Hong Kong add oil”—which has become politicized as a pro-democracy chant in recent years—would not be problematic, but that participants might want to use “runners add oil” instead.

“I would suggest them to change ‘Hong Kong add oil’ to ‘runners add oil,'” William Ko, chairman of the event’s organizing committee, told Stand News Monday. Ko also said that running attire of any color is welcome at the race.

If anyone displays the “liberate Hong Kong” slogan, now illegal under the national security law, it is “not the marathon’s business,” Ko added.

The annual marathon will take place this Sunday, with 18,500 athletes slated to run in the marathon, half-marathon and 10km race categories.

Supporters cheer on runners at the 2019 Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. Photo: Facebook/Standard Chartered HK Marathon

The showpiece sports event has traditionally attracted runners to wear colorful costumes—like an eggplant—and sport their political preferences. During the 2015 Standard Chartered Marathon, held a month after the end of the Umbrella Movement, athletes showed up with yellow stickers and banners reading “I want true universal suffrage.” Yellow umbrellas were also spotted in the sea of runners.

“Add oil,” which made the Oxford English Dictionary in 2018, has long been a general expression of encouragement in Chinese. But some have attached a political meaning to it since the 2019 protests, when it was frequently chanted alongside pro-democracy refrains. Last December, a district councilor said a request for funding to set up festive lights reading “Hong Kong add oil” was turned down by a government department.

Last year’s marathon was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, making this weekend’s the first since the passing of the national security law. The slogan “Hong Kong add oil” has not been said to contravene the legislation.

Ko added that runners are subject to inspection before the marathon, and that besides for having their identification checked, uniform that is deemed too cumbersome by organizers will not be allowed to be brought into the race.

According to local media, majority of runners have already signed up online to take a COVID-19 test ahead of the Sunday race. As per anti-pandemic measures, all athletes must test negative for the virus within 72 hours of the race in addition to being vaccinated.

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