Top race must quit the magic kingdom

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 July, 2011, 12:00am


Failure to secure a title sponsor for October's ITU International Triathlon has forced the Hong Kong Triathlon Association to move the event from Hong Kong Disneyland to its former venue at Plover Cove near Tai Po.

More than HK$500,000 is needed to stage the event at Disneyland and the HKTA had to resort to court action to secure sponsorship fees for last year's race from its marketing partner.

Despite retaining its status last year as one of the 13 focus sports at the Hong Kong Sports Institute with a HK$12 million government grant spread over four years, the association has struggled to find a sponsor for its flagship event, which attracts athletes from around the world. It has been staged at Disneyland for the past three years, each time with commercial sponsorship. The cost of staging the race at Plover Cove is considerably lower.

The HKTA would not comment on it starting legal action last December against Sportsoho Media for payment of HK$600,000 in connection with last year's Hong Kong ITU Triathlon Asian Cup.

A June 13 post on the association's website said: 'Sportsoho Media Limited did not honour their cheque payment' and that 'TriHK was proceeding with the winding up of Sportsoho'. A further post four days later confirmed the funds had been paid.

Ricky Chan, founder and senior manager of Sportsoho, declined to comment on the legal matter, saying there were no problems with the sponsorship and that the event was successfully staged. 'I think the costs of staging a race at Disneyland are more than reasonable. The management provides a lot of help, support and goodwill for what really is a superb venue for sporting events.'

Disneyland has proved to be a popular location for the ITU event, but the supporting infrastructure comes with a heavy cost. Roads have to be closed to ensure athletes' safety, while portable toilets and other facilities also need to be brought in. Everything must then be removed by mid-day before visitors arrive at the park.

Disney's vice-president of hotel operations, Peter Lowe, said he was sad the event would not be staged at the Lantau location this year.

'Sadly, the HKTA has not managed to find a marketing partner to attract a sponsor for this year's event. Events staged at Hong Kong Disneyland have to be carried out to our rules and regulations, so road closures and sufficient portable toilets are required by each event organiser.

'It's a shame, but from my detailed discussions with the Hong Kong Triathlon Association it is their intention to return next year.'

Andrew Wright, whose seventh place finish in last year's Guangzhou Asian Games ensured triathlon retained its elite status, said: 'Disney offers a great venue and I'm sure many local as well as international athletes will be disappointed at the switch back to Plover Cove.

'I find it odd that the government says on the one hand that it plans to promote local sports and wants to see the facilities at Disneyland stage more sporting events, but then it fails to help out financially with the staging of those events.

'The Singapore government is far more proactive in supporting events such as this, and their ITU event is much more successful than ours because of that support.

'I've had conversations with the organisers of iron-man triathlons who would love to stage an annual event here, but the red tape and the cost to close roads means it's not a feasible business arrangement.'


The amount, in Hong Kong dollars, needed to stage the ITU International Triathon at Disneyland