800pc incentive increase 'too much'
A proposal to reward Paralympic gold medallists at London 2012 with HK$500,000 - an increase of more than 800 per cent - has been thrown back at the Sports Commission.
The Elite Sports Committee (ESC), comprising mainly sports experts including past athletes, officials and coaches, has objected to the increase and recommended it be raised from HK$60,000 to HK$300,000.
The Sports Commission, the government's advisory body chaired by Secretary for Home Affairs Tsang Tak-sing, proposed the cash incentive which would mean wheelchair fencer Chan Yiu-chong, who captured two gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics, would get a HK$1 million reward if she repeated the feat in London.
Hong Kong won five Paralympic gold medals in Beijing last summer, while no athlete won a medal at the Olympic Games.
The ESC countered the Sports Commission's proposal and suggested a five-fold increase - to HK$300,000 - and the same level for a team gold - from HK$84,000 to HK$420,000. 'The revised increase is more reasonable,' said an ESC member, who asked for anonymity.
'We recognise the effort of disabled athletes at the Paralympic Games but the proposed increase of eight times on the current reward is too big. We have also increased the Olympic Games cash awards recently, but it was by only three times [HK$1 million to HK$3 million].
'We also have to be fair to our athletes competing at the Olympic Games.'
The member, however, was disappointed the Sports Commission had rejected their proposed increase for Asian Games rewards.
The ESC recommended an individual gold medal at the 2010 Games in Guangzhou receive HK$750,000, three times the original HK$250,000, but this was rejected by the Sports Commission, which agreed to HK$400,000. 'If a disabled athlete can get more than an Asian Games medal winner, it will discourage the latter. We therefore see a HK$300,000 award to a Paralympic gold medallist fits better,' the member said.
Meanwhile, three sports have been admitted to the elite programme at the Hong Kong Sports Institute from July, taking the number of elite sports to a record high of 14 in their preparation for the 2010 Asian Games and London Olympics.
Athletics, snooker and karate all made the nine-point benchmark at the biennial review conducted early this year and were supposed to gain the elite status from April 1. But administration hiccups delayed the procedures and it needed an emergency ESC meeting yesterday to ratify their status.
The Sports Institute had requested an additional budget of HK$3 million following the inclusion of the three sports. Both snooker and karate had earlier been identified as up-and-coming sports and had already received extra money from the Sports Institute. Athletics returns after losing its elite status two years ago.
An elite programme at the institute provides comprehensive support for athletes.