Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping has suggested that the new-look Cheung Chau bun scramble, to be staged next week for the first time in 27 years, could be held all year round as a tourist attraction for the island. He said the steamed buns which are the usual targets of the climbers could be replaced with 'cakes or dolls' and the quasi-religious event staged instead as a sporting challenge. Competitors have traditionally climbed up precarious towers made of bamboo and buns in what was the highlight of an annual festival to appease the spirits of those killed by a plague in the 19th century. 'We can hold the bun scramble all year round, if the reaction is good and members of the public show strong interest in the upcoming bun-scrambling competition,' Dr Ho said on a radio programme yesterday. 'We can allow participants to climb up the tower and grab cakes or dolls. We believe these kinds of new sports events would bring business opportunities to Cheung Chau and boost its tourism industry.' Dr Ho said the fact the bun tower was no longer made only of bamboo but was mounted on a steel frame made it easy to reuse. 'The steel frame can be used many times, and we can always take it out and install it at a football pitch if we are to hold similar events more often,' he said. A district councillor was quick to endorse Dr Ho's vision for the event, which was banned in 1978 after three towers collapsed, injuring more than 100 climbers and onlookers. Islands District Councillor Kwong Kwok-wai welcomed Dr Ho's idea and agreed that the traditional festival should be modified to become a sports event. 'I think it is an excellent idea, as many more people can try climbing the bun tower and get a taste of tradition. Scrambling for the buns is just a gimmick. I don't mind replacing the buns with other things.' Dr Ho recalled how climbers would fight for buns at the very top of the towers, as they believed the higher they could reach, the more their families would be blessed. He said under new rules being introduced for the contest on May 16, scores would be assigned to each bun. Participants could gain more marks by grabbing buns at the top. Each contestant would have a backpack in which to put their buns. 'We'll set a time limit for participants and a trophy will be awarded to the winner - the one with the highest mark after the scores on the bottom of the buns are added up,' he said. A giant screen would be installed so that onlookers could watch the contest from a distance. 'It is the first time that women will be allowed to take part ... but of all the changes we have made for the bun festival, safety issues come on top of our agenda,' Dr Ho said.