Fund provides HK$325 million windfall for Hong Kong Sports Institute
Special investment fund provides massive cash injection of HK$325 million, boosting agency's ability to cover costs for 719 competitors
The government's long-term plan to sustain elite sport has kicked in with a massive HK$325 million in investment returns from the HK$7 billion Elite Athletes Development Fund (EADF) being handed over to the Sports Institute for this financial year. It is HK$45 million more than last year.
With the HK$1.8 billion redevelopment of the Hong Kong Sports Institute at Fo Tan nearly completed - the soft opening will take place on Thursday - the huge boost in funding is aimed at spurring a medal rush at next year's Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. Hong Kong won 40 medals (eight golds, 15 silver and 17 bronze) at the 2010 Games in Guangzhou, the majority claimed by elite athletes at the Sports Institute.
"We have returns of more than 5 per cent from the Elite Athletes Development Fund which has been invested with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority," said Jonathan McKinley, deputy secretary for Home Affairs.
"Most of this money [from these returns] will be given to the Sports Institute and we expect results with the benchmark being to win an Asian Games medal or qualify for the Olympic Games."
More than 70 per cent of the HK$325 million will go towards athletes' costs for the 16 core sports, including scholarships and other services like paying for top-class coaching, competition and overseas training costs. There are 719 elite athletes (of which only 211 are full-time) across 15 elite sports, plus 12 under the Individual Athlete Support Scheme as well as disabled athletes.
This does not include rugby sevens, the only team sport, whose programme is still being finalised with the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union after being accepted into the elite training academy in April.
"Having a guaranteed sum of money annually from the government is the key element in elite sports development," said Trisha Leahy, HKSI chief executive, yesterday. "We have to operate and plan on four-year Olympic/Asian Games cycles, so stable funding is crucial to being able to plan and execute effectively all goal-driven elite training programmes and we are grateful for the government's commitment to Hong Kong's elite athletes."
In 2011, the government established the EADF with a one-off grant of HK$7 billion. The aim was to invest this money and use its returns annually to replace the former method of funding - an annual recurrent subvention - for the Sports Institute.
The last time the HKSI received money under the old scheme, it got HK$212 million. Over the past two years, that has ballooned by HK$113 million. Last year's funding of HK$280 million was allocated from the capital fund.
The extra money is expected to help spur the HKSI towards achieving its targets of increasing the number of full-time athletes to 500 (from 211) over the next few years, according to Leahy. This is crucial towards medal success at major Games.
"The full-time contingent right now is roughly 29 per cent of the elite scholarship group, which is a significant improvement on pre-2007 when the direct financial support began from the government," Leahy said.
"But at the Asian Games, Hong Kong's gold medals have all been won by full-time athletes, and when looking at all medals regardless of colour at multi-sport games, 80 per cent are won by full-time athletes. So what would happen if 80 per cent of athletes were full-time rather than 30 per cent?
"Our goal is to increase the full-time contingent by 10 per cent each year with a view to having a critical mass of about 500 full-time athletes. This is how we can really get sustainable results and maximise the fantastic support the government is giving elite sport."
Leahy said the redeveloped Sports Institute would also be able to generate income, thus adding another revenue stream.
"With the new facilities completed, we will also have the opportunity to generate income through value-added community engagement programmes, which we believe will bring the public closer to the elite athletes and facilitate feeling that an 'elite athlete lifestyle' and 'elite athlete spirit' is beneficial and accessible to everyone and is part of Hong Kong culture."