We'll fight for our athletes' eligibility at Asian Games, vow HK Olympic chiefs
Hong Kong athletes will need an SAR passport to take part at Incheon; those with permanent IDs can't compete
Hong Kong athletes will need to have an SAR passport if they wish to take part at the Incheon Asian Games in September with the Olympic Council of Asia set to follow International Olympic Council guidelines on eligibility.
But top Hong Kong Olympic Committee official Pang Chung said there was still a possibility that those athletes without one could still go if they were Hong Kong-born or had taken part in previous Asian Games.
"We will fight for those athletes who were born in Hong Kong or who have already represented the city at previous Asian Games," said Pang, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, yesterday.
"We think such athletes have a case and we will take it to the authorities [Olympic Council of Asia], but I'm afraid those athletes who don't fall within these two categories and who only hold permanent ID cards will not be eligible." Pang added.
There have been widespread fears, especially in team sports like cricket, rugby sevens and hockey, that the new rules would decimate their squads.
In cricket, only four of the 14-strong squad that almost took Hong Kong to the 2015 World Cup are eligible for the Asian Games under the passport-only rule.
The rugby sevens team, who won a silver medal at the last Games in Guangzhou, are better off with only a handful of players ineligible.
"We have prepared for this eventuality and have been grooming younger players who are Hong Kong-born. Yes, we will miss some players, but I believe we have the depth to replace them," said Dai Rees, Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's head of technical development and performance.
It appears that key players such as the New Zealand-born Nick Hewson and Lee Jones would be ineligible despite having lived here for seven years.
In cricket, the Ahmed brothers, Irfan and Nadeem, Mark Chapman and Nizakat Khan are the few players who hold SAR passports.
While others are in the process of applying, the majority do not have them even though some were born in Hong Kong such as skipper Jamie Atkinson.
"We are checking to see where we exactly stand on this matter," said Mike Walsh, chairman of the Hong Kong Cricket Association.
Cricket, the Twenty20 version, made its Games debut in Guangzhou.
Pang added: "I want all these sports, which have genuine reasons to fight for their athletes to present their problems to me so that we can present a joint appeal to the OCA. It is better to do it in one go rather than one sport at a time [and] dilute our case."