As night began to fall on the 4th of May, the conclusion to yet another six month campaign for the Sing Tao Inter-School Debating Competition Championship, the biggest of its kind in Hong Kong, remained up in the air. The stage was set, the lights switched on and the seats filled at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, as a young South Island School and a confident looking La Salle College strolled onto the stage with Diocesan Boys School as chairperson and timekeeper. In what would turn out to be the youngest and most contentious finals of recent times, history was to be made.
On the one hand, La Salle College aimed to become only the 5th school to win back-to-back championships and successfully defend the trophy they had won last year. Interestingly, there were three new faces on stage led by national team member Griffith Cheng as captain. The team remained unchanged from the semi-finals with Nicky Anto and Donald Lam as 1st and 2nd speaker respectively.
The proposition South Island School also featured national team member Tiffany Chung as 1st speaker. Ivan Siu returned as 2nd speaker in the team led by captain Paul Lau (that’s me!) who holds the record as the youngest Grand Final participant whether as floor-speaker (Year 7, Primary 6) or as a debater (Year 9, Form 2). Despite being the only member of the 2008 SIS team, the entire squad was looking to recapture the cup that had been lost last year to become only the 2nd school to grab three championships by winning every other year. Following Island School’s victory in the 2nd, 4th and 6th edition, a win for SIS would cement its position as amongst the best debating teams in Hong Kong after winning the 21st and 23rd edition.
The two teams clashed on the motion that “The FIFA World Cup matches should be broadcast live, on free to air television, free of charge”. The ensuing battle had SIS arguing for the status quo citing the low coverage of Pay TV and need to widen access to the FIFA World Cup on a local and global scale. The opposition, coached by national team coach Greg Forse, argued against a change in policy, nothing the ineffectiveness of a new policy. They also looked at the availability and culture of public viewing in Hong Kong alone as reasons why people didn’t need free to air World Cup broadcasts, especially when it would bankrupt FIFA. SIS countered in the free debate, arguing that FIFA hadn’t gone bankrupt despite having free-to-air as a majority of TV broadcasts in 2002, an event that LSC’s captain Griffith called an exception. In his conclusion, Griffith returned to his opening statement, appearing to challenge the definition arguing that the motion implied some form of change. In the debate’s last speech, Paul quoted FIFA”s contract with broadcasters saying that the proposition had correctly argued for the motion and the status quo.
Following the conclusion of the English Debate, the Chinese debate ensued with both La Salle and South Island choosing to take a much deserved break outside the venue. When they returned, Mr. Cheng Huan, Senior Council commented on the debate on behalf of the adjudication panel. He noted that it was a “difficult decision” but that ultimately the world cup was an expensive piece of real estate, a comment that drove a dagger through South Island’s hopes.
The prize presentation followed with Good Hope Secondary School receiving the Most Improved School award having become quarter-finalists this year. Diocesan Boys School and Marymount Secondary School were 2nd runners up. South Island School appeared to be left in the ditch with Griffith Cheng, captain of the La Salle team, announced as the Best Speaker. It would later turn out to be only the second time in recent years when the captain of the winning team failed to grab the Best Speaker award. In an ironic twist, it was Paul Lau, captain of SIS who had won the Best Speaker from his position as first speaker in SIS’s 2008 win. He and South Island School however, pulled of an emphatic third win in just five years to clinch the 25th Sing Tao Inter-School Debating Competition, staking its claim as a dominant school in debating.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who supported us (South Island) this year. Its been a strange year, full of twists and turns, with team members stuck overseas for a majority of the preparation (Tiffany!), exams, hundreds of pages of reading and countless clashes with other debates (Bar Final). Its testimony to the strength of the squad that over the 6 debates, we’ve been represented by 6 different people. One can never forget the 24 hour support that Ms. Garland and Mr. Evershed has given us. There are few coaches who would be willing to spend so much time, put in so much energy and dedicate so much thought to a single event. In what would be my last debate for SIS, it was you that made it possible. For that I can only begin to say thank you.