THE Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) in Sha Tin could soon be the training base for Chinese athletes preparing for major championships, following a historic visit to the mainland by a team of top officials from the centre. The five-member delegation, led by HKSI director Dennis Whitby, made a week-long visit to Beijing and Wuhan during which they secured a number of cross-border agreements with their Chinese counterparts. The most significant agreement was the proposal for China's top athletes to use the institute as a training base prior to major international events such as the Olympics, Asian Games and world championships. 'This would be a good opportunity for Hong Kong athletes to get exposure to Chinese national teams if they come here,' Whitby said. A couple of world-class Chinese athletes have already made use of the HKSI facilities in recent years, with the most notable group being the mainland's women swimmers. However, those previous visits were unofficial sporting exchanges and were not part of the athletes' preparation for competitions. HKSI head soccer coach Kwok Ka-ming has been assigned the task of co-ordinating possible future visits to Hong Kong by the Chinese athletes. 'Because of Hong Kong's geographical location and weather, Chinese athletes wish to come here to use our facilities and train before major events,' Kwok said. 'We met China's head badminton coach during our tour and he told us he would like very much to bring his players here for training ahead of the Thomas Cup, which will be held in Hong Kong next year.' In tandem with the proposal, agreements have been made to encourage the exchange of athletes and coaches between China's National Training Bureau and the HKSI. The mainland sports officials have also promised to help Hong Kong set up a dope-testing programme.