Sarah Lee Wai-sze might have only won a bronze medal but will be be rewarded more than American gold medallists, who will only receive US$25,000 (just under HK$200,000), less than a third of what the Hong Kong track cyclist will get.
When Lee returns home, she will get a golden handshake from Hang Seng Bank, whose incentive award scheme for the Olympics has promised every local athlete HK$3 million for bringing back a gold medal, HK$1.5 million for a silver and HK$750,000 for a bronze. So in monetary terms, a Hong Kong bronze is worth nearly four US golds. But at least the American athletes can take solace from the news that US President Barack Obama has supported a measure brought forward by the Republicans that all US medallists be exempt from paying taxes on their prize money.
The bank's generosity must be lauded. Yet, I doubt they would be so open-handed if Hong Kong was a true power like the US. Just imagine the bill if we came home with 30 gold medals, or if we had the equivalent of a Michael Phelps. As long as the numbers are small - winners that is - the sponsors can afford to spend big in theory.
But still it is great that the private sector is involved. Hang Seng has been a long-term supporter and since 1996 has given out more than HK$26 million to 330 athletes for winning at the Olympics and Paralympics as well as Asian Games, Asian Para Games and the East Asian Games. We would like to see them making a commitment now to keeping these incentives at this same level for the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Now that would be a real motivating factor for aspiring athletes.