Li backs bid to host 2023 edition

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 November, 2010, 12:00am

The outstanding performances in the first half of the Asian Games is proof the city should bid to host the event in 2023, says Hong Kong Sports Institute chairman Eric Li.

Li said the elite academy fully backed a bid and said hosting the multi-sports event would significantly raise sporting standards.

'As the government's delivery agent of elite training systems, we believe that hosting one of the key benchmark events for the elite athletes will provide the impetus to raise sporting standards in Hong Kong,' Li said.

It is the first time a leading sports official in charge of the Sha Tin academy has come out in support of a 2023 bid.

Li was speaking from a position of strength with Hong Kong having bagged seven gold medals, 12 silvers and eight bronzes in the first eight days of competition.

Li picked track cyclist Wang Wan-yiu's 'heroic performance' in the velodrome as the epitome of courage and grit shown by Hong Kong athletes during last week.

Wang was involved in a spectacular crash, but with painful ribs she picked herself up and continued for another 40 laps to win silver in the women's points race.

'Her heroic performance cannot fail to move and inspire us all to overcome extraordinary challenges to achieve extraordinary success,' Li said.

The medal glut has placed Hong Kong in a good position to finish with a record haul. Four years ago, Hong Kong returned from the Doha Games with 29 medals - six golds, 12 silvers and 11 bronzes.

Hong Kong's record contingent of 396 athletes can expect to return to a hero's welcome, something sports officials and the government is banking on as they await the final outcome of a public consultation paper on whether the city should bid for the 2023 Games.

The deadline for the public consultation was pushed back six weeks to December 1. It is believed the move was to garner support from an apathetic public which is largely against a 2023 bid on the grounds that it will cost too much.

But Li said Hong Kong should look further than 'short-term financial considerations' and a bid would fast-track the growth of sport in the community at all levels and would be a great opportunity to showcase Hong Kong on the world arena.

'The right to host a major games is a highly sought-after prize among our competitors.

'Hosting the 2023 Games would present a unique opportunity to promote Hong Kong's brand as a vibrant, diverse society where multiple forms of excellence are valued and lauded,' Li said.

'This [the 2023 Games] will create initiatives which add value to the community's quality of life and also create a healthy lifestyle legacy for future generations.'

Already the future generation of athletes is being groomed.

Li pointed to the success young athletes at the Sports Institute have had in the past year as evidence - 95 top three positions at Asian Championships for juniors in the past 12 months.

'These athletes are already preparing themselves for the challenge and opportunity of a lifetime - to showcase Hong Kong's sporting prowess at the 2023 Asian Games,' Li said.

And playing in front of a home crowd would give them an added advantage, says Li, a former legislative councilor representing the accountancy sector. He said last year's East Asian Games in Hong Kong was a good example.

'We had never exceeded 13 medals at the East Asian Games until last year when the medal count jumped to 110, a massive eight-fold increase which placed Hong Kong fourth on the medal standings.

'A survey carried out by the Sports Institute following that games revealed more than 95 per cent of athletes reported the home advantage factor had significantly influenced their performance,' Li said. One of the biggest achievements was recorded in soccer, when the men's team won a gold medal for the first time at a multi-sports games.

'The 2009 East Asian Games ignited community awareness of, and engagement with, elite sports development. It provided exciting opportunities for the Hong Kong public to personally witness the athletes' success,' Li said.

'It mobilised strong community spirit and a sense of ownership and pride in Hong Kong's sporting achievements.

'To facilitate a sustained community focus on, and support of, sport development in Hong Kong, the next logical step is to bid to host the Asian Games.'

So far, so good

Hong Kong's impressive total medal tally after eight days of competition: 27