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Sarah Lee Wai-sze

No financial support, no more world championships in Hong Kong, says senior cycling official

Organisers say the cost of hosting the most prestigious annual cycling meet is too much to consider taking on again without more government support

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 April, 2017, 3:58pm
UPDATED : Monday, 17 April, 2017, 12:44am

A senior official ruled out the possibility of staging the track cycling world championships in Hong Kong again unless they can solicit more support from the government.

The five-day event, the second biggest track cycling competition after the Olympic Games, ended on Sunday after fans had watched over 300 world-class riders from 41 countries compete at the Hong Kong Velodrome.

However, it also cost the organisers, the Hong Kong Cycling Association, over HK$15 million and they now face a deficit of HK$3m after taking into consideration government funding, commercial sponsorship and gate receipts.

“It’s very difficult to stage an event of this scale because the budget is too big,” said association chairman Leung Hung-tak.

“We need to raise HK$6 million in order to secure matching funds from the government. This was not easy as the world governing body does not allow any naming rights by commercial sponsors for the worlds and the rule has scared away many potential sponsors.

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“But it may help if the government can provide some special consideration such as taxation offers to commercial bodies sponsoring big sports events to lure their support. Until this happens, we don’t think we would be able to stage the world championships again in a short period of time.”

Leung, however, said they might bring the world cup series back to Hong Kong, although it will not be in the coming season and is more likely to be in 2019.

“The 2019 world cup series will be part of the 2020 Olympic Games qualifiers and all the top riders will be out to secure a berth for Tokyo, making it very competitive,” said Leung. “We now have the experience of organising events of this scale and as long as we can solve the financial aspect, we feel comfortable as the event organisers.”

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Hong Kong was considered a potential host for the junior world championships in the summer, but Leung said since another city also showed an interest, they would not pursue the application.

The official said they were happy with the atmosphere throughout the 10 sessions over the five days, revealing that four sessions were sold-out at the 2,000-seater Hong Kong Velodrome.

“We are happy we can produce a world-class rider like [Sarah] Lee and it makes for a great atmosphere whenever she and other Hong Kong riders take to the track,” said Leung. “This can also serve as promotion for track cycling in the community.

“Our squad still lacks the depth and we need a bigger pool of talent in order to identify the next Sarah Lee if we want to further develop track cycling on the world stage.”