THE war in the former Yugoslavia will not stop the citizens of Belgrade from competing against Hong Kong in today's International Challenge Day. But Petar Stakic, general secretary of the Sport For All Association in Belgrade, conceded the territory would probably emerge victorious. 'Maybe, at this moment, the challenge favours Hong Kong,' he said from his home. 'We don't have a war situation in Belgrade but there is war in our neighbourhood and that makes us very unhappy.' However, this does not mean Belgrade will not give the challenge its best shot. Mr Stakic hoped 40 per cent of the city's population of 1.7 million would take part in Belgrade's first entry in International Challenge Day. Hong Kong and Belgrade were paired at a press conference in January at the German Sports Federation headquarters in Frankfurt. Both cities are in a category that requires them to have a population of over one million. The city with the higher participation rate will win the challenge and its flag will fly in the loser's municipal headquarters for a week. Hong Kong has won its heat of the challenge twice before, beating Budapest in Hungary last year and Vancouver, Canada, the year before. A staggering 81 per cent of the territory's citizens, or 4.7 million people, registered their 15 minutes of exercise last year. That was a five per cent increase on the 1993 tally of 76 per cent. Belgrade is a newcomer to International Challenge Day, although 25 per cent of the population took part in a National Challenge Day last year. Belgrade, a modern city which lies where the Danube and Sava rivers converge, is a major river port and railway centre. Its citizens work in government, banking and commerce and they have the use of numerous sports facilities and clubs. 'Twenty per cent of the population is active in everyday sports,' Mr Stakic said. As executive director of International Challenge Day in Belgrade, Mr Stakic is in charge of preparing numerous activities for the event. About 2,000 people are involved in the project. One plan is a 'rock challenge' where it is hoped about 20,000 young people will dance in unison for 15 minutes. Football and soccer matches are also in the pipeline and it is hoped these events will draw a crowd of 50,000 people who, in turn, will take part in group exercise. 'We are happy to have Hong Kong as a rival city,' Mr Stakic said. 'We are sure our first experience will be very positive.' A delegation led by the mayor of Belgrade was to have made a four-day visit to Hong Kong earlier this month to sign an agreement with the Regional Council's chairman - symbolising the two cities' International Challenge Day rivalry. The trip had to be cancelled but is tentatively being rescheduled for June. Mr Stakic said: 'We hope Hong Kong will support us as a city. We expect to have a lot of business contacts with the territory.' Although he could not visit the territory as part of the delegation, Mr Stakic hoped the challenge would result in greater understanding between Belgrade and Hong Kong. 'Belgrade was, and is, a sports city. All the people here, especially the sportsmen, wish you all the best,' he said.