No breakdown yet of spending to promote 'Olympism' in HK
Mary Ann Benitez and Nick Gentle
With 12 days to go before the Games begin, the Hong Kong government remains tight-lipped on how it has spent the HK$150 million allocated for promotion of what it calls 'Olympism'.
The funds were approved by the Legislative Council's Finance Committee in December for a series of programmes 'for the promotion of Olympism' ahead of the Equestrian Olympics and Paralympics.
The money was distributed among government bureaus and agencies for a 'city dress-up' before the Games.
About HK$35 million went towards establishing two sites at Victoria Park and Sha Tin Park, where people can watch equestrian events on giant screens in real time, and HK$25 million was set aside for the torch relay in May and the Paralympics relay in September.
Days after questions were submitted, a Home Affairs Bureau spokeswoman said in reply: 'Since some of the programmes are still in progress, no information on the cost breakdown and unspent balance is available yet.'
But at least a million primary and secondary students had joined Olympics-related activities with the help of HK$5,000 grants for each school.
A further 600,000 people had been involved in youth parades, gala shows and sports competitions. A total of HK$3.2 million was allocated to the Transport Department for posters, stickers and advertisements on 445 road junctions, 5,600 parking meters and four tunnel advertising spaces.
Outdoor billboards, lamp-post bunting, giant wall and footbridge banners, pillar wraps, exhibition boards, stickers, light boxes, backdrops, and posters have been mounted throughout the city.
Civic Party legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, a member of the home affairs panel which scrutinised the proposal before it went to the Finance Committee, said: 'It was very difficult to reject it, given that we are hosting these events in Hong Kong and it would not be unreasonable to promote the event. Certainly it will cost some money.'
He said, however, that equestrian sports were not very popular in the city. 'I am not sure if it has had a real impact on the general public, especially given the event itself is not something that is easily accessible. Equestrian competition is certainly one of the world's most expensive sports.'
Equestrian Company spokesman Mark Pinkstone said he believed the publicity by the Home Affairs Bureau had been 'very successful'. 'We have almost a complete sell-out of the tickets and we can thank the publicity generated by this campaign,' Mr Pinkstone said.