The government will continue to invest in sport and its promises will be kept, a senior Home Affairs Bureau official said yesterday as the Hong Kong Olympic Committee celebrated a Games where 'our athletes were not embarrassed'.
Jonathan McKinley, deputy secretary at the Home Affairs Bureau in charge of sport, said despite a number of challenges, Hong Kong's athletes were medal contenders and he pledged more government support in the future.
'We will continue to invest in sport and all our promises will be kept,' McKinley said at the Olympic Village.
Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, again urged the government to look into setting up a sports lottery along the lines of the UK Lottery, which has successfully funded the country's ascension to third place in the Olympic standings.
McKinley sidestepped the issue, instead taking pains to stress the government's investment in sports in the past few years, including the HK$7 billion Elite Athletes Development Fund and the HK$1.8 billion spent on the redevelopment of the Hong Kong Sports Institute.
'Winning an Olympic medal is extremely difficult but Hong Kong is getting close,' McKinley said. 'We have had many encouraging performances. Hong Kong has always had the potential, now we have showed we also have the quality. The world knows where Hong Kong is now.
'Our athletes have sacrificed a lot. The last four years have been difficult as they haven't had a permanent base and have been moving around without a settled facility. Only last year did they move into the redeveloped Sports Institute in Fo Tan which will be fully completed next year.
'But despite all these challenges they have shown that Hong Kong is no longer just taking part and that they are here to compete for medals. The government will continue to invest in top-class facilities like the Tseung Kwan O velodrome.'
Hong Kong has only won one medal - track cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze winning a bronze in the women's keirin race - but have come close in table tennis with the men's team edged out by Germany in the bronze-medal match and Yip Pui-yin reaching the last eight in the women's badminton singles.
The fact that Hong Kong had qualified athletes in every discipline in fencing in the men's and women's competition and that archery and judo were represented after a break of 20 years and 16 years respectively highlighted how far Hong Kong had come.
In Beijing, Hong Kong returned without a medal. The only previous successes were a first-ever gold medal won by windsurfer Lee Lai-shan at the 1996 Atlanta Games and a silver medal by men's table tennis doubles team Ko Lai-chak and Li Ching in Athens in 2004.
'Britain had the same number of gold medals, one, as Hong Kong back in 1996 but see where they are now,' Fok said. 'This is mainly due to sport being funded by the UK Lottery. Something similar in Hong Kong would help greatly.
'Sport is about participation but unfortunately you are judged on results. But Hong Kong wasn't embarrassed in London. The difference between winning and finishing fourth or in the top eight is such a small margin and I'm very proud of our team,' Fok said.
Fok pressed the government to step up its efforts, especially in building the proposed Kai Tak Sports Hub, which has been kept on hold as the government apparently sorts out the financing model for the multi-billion dollar project.
'Four years ago, after Beijing, we were told to wait and that the project would soon be underway. I can wait, but the athletes cannot,' Fok said.
McKinley could not shed any light on when work on the Kai Tak project, which includes a new state-of-the-art stadium and ancillary facilities, would get underway.
'All I can say is that our original schedule for completion of the project, which is 2019, will be kept to,' McKinley said. 'But we will continue to invest in sport and continue to support our athletes.'