Athletes and coaches ask why they were not invited to take part in historic relay

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 May, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 May, 2008, 12:00am

A former athlete who won the first Asian Games gold medal for Hong Kong 22 years ago is upset that she was not asked to join the Olympic torch relay, while coaches are disappointed they have been ignored.

Tenpin bowler Che Kuk-hung, who won gold at the Seoul Asian Games in 1986, said there should have been more transparency in the selection process.

Ms Che was one of the notable absentees when the 120-member list was revealed. The list includes 21 businessmen, 13 politicians and eight entertainers, and has sparked criticism that athletes are under-represented.

'I was never approached by the Hong Kong Olympic Committee to join the torch relay,' Ms Che said. 'Maybe they think my gold medal is not as good as others.

'I was a bit disappointed at first but I was invited to take part in the torch relay for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics [in Japan] and maybe that is why I was not invited a second time. The selection process should be made more open.'

Hung Chung-yam, chairman of the Hong Kong Elite Athletes' Association, said the number of athletes participating was acceptable as people from other sectors of the community should also be invited to join the memorable occasion.

'Athletes cannot win a medal on their own as they also need the support of people from various sectors,' said Mr Hung, the city's leading cyclist in the 1980s and early 1990s.

'We understand it is very difficult to please everybody whenever selection is involved, but we would be happy to see more details on the selection criteria revealed.'

Mr Hung, who came 13th in the individual road race at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, was not invited to join the relay.

Coaches are disappointed that none of them were included.

'We are also part of the sports community and have made contributions to sport to a certain extent,' a head coach at the Sports Institute who requested anonymity said.

'Unfortunately only athletes were invited to the relay.

'We agree that there should be participation of different sectors from the community but it is a bit frustrating that you will not find any coaches at such an important Olympic Games occasion.'

Meanwhile, callers flooded an RTHK phone-in programme yesterday morning, many criticising the composition of the torch-bearer list.

One said the list - dominated by athletes, tycoons, artists and government-friendly politicians - showed Hong Kong was even more backward than the mainland.

'We have to understand the torch relay aims to enable everyone to be involved in the Games,' he said.

Workers would be included as torch-bearers in many cities on the mainland. 'Look at our list, not a single ordinary working person has made it,' he said.

Two other callers questioned why Tsang Hin-chi, a former member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, was on the list. 'Many Hong Kong people dislike him and he said he might carry the torch in a wheelchair,' one said.

Another caller said a vital non-sports figure, former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, was missing. 'Tung was Hong Kong's first chief executive and a very important figure in the implementation of the 'one country, two systems',' he said.