Hong Kong's bid to host the 2006 Asian Games is under close scrutiny with the arrival of a four- member committee yesterday to assess the SAR's ability to stage an international sporting event. The Olympic Council of Asia's Evaluation Committee - an advance assessment group that will make recommendations to the final voting board - is in Hong Kong following a visit to Malaysia, which is mounting its own bid to host the 2006 games. During their three-day visit, the committee will assess the sports facilities and meet government officials, members of the bid committee, as well as community leaders and local sports representatives. The group will be taken on a helicopter tour so they can get an overall view of the various sites that will stage 30 different events, according to Tony Eason, head of Hong Kong's Asian Games bid team. 'We will try to anticipate what questions they might have,' Mr Eason said. Four cities - Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Doha (Qatar) and New Delhi (India) - are the contenders to host the games. The assessment team will report their findings to the executive council of the OCA during the General Assembly in Pusan, South Korea, in November. During the meeting, the 44 members of the OCA board will select a venue by open vote. Mr Eason said the bid committee will meet the delegates to emphasise why Hong Kong is the right choice. The sales pitch centres on three key points: The games would allow local athletes to compete on home soil, promote sport among young people and show Hong Kong's best aspects to Asia and the world. 'It's time for us to be the host,' Mr Eason said. 'We think this would be an event to boost Hong Kong's reputation as a sports centre and raise the standards of our sportsmen. It will provide the inspiration Hong Kong's athletes need to do just that much better.' Although Hong Kong has participated in the Asian Games and the Olympics for more than 50 years, it has never hosted an international sporting event of this magnitude. Hosting the games would also allow Hong Kong to showcase its unique culture and promote the city as an events capital of Asia. 'We are a natural gateway to the region in general, and the Chinese mainland in particular,' Tourism commissioner, Mike Rowse, said. 'New attractions are being developed to expand the range and depth of the Hong Kong tourism sector.' 'By the time the games begin, we will have opened Hong Kong Disneyland, and the new International Wetland Park will be completed,' he said. Speaking in Brazil during a promotional tour to meet OCA delegates last May, Chief Secretary for Administration, Anson Chan Fang On-sang, described Hong Kong as a natural choice because of its geographic location at the heart of Asia. She added that people in Hong Kong had their hearts set not only on hosting the games but also on making them the best Asian Games ever. 'We want to create Asian heroes to inspire our community,' Mrs Chan said. 'Our past growth and our future prospects are inextricably bound with Asia's destiny and fortunes. And so it is natural that we wish to showcase to the world what Asians are able to achieve.' Playing host will not be cheap. A government report estimates the games, along with an associated event for disabled athletes, will cost almost $1.7 billion. Organisers expect the games to generate up to $980 million in revenue mainly through commercial sponsorship, television rights, ticket sales and merchandising, leaving tax payers to face a net shortfall of $1 billion. Despite the project deficit, the Government has given its seal of approval to the bid. The bid committee will now begin to draft a more detailed business plan that will seek ways to cut costs and boost corporate sponsorship. 'They (the Government) have accepted that it would be a good investment,' Mr Eason said, adding that on average it would cost $130 for every SAR resident. 'We will obviously be seeking to improve on that,' he said. But some question marks remain. A survey found that the SAR has the 'basic framework' to hold all 30 events, but enhancements would be needed at certain sports facilities. Ma On Shan Stadium, a proposed staging ground for some of the track and field events, requires upgrades to spectator seating and practice areas, while Hong Kong Stadium will also need some work to help it meet the requirements for a venue with a 70,000-seating capacity. The only new facility required is a cycling velodrome and an athletes' village. The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre will also be temporarily converted to a venue for several indoor events. Based on an assessment by KPMG Consulting, the costs covered in the fiscal projections include upgrading venues and equipment, communications systems, a broadcast centre and staff. Sports Development Board chairman, John Hung, said the games would have the enormous benefit of promoting the value of sports and athletic achievement among both young and old. He added that Hong Kong success in international competitions in recent years, culminating in a gold medal by windsurfer, Lee Lai-shan, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, demonstrated that local athletes had the talent to compete in the world arena.