Incentives boom for HK medal hopefuls

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 March, 2009, 12:00am

The cash incentive for a gold medal at the London 2012 Games is to be increased from HK$1 million to HK$3 million if a government proposal is approved.

The value of silver and bronze medals for HK athletes would rise to HK$2 million and HK$1 million respectively if the Athletes Incentive Award Scheme revision is successful.

The Sports Commission, the advisory body to the government on sports development, will meet later this month to make a final decision on the proposal, which is unlikely to draw any opposition.

'This proposal follows the world trend as incentives for athletes have multiplied in recent years, especially those who can win medals at the highest level,' said a source close to the government.

'Hong Kong lags far behind some of our Asian counterparts in terms of rewarding athletes who can win Olympic medals. The scheme was set up in 1994, but there hasn't been any change in the size of the cash awards for 15 years. Even if you take inflation into consideration, there has to be a considerable increase.

'Over the years, Hong Kong's athletes have worked hard and achieved on the international stage, but the cash awards have remained constant. It's time to give our athletes increased tangible return on their efforts.'

Coaches, who are mainly remunerated by the Sports Institute, are ineligible to participate in the scheme.

When windsurfer Lee Lai-shan won a gold medal for Hong Kong at the Atlanta Games in 1996, she took a jackpot of HK$1 million from the scheme - a major breakthrough in awarding athletes cash incentives. Eight years later, Hong Kong athletes reached the Olympic medal podium again in Athens when table tennis duo Ko Lai-chak and Li Ching captured a silver in the men's doubles and each was awarded HK$600,000.

Singapore offers about HK$5 million for winning an Olympic gold, while a Malaysian Olympic gold medallist can receive about HK$2 million. Taiwan are also rolling out hefty rewards for their successful Olympians - about HK$2.6 million for a gold medallist.

Incentives for the Asian Games, with the next version to be held in Guangzhou in 2010, would also be increased. A gold medallist would receive HK$750,000 compared with the current HK$250,000, while silver and bronze medallists would get HK$250,000 (up from HK$125,000) and HK$100,000 (HK$50,000) respectively. Hong Kong won six gold medals at the last Asian Games in Doha in 2006.

Windsurfer Chan King-yin, who came close to winning a medal at the 2008 Olympic Games and was a Doha Asian Games gold medallist, was delighted to hear of the likely increases.

'This is a piece of good news to athletes who are preparing for the two major Games,' said Chan, who finished sixth in the men's RSX in Qingdao last summer. 'Although the cash incentive only comes as a bonus as we have to work hard to achieve good results with or without it, we are happy to know there is an improved bonus up for grabs. It is long overdue.'

Long time coming
Years since cash incentives were last increased: 15