A mix of corporate and government sponsorship is set to put the sport back on the map The Hong Kong Open Championships will get a six-star boost when it returns in November after one year's absence - and this time it will boast a prize pool of nearly $2 million, which matches its richest ever due to corporate and government sponsorship. The event, expected to attract 200 top players from over 20 countries, will be held between October 31 and November 6 at Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Causeway Bay. Chairman of Hong Kong Badminton Association (HKBA) Tong Wai-lun said yesterday that the total cost for the tournament will be $3.88 million. About half of that would come from government funding. The Championships will be the first event ever to receive funding from the Major Sports Events Committee (MSEC), said Tong. The MSEC launched its 'M' Mark system last November to help local organisers stage major events, the Hong Kong Open will be the second event to bear the 'M' Mark after the Standard Chartered Marathon in February. Chairman of the MSEC Herman Hu Shao-ming said the committee, which operates under the Sports Commission, has set aside over $2 million to match the tournament's commercial sponsorships dollar for dollar. All the newly minted world champions are expected to participate, including Hidayat Taufik of Indonesia in the men's singles and Xie Xingfang of China in the women's singles. Other anticipated highlights include a strong China contingent of Lin Dan, Chan Hong, Bao Chunlai and others; Kenneth Jonassen of Denmark; Ra Kyung-min of South Korea and Tracy Hallam of England. A single knockout format will apply for all five divisions. Sixty-four players will compete in the men's singles, 32 in the women's singles, and 32 pairs in each of the three doubles divisions. The amount of prize money makes the tournament, which is already a stop on the World Grand Prix, a six-star event, the highest ranking given to tournaments. It will be the second six-star badminton tournament ever held in Hong Kong, after 2003's Hong Kong Open. A major part of the commercial sponsorship for the event would come from title sponsor Yonex-Sunrise, which has committed $2.3 million in addition to providing equipment and uniforms. Dalip Kumar Seth, managing director of Sunrise and Company, said they are keen to develop the Hong Kong Open further. 'Our commitment is evident,' he said yesterday 'We are very glad to be here, but we want to bring it to the next level. We want to make it a big event in the International Badminton Federation calendar.' With both Yonex-Sunrise and the MSEC pledging support for the next three years, the Hong Kong Open will enjoy some much needed financial stability. 'It is the greatest news for all badminton enthusiasts,' said Tong. 'It will positively motivate the development of badminton in Hong Kong.'