HK benefit from Doha subsidy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 August, 2006, 12:00am

The generosity of the Doha Asian Games organisers is saving the Hong Kong government HK$2.5 million, and has enabled the local Olympic Committee to send an extra 100 athletes and officials at least to Qatar this December, according to a senior sports official.

'We will be able to send our largest squad to the Asian Games simply because the Doha organisers are footing the entire bill for accommodation and food,' said Pang Chung, secretary general of the Hong Kong Sports Federation and Olympic Committee, yesterday. 'The money we save will be used to send more athletes to the Games.'

Previous host nations used to charge each participating country the cost of accommodating their squads at the athletes' village. But the natural gas-rich country of Qatar, which will stage the 15th Asian Games from December 1-15, will pay the entire cost of the athletes and officials from all 45 member countries. The aim of the Doha Games is to be the biggest and best games in all aspects.

Hong Kong are expected to send a 400-strong contingent - the largest to leave local shores.

'Four years ago in Pusan, South Korea, we sent a 300-strong contingent. But this time we can send around 100 more because we don't have to pay for anything.' said Pang. 'The only cost for the Hong Kong government will be the airfare, which unfortunately is a lot due to rising oil prices and the longer distance to travel.'

According to Pang's estimate, Hong Kong would save nearly HK$2.5 million.

'In Pusan, four years ago, we had to pay US$50 for each athlete per day. On this basis, if you calculate the cost for 400 athletes over 16 days, it comes to around HK$2.5 million,' said Pang.

At least 30 sports will be represented in Doha with team sports such as handball and volleyball making a comeback to the Asian Games after missing out on the last couple of occasions.

Officials, however, maintained that they would keep a strict watch on the standards of individual athletes as well as teams so that Hong Kong was not embarrassed.

The national men's hockey squad preparing for the Asian Games will take part in a four-team tournament from August 23-27 at King's Park. Hong Kong will be up against Taiwan, and two provincial sides from China - Guangdong and Inner Mongolia.

'We decided to bring the opposition to us rather than trying to go overseas in search of match-fitness,' said Hong Kong team manager Billy Dillon. 'It is difficult for our players to get time off work, and in this way they don't have to sacrifice too much as most of the matches will be played in the evening.'

The Hong Kong Hockey Association will be able to foot the bill for hosting the three overseas teams thanks to a subsidy of HK$200,000 from the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.