Tianjin event to be last East Asian Games amid youth tournament plans
Tianjin event likely to be last in current format amid plans to introduce event for teenagers
The East Asian Games will be scaled back after the completion of the sixth edition of the extravanganza in Tianjin in October.
Organisers are likely to replace the event, which began in Shanghai in 1993, with a competition for athletes aged 14 to 18.
"The new format hasn't been finalised, as the topic will be discussed in Tianjin, but it is very likely that this will be the last time the Games will be open to athletes," Hong Kong Olympic Committee honorary secretary general Pang Chung said yesterday.
"Starting from the next Games in 2017, we'll probably see a new youth competition."
The East Asian Games, last hosted by Hong Kong in 2009, involves competitors from nine countries and regions. "The general perception is that there are already similar Games in the region, like the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, the Asian Beach Games, the Asian Youth Games and, of course, the Asian Games," said Pang.
From 2017, the East Asian Games would also see fewer events and competitors, Pang said. There would likely be only 1,200 competitors compared to the 2,400 who took part in Hong Kong four years ago and the 2,800 who were in Japan for the Osaka Games in 2001, he said.
"You can say [Hong Kong] will lose a good chance of winning major Games medals, but at the same time, there will be more opportunities for the-up-and-coming athletes," Pang added.
"If the [East Asian Games] organisers want to change the format, we have to abide by the new rules," he concluded.
Hong Kong won a record 26 gold, 31 silver and 53 bronze medals as the hosts in 2009. But the East Asian Games remain a closed shop, with China, Japan and South Korea dominating the medals tally.
Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Guam, Mongolia and North Korea are seen as too weak to challenge the big three; indeed, the five previous editions of the Games have seen the same order in the final gold-medal tally: China on top, followed by Japan and South Korea.
Japan had proposed changing the event into a youth competition at the Macau Games in 2005, but the proposal was opposed by Hong Kong, as they wanted the region's top athletes - including hurdling sensation Liu Xiang and diving star Guo Jingjing - to compete in the city.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong will send a 120-strong delegation to the second Asian Youth Games in Nanjing. The August 16-24 event will be a dress rehearsal for the city, as it will also host the second Youth Olympics next year. Hong Kong won five gold, eight silver and five bronze medals in six sports to finish fifth at the inaugural Youth Games four years ago, behind China, South Korea, Thailand and hosts Singapore.