Sport stars decry institute changes

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2006, 12:00am

Medallists say Olympic plan has negative effect on athletes

Returning Asian Games gold medallists and elite athletes yesterday warned that revamping the Sports Institute to make way for 2008 Olympics Games equestrian events would inhibit Hong Kong competitors' progress and their ability to succeed overseas.

Ko Lai-chak and Li Ching, who won gold medals in table tennis men's doubles, were critical of the government's plan.

'We want to stay [in the institute]. I feel sad that we have to move so far away,' Li said.

He was referring to the relocation of facilities to the Chinese YMCA Wu Kai Sha youth camp in Ma On Shan.

Ko said the equestrian events would have a negative effect on fellow athletes because of the extra time it took to travel to the camp.

'We will have less time for practice. It certainly will affect Hong Kong getting gold medals [in international games],' he said.

Hong Kong won six gold, 12 silver and 10 bronze medals at the Asian Games in Doha, their biggest-ever haul. The Hong Kong team were honoured at a ceremony at Hong Kong Stadium yesterday at which Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen congratulated them on winning 28 medals.

Work at the institute is expected to be completed by the end of this month. The revamped venue will have no facilities for badminton, table tennis or squash. Ko said they planned to meet the sports institute management to raise their concerns about the future.

Women's singles squash silver medal winner Rebecca Chiu Wing-yin was also unhappy about the arrangements. This was despite a pledge by Mr Tsang to commit an annual funding of HK$70 million to elite sport training and sports associations. There will be a new indoor sports venue in West Kowloon and a velodrome for cyclists in Tseung Kwan O.

Chiu said there were no squash courts at the camp in Ma On Shan and they would have to go to a venue in Cornwall Road, Kowloon Tong, to train.

Ko, who has an Olympic medal to his credit, said that time would be limited as he would have to catch a bus back to the camp before dusk.

Badminton player Ng Ka-shun, 23, used to live on the institute's campus but had to move back home in Sai Kung because of the plans for equestrian events. She was keen to win a medal at the next Asian Games but feared that the lack of facilities would make this difficult.

She said about 20 badminton players were in the same position.

Facilities at the institute will only become available again after the equestrian events at the Games are completed in August 2008.

'As we get older, our performances will not be so good and I fear that I will have less of a chance as the years go by.'