Gold worth more for HK winners

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 February, 2009, 12:00am

Additional incentive to shine on home turf following potential tripling of bonus

Gold medals for Hong Kong athletes at this year's East Asian Games could rise to three times their current value following a review of the 15-year-old Athletes Incentives Awards Scheme.

The reward for victory in the Games, to be hosted by Hong Kong in December, will rise from HK$25,000 (HK$35,000 for a team gold) to HK$75,000 if the proposal is adopted by the Sports Institute board later this month.

Set up by the former Sports Development Board, the incentives scheme has not been adjusted since its inception in 1994.

'We are happy to see more money is to be offered to athletes who are able to do well at a major Games,' said a government official in charge of sports. 'The standard of Hong Kong sport has improved tremendously since this was introduced.

'Even if only to take inflation into consideration, a review of the size of the incentives is now due.'

The scheme, now managed by the Sports Institute, provides cash awards to achievers at seven major international competitions, with the highest being HK$500,000 to an Olympic gold medal winner. The others are the Asian Games (HK$250,000 for an individual winner), National Games (HK$150,000), World University Games (HK250,000), the Paralympic Games (HK30,000) and its Asian equivalent, the Fespic Games (HK$15,000). Windsurfer Lee Lai-shan won the top amount at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and then pocketed an equivalent amount from a commercial sponsor.

Sources said the existing HK$25,000 award was to be increased to HK$50,000 and a further one-off HK$25,000 payment was likely to be added to recognise the special feat of winning on home soil. The rewards for silver (HK$10,000) and bronze (HK$5,000) medallists were also to be proportionately increased.

Hong Kong won only two gold, two silver and nine bronze medals at the 4th East Asian Games in Macau four years ago, but the medal haul this year is almost certain to enjoy a sharp rise as several sports in which Hong Kong excels have been added, including cycling, squash, table tennis, windsurfing and billiards.

Dennis Chau Wai-keung, executive director of the Windsurfing Association of Hong Kong, was delighted by the impending increase. 'It will be the first time windsurfing is contested at the East Asian Games and it is great to know there will be a big increase in the cash awards for the medal winners,' he said.

There will be four windsurfing events at the 2009 Games, and Chau admitted Hong Kong had a good chance of reaching the podium in all four. 'But we only consider the awards as a bonus for our athletes. With or without it, they will still do their best for Hong Kong,' he said.