The government has refused to budge in its choice of the Hong Kong Sports Institute (SI) as the primary venue for the Olympic equestrian events should they be allocated to Hong Kong for the 2008 games. The Hong Kong Elite Athletes Association has voiced strong objection to the plan on the grounds that it would lose its main training venue. A meeting between representatives of the Home Affairs Bureau and the Hong Kong Elite Athletes Association took place for the first time at the institute yesterday after the association raised its objections. Shelley Lee, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, said after the meeting that they fully appreciated the effort of athletes to do Hong Kong proud on the international sporting stage, but said the government had to stick to the original plan of using the institute as the major venue for the Olympic event. 'It is not possible to find an alternative venue within such a short period of time as the Olympic event is to be held in three years,' she said. 'We have to meet the requirements set by the organising committee of the 2008 Games and the SI, which is close to the Sha Tin racecourse and is the best location for the Hong Kong Jockey Club to provide technical support. 'We understand that the move will probably cause inconvenience to the athletes as they are preparing for a number of major games in the next couple of years. The government will therefore look into other possible sources for additional support to help them prepare.' Lee said one of the options would be to use a top-up grant from the Arts and Sport Development Fund, set up by the government for athletes' training and preparation for major games, but more studies would be required before making a decision. 'The athletes have achieved great progress over the last couple of years and they deserve more support from the government and the community as well,' she said. 'The government is keen to set up regular dialogue with the association so that we can listen to the needs and request of elite athletes and I will take the meeting myself.' Hung Chung-yam, chairman of the athletes' association, said his group appreciated Lee's efforts to set up regular channels for better communication. 'This is just the beginning and we hope more can be done in future with the co-operation of elite athletes and the government,' he said. Hung added that they fully supported Hong Kong staging the equestrian events, but if the SI had to be closed down, they would need an alternative facility. The IOC is likely to decide next month whether the SAR hosts the equestrian events of the 2008 games.