'The Chinese teams are good ... all the athletes are full-time. But we are confident' The National Games just got bigger. International Olympic Council president Jacques Rogge yesterday confirmed that he would be a visitor at the October 12-23 quadrennial event in Jiangsu. By then, Hong Kong's hockey squad would have returned home already. The 18-strong Hong Kong squad leaves for Jiangsu Province tomorrow as the hockey event - one of 32 sports - begins on Monday. The SAR squad won't be around for the opening ceremony or the closing ceremony, one of which will be attended by Rogge. But they hope to bring back happy memories from Jiangsu. 'Our goal is to finish in the top eight,' said Hong Kong coach Kevin Knapp yesterday. What he meant was not to finish ninth, or last, as Hong Kong did when the qualifying (seeding) competition was held earlier in July. 'In the qualifiers we lost all our matches and finished last. But we have a slightly stronger side this time and we are certainly in better shape now. We have to finish no worst than fourth in our preliminary round pool to ensure that we make it to the cross-over matches to decide the final rankings.' The nine teams are drawn in two pools. Hong Kong's preliminary round robin pool comprises Gansu, Liaoning, Neimongol and Beijing. Three other provinces, including Guangdong, and Macau comprise the other pool. The seven Chinese provinces will be going all out to do well for they know a good performance will be richly rewarded by the government who allocate funds for sports on the basis of how they finished at the National Games. 'Next to the Olympics, this is the most important sporting event for China. The provinces rely on the central government for their funds and these funds are dished out on how they perform at the games,' said Chung Pak-kwong, chief executive of Hong Kong's Sports Institute. The 10th National Games will feature 32 sports - all 28 summer Olympic sports plus four winter sports. All 32 gold medalists at the Athens Olympics last year are taking part. The two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau will be hoping to put a spanner in the works of the seven hockey-playing provinces. But it will be a tough ask. 'The Chinese provinces are good and now that they are gearing up for the 2008 Olympics, they will be much better. All the athletes are full-time and lots of resources and time is spent on training. But we are confident and hopefully we can do better than last time,' said Hong Kong captain Farooq Saeed. 'They looked quite good against Macau [last weekend]. We won the first game coming back from 3-0 down and in the second match we were missing five of our best players still managed to draw 0-0,' said Knapp. 'Now all we need to do is to go out and get a couple of good results in China.' Hong Kong squad: Simon Chu (Elite), Alfonso Cordeiro (Shaheen), Guruvinder Dillon (HKFC), Fan Cheuk-ming (Shaheen), Lai Hok-ming (Elite), Howard Leung Hong-wang (Shaheen), Leung Kai-yip (Shaheen), Lui Kim-ming (Aquila), Mustafa Mohammed (Shaheen), Swalikh Mohammed (Shaheen), Ng Shiu-bong (Elite), Ng Yu-ching (Elite), Farooq Saeed (Shaheen, capt.), Sin Ka-wui (Shaheen), Wang Tsz-leung (Shaheen), Wong Ho-yin (Aquila), Lawrence Wong Shun-him (Elite), Yip Chuen-chau (KCC).