Athletes say farewell to the Sports Institute
1,600 people gather to take a last look before demolition work
About 1,600 athletes and members of the public bade farewell to the Sports Institute in Sha Tin yesterday - a day before the facilities are demolished to make way for the Olympic equestrian events in 2008.
Many local elite athletes crowded in and took a last glance at the institute, which has been local athletes' main training base for 24 years.
The facilities will be closed for two years for construction work to be carried out.
They were joined by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen who attended a fund-raising relay race that attracted about 1,500 runners.
Athletes were divided over closure of the institute.
Windsurfing queen Lee Lai-shan, who won an Olympic gold medal in 1996, said she welcomed reconstruction of the institute on the present site after the Olympic equestrian events were over.
'The institute has a history of several decades. Improvements are needed in many of its facilities,' she said.
Top cyclist Wong Kam-po said although the temporary relocation to Wu Kai Sha was a little inconvenient for athletes, it would still be conducive to the sports development of Hong Kong in the long run.
But newly crowned Asian Games triathlon silver medallist Daniel Lee Chi-wo said he was sad to say goodbye to the institute, which had given him many memories. 'To many of us, the institute is not only a training venue - we eat here, rest here and even have some important dates here,' he said. 'I will take many photos to preserve the memories of the institute.'
Beside taking photographs, athletes also held a countdown party last night to welcome in the New Year.
Lam Woon-kwong, chief executive of the Equestrian Company, the body organising the 2008 Olympic equestrian events in Hong Kong, said at an event to promote equestrian sport yesterday that more than 6,500 volunteers' applications had been received. The response from the public had been exceedingly good, he said. 'We will only take in 100 people in the initial stage but it has already attracted so many people to apply.'
He also said a study tour to the Qatari capital Doha - venue for last year's Asian Games - had been a rewarding experience. 'Though we still need time to look into the information we gathered, the Asian Games gave us some insights on the competition arrangements, venue management and quarantine arrangements,' he said.