Hong Kong Masters showjumping set for Mega Events Fund boost
The US$1 million meet looks likely to receive a similar sum from the government fund set up to help major sporting and cultural events
The US$1 million Longines Hong Kong Masters showjumping event in February could be boosted by a similar - or larger - sum by the Mega Events Fund.
A top official revealed on Thursday that an application had been made for a multimillion-dollar handout from the government fund established to help major sporting and cultural events.
It is believed the Tourism Commission's MEF is set to approve funding of HK$10 million for the three-day event, which will attract the world's top show-jumpers and their horses for the second successive year.
The MEF has recently rejected requests from the Hong Kong Golf Open and the Hong Kong Cricket Sixes for funding. In October, the latter event was cancelled due to lack of funds.
"We have applied for funds from the Mega Events Fund," Matthieu Gheysen, vice-president of EEM Asia, confirmed. "We applied last year too, but sent in our proposal too late. This time I'm confident we will be supported as we want to make this event a part of the Hong Kong sports and social fabric."
Gheysen refused to say how much money the organisers, working through the Hong Kong Equestrian Federation, had asked for. But he said it would help to pay for the costs of flying 64 horses from Europe to be used by the world's top 25 showjumpers at the event from February 21-23 at AsiaWorld Expo.
MEF rules do not permit funds to be used for prize money. It has been used in the past to pay appearance fees for golfers and cricketers.
"We don't pay any appearance fees for our riders as they are all invited and turn up to compete for the prize money, which at US$1 million is huge. But it is very costly transporting horses across the world. You roughly need HK$150,000 per horse to fly them down and back again and we have asked the government to be involved in this and other aspects like helping raise the profile of the event," Gheysen said.
Held for the first time in March this year, the Hong Kong Masters attracted seven of the world's top 10 riders.
Among those expected in February will be Britain's London Olympic gold medallist Ben Maher, world number one Christian Ahlmann of Germany and top-ranked woman rider Edwina Tops-Alexander of Australia.
"We will have a better idea of who will turn up once next month's opening leg in Paris is over as by then the riders will have to confirm their participation. But we are confident of another top-class field," Gheysen said.
Once again the event will be in the CSI (Concours de Saut International or International Jumping Competition) 5-star category - riders and horses will jump hurdles of the Olympic height of 1.60 metres - with world-ranking points up for grabs.
Two Hong Kong riders will also be invited to participate and that decision will be made by the local federation. Raena Leung Hou-ling and Kenneth Cheng Man-kit took part in the inaugural event.
Organisers will increase the capacity at AsiaWorld Expo, adding an extra 1,000 seats to the public tribune while also increasing VIP tables from 75 to 100.
"We were surprised at the response we got this year when more than 20,000 people turned out over the three days. We are now adding capacity to cater for 30,000 spectators, public and VIPs, over the three days. The plan is to make this event a major part of the sporting and social calendar in Hong Kong," Gheysen added.