World Open will be staged in either Tsim Sha Tsui or Victoria Park after $1.8m boost Two major sponsors stepped forward yesterday to all but ensure Hong Kong will host the prestigious men's and women's World Open for the first time in December. Securing funding for the tournament was the last remaining obstacle to staging the event. It is understood that Credit Suisse Privilege and Cathay Pacific have together agreed to a sponsorship deal worth $1.8 million for the event. The government is expected to match the private-sector sponsorship, a process understood to be little more than a formality. 'We are delighted that we have secured commercial sponsorship for the event and it is now very likely that the world's top men's and women's players will come to Hong Kong this December,' said David Mui Ying-yuen, chairman of Hong Kong Squash. Hong Kong has twice hosted the World Open for women (1995 and 2003) but it will be the first time that the world event for both categories will be held at the same time. Mui said the next step for Hong Kong Squash would be to ask the Major Sports Event Committee (MSEC) of the government to provide a matching grant. 'The MSEC provides support on a dollar-for-dollar basis to local major international events which have secured commercial sponsorship. The World Open is a top-class event featuring the best players from all over the world. Hong Kong players will gain international exposure against these top competitors and improve their standard. The event can also attract spectators from the region such as Malaysia, Japan and South Korea and help raise the image of Hong Kong as Asia's world city. 'I am confident that they [MSEC] will provide us with the matching grant,' said Mui. An official from the government said it had yet to receive an application from Hong Kong Squash for the matching grant, but judging from the level, size and impact of the event, he agreed that the World Open would likely fulfil the MSEC's requirements. 'We have a fair and open formula to calculate whether an event has enough points to meet the requirements for the grant,' said the official. 'We need to closely examine the proposal from Hong Kong Squash before we can draw a conclusion but I would say they are likely to make it.' Mui said prize money of $2 million would be on offer to the players and the budget for the event would be in the region of $4 million. With major roadworks underway in Tsim Sha Tsui, Mui said Hong Kong Squash was not sure if it could stage the event at the Cultural Centre, as originally planned. 'A four-sided glass court was set up for the women's World Open in 2003 with the harbour as a stunning backdrop. The venue at the Cultural Centre won praise from the players and overseas visitors and obviously we don't want to move the event to another area. However, we still do not know whether the renovation works in Tsim Sha Tsui will be completed in time for the event. If not, we may consider moving it to Victoria Park,' he said. He said staging the event on the football pitches at Victoria Park could turn it into a carnival day. 'We can have other fun-filled events, for example as a sports clinic, at the same time and that will give the fans more to enjoy,' said Mui. 'The event will definitely benefit the sport and the players. As the organiser, we have the right to give out wild cards to local players to compete in the qualifying rounds. It will be great experience for our juniors to take part in such a big competition and learn from such great players.'