IT would be enough to make Baron Pierre de Coubertin reach for the red Bordeaux, but somebody has finally woken up to what might just make Hong Kong sportspeople tick. Try a million dollars. The announcement late last week that any Hong Kong sportsperson winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta next summer would become an instant millionaire was only surprising in that it had taken so long to come about. It's all very well talking about the honour and the glory of the Olympic Games - if they still do that - but there's nothing like hard cash to sharpen the mind and get muscles toned. Basically, though, the Hang Seng Bank and the Sports Development Board are in a situation where they are never going to lose. You can become an instant millionaire by striking it lucky in the Mark Six - and the chances of Hong Kong striking gold in Atlanta are probably in the same bracket. But it does show just how far down the line things have gone in just over 20 years. Once upon a time that venerable head of Hong Kong Olympic affairs, A. de O. Sales, was prepared to send the Police soccer team to the Asian Games simply because they were genuinely amateur. At least it is now all up and above board and it is a rightly accepted fact that you can play for pay. The gesture made by the Hang Seng Bank is clearly a very welcome one. Given the publicity that would accrue from a gold medal winner for Hong Kong in Atlanta, handing over a million bucks would still almost be worth it in terms of media mileage. And they are backing Hong Kong sportspeople, which has largely been a rarity among major business concerns in the past. The days of the dedicated amateur training part-time and doing a day job are in the past - as far as success is concerned, that is. Given that there are almost six million people in Hong Kong, it is obviously not impossible to produce an Olympic gold medal winner. Countries and territories with half that population have done so in the past and will do so again. But it would be foolish not to believe that Hong Kong sportspeople need incentives - not least to become involved in the first instance. There have been many excellent sports programmes regularly put on by the Urban Council and there is considerable grassroots involvement in sports at an earlier age. The crunch comes with education and how parents perceive the future for their children. Studies, examinations, scholarly achievements. It is on these foundations that Hong Kong parents see the future built for their children and they are not necessarily wrong. But a complete middle class is lost to possible sporting achievement and distinction because of these widely held views and they will not change overnight. Financial rewards are a vital ingredient towards success in many spheres and sport is certainly no exception. Millions of dollars have been spent here on establishing excellent sports facilities and the Hong Kong Institute of Sport at Sha Tin is a superb complex. The Urban Council have erected stadia and games halls across the territory so that would-be sports stars have every chance to improve. It seems ridiculous to believe that there is not enough talent in the community to excel at some Olympic sport - and, of course, we do have windsurfing star Lee Lai-shan to prove the point. To an extent she has made it against the odds because much time has had to be spent training to get to her level of excellence. Now, at last, there is for her the very real chance of earning big money through her dedication and skill. In the immediate future, the huge bonus on offer will give Olympic hopefuls in Hong Kong every possible reason to strive for success in Atlanta. With the money scaled down to cover, in some instances, minor placings as far down as eighth, there is every probability that Hong Kong will have their best Olympics on record. It should not end there, however. Solid corporate backing could become a cornerstone in sporting development here, giving the necessary financial incentive to ensure that sport is taken seriously by athletes and their families alike. Financial rewards would be linked to progressive achievements - a stage-by-stage development which could mean, by Sydney in 2000, we have much stronger representation at Olympic level. Under whatever name Hong Kong may compete.