Hong Kong's Mr Sport, Arnaldo de Oliveira Sales, last night announced he would step down as president of the Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee. Mr Sales, who turned 78 on Monday and has been in charge of local sport for almost half a century, dropped a bombshell at yesterday's monthly council meeting when he said he would not stand for re-election on March 24. 'My departure has always been a question of finding the right time. One must know when it is over and when to say goodbye,' he said. 'I hope the sports associations will choose well and select the right person to succeed me.' Nominations for the most powerful post in Hong Kong sports close on March 3. There have been rumours that for the first time Mr Sales would face opposition for the presidency, a position he has held since the sports body was formed in 1951. The South China Morning Post exclusively revealed last year that Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, 51, one of eight vice-presidents of the sports body, and president of the Hong Kong Football Association, would stand. 'Yes, I will like to put my name down,' said Mr Fok. 'Mr Sales is an elder statesman and it will be a hard act to follow.' The local sports hierarchy gave Mr Sales a minute-long standing ovation after his announcement. 'There was probably deep sadness from everyone,' said Con Conway, another vice-president. Mr Sales, who has led Hong Kong to every Olympics since the 1952 Helsinki Games, hinted he had come under some pressure to step down, 'not from my friends and not from people who have the interest of Hong Kong sport in mind . . . but there are always ambitious people'. During his tenure, Hong Kong won one Olympic gold medal - Lee Lai-shan's windsurfing triumph at last year's Atlanta Games. But Mr Sales said his greatest achievement was to see Hong Kong sport retain its independent status after the handover. 'Our autonomy has been the high-water mark,' he said.