The Hong Kong government has acquired the broadcast rights to July’s Tokyo Olympics in order to allow citizens to watch the games for free and cheer for athletes from Hong Kong and mainland China, the city’s leader announced on Tuesday.

The games will now be shown free of charge on free-to-air channels Television Broadcasts, ViuTV and Hong Kong Open TV and pay-TV stations Now TV and Cable TV. Government-owned RTHK is excluded and can only carry relays of the other channels’ programming.

Hong Kong commercial broadcasters last year failed to reach a deal with licensor Dentsu, citing the high cost of rights and their own financial difficulties. After the games were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic the rights issue was left unsettled and the government stepped in.

The cost of the deal was not disclosed, and the government said that the fees will be refunded if the games are canceled.

The city’s chief executive Carrie Lam said that the unprecedented use of taxpayer’s money was prompted by the authorities’ mandate to promote sports. She also blamed anti-government protests in 2019-20 and coronavirus for weakening broadcasters’ finances. “This is a one-off, special case,” she said.

Broadcasters will be required to air all events that involve Hong Kong athletes. Pay channels will be required to show the games content in unencrypted form, so that the public can have full access to the event and “support athletes from Hong Kong and mainland China,” said Lam.

The unprecedented government intervention in Hong Kong’s television market is likely spurred by a mix of commercial and political reasons, said Bruce Lui, a senior lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University’s journalism department.

“Cultivating a sense of belonging to China and patriotic spirit among Hong Kong’s general public is a key mandate for the Hong Kong government, and the upcoming Olympics provides a great opportunity,” Lui told Variety, while explaining that the commercial value of the games had been diminished because the 2021 edition of the games is a scaled-down event.

“China is one of the top winners at international sports (competitions) such as the Olympics and this is a great opportunity to promote national pride and the sense of belonging to the country. Just look at the Beijing and London Olympics previously. Such value is priceless,” Lui said.