Red tape leaves windsurfers homeless

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2007, 12:00am

Bureaucrats block plans for a training centre at Stanley for Hong Kong's most successful sport

Hong Kong's most successful sport is homeless and the finger of blame is being pointed at government bureaucrats, who have blocked plans for a new training centre at Stanley.

At a celebration reception for the Hong Kong team who won one gold and two silver medals at the Asian Games last month, Cowen Chiu, president of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association, said the boardsailors still had nowhere to base themselves despite their unprecedented success in Doha.

'We want to rent part of the Hong Kong Sea School in Stanley to set up a new training base so that we can have an office, a fitness training room and storage place there,' Chiu said yesterday. 'The Hong Kong Sports Institute and Home Affairs Bureau are very supportive of this idea, but unfortunately, as far as we understand, some other departments say we cannot do this because the Sea School can only be used for education purposes and not as a sports training base.

'These bureaucrats simply do not understand that sports is part of education.'

At the moment, boardsailors train on the waters off Stanley but must travel to Ma On Shan for support services.

It is believed that the Sea School has had discussions with the Education and Manpower Bureau (EMB) about the change of land use, but the request to accommodate some of our top athletes was rejected.

'They need to make an official request to change part of the land use of the Sea School before the government can study the case thoroughly,' said a government source yesterday.

Head coach Rene Appel said the sailors needed a permanent training centre in Stanley for the long-term development of the sport, but in the interim period, especially as the Sports Institute had moved from Sha Tin to Ma On Shan, the Sea School was the most viable short-term solution.

'We are racing against time as our preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games have already begun,' Appel said. 'Discussions for using the Sea School have been going on for almost a year and it is disappointing that there is still no sign of a decision being made.'

Appel said setting up a training centre in Stanley could save sailors and coaches a lot of travelling time, especially as they now had to go all the way to Ma On Shan for support services, such as sports science and medicine.

'If we need to cancel a training session in Stanley because of a lack of wind, then we need to go all the way to Ma On Shan where we can conduct fitness training and make use of other services. But then we need to travel a long distance to get there,' he said.

The Hong Kong team, including Asian Games gold medallist Chan King-yin and silver medallists Chan Wai-kei and Ho Chi-ho, will leave for the Sail Melbourne regatta on Thursday, their first major competition for the year.