More than 20 Beijing Olympic Games gold medallists will appear at next month's East Asian Games as Hong Kong sets out to prove it can host bigger multi-sport events in the future.
As the list of 2,300 participating athletes was unveiled yesterday - along with models of the three medals - the president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, said a successful Games would be a natural stepping stone to the biggest games in the region.
'The world's eyes will be on Hong Kong next month when we stage our first-ever major games and, if we can leave the sporting community with a good impression, it will be easier for us to convince them Hong Kong is capable of staging bigger games in the future,' Fok said.
'It is too early to say if we will bid for the 2019 Asian Games as there is a decade to go but, as an international city, Hong Kong should demonstrate we have the ability to host major sporting games.'
International Olympic Committee president Dr Jacques Rogge, Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah and IOC members from the nine participating countries and regions of the EAG will be the guests of honour at the opening ceremony of the December 5-13 extravanganza, which will cost the city HK$1.3 billion.
Fok said he would solicit the opinions of Rogge and company before formulating a plan for further action, but building more world-class venues would be a prerequisite.
'We have built some very good facilities for EAG competitions but not for world-class sporting events because there are limited numbers of seats for spectators,' Fok said.
'We need to work out a strategy for building new facilities if we decide to bid for the 2019 [Asian] Games and that will certainly give us a good target.'
The HK$400 million Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, the major track and field facility built for the Games, can accommodate 3,500 spectators who will be given a bird's-eye view of hurdler Liu Xiang competing on December 11.
The judo and taekwondo facility at Shek Kip Mei Park Sports Centre only accommodates 400 spectators, while the renovated Kowloon Park Swimming Pool, which will put out the red carpet for diving queen Guo Jingjing and her synchronised partner Wu Minxia, has a capacity of 1,700. Tickets at these venues are almost sold out because of their limited capacity.
Liu, who returned successfully to the track in August after pulling out of the Beijing Games due to an Achilles tendon injury, was confirmed yesterday as one of the major attractions of the Games.
Other mainland stars are badminton champion Lin Dan, table tennis team gold medallist Wang Hao, and swimmer Liu Zige. The 20-year-old butterfly specialist won the only swimming gold for the hosts in Beijing last year and shattered Australian Jessica Schipper's 200-metre butterfly world record by almost two seconds at the National Games in Jinan, Shandong province, last month.
The China delegation also boasts a strong contingent of weightlifters, with five gold medallists from Beijing.
South Korea will send four gold medallists from the Beijing Games, including Park Tae-hwan, winner of the men's 400-metre freestyle in the Water Cube. The others are Sa Jae-hyouk (weightlifting), Cha Dong-min (taekwondo) and Jin Jong-oh (shooting).