If the sporting world's 10th anniversary since the handover included a celebratory cake, then it would not only be a case of having it, but eating it too. 'Although we had a slight name change in 1997 - to 'Hong Kong, China' - our standing in the international community hasn't changed at all,' says Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee. 'We have been able to maintain our separate identity on the world stage, and at the same time have been able to take part in domestic competitions like the China National Games and the China Intercity Games. And we haven't compromised our identity,' said Mr Fok, who also is a member of the International Olympic Committee. The jitters stemming from the uncertainty which accompanied the handover might have subsided somewhat, but despite Mr Fok's upbeat assessment, Hong Kong sport is still wary, with worries in some quarters it might be regarded as China's 'B' team. This is due to the growing number of sports associations willing to welcome athletes from the mainland. Badminton and table tennis are two of the most prominent sports which have former mainland athletes on their rosters and who represent Hong Kong with distinction. 'If ex-China athletes representing Hong Kong become successful, other countries and international sports federations might complain Hong Kong is China's second-string team, potentially giving China both gold and silver medals when other countries can only field one team,' warns Bob Wilson, president of the Hong Kong Rowing Association. Such fears have gained credence since the 2004 triumph of table tennis duo Ko Lai-chak and Li Ching at the Athens Olympics. Ko and Li, both from the mainland, won the silver medal in the men's doubles event. They were beaten by China to the gold. For many neutrals, the final clash was a home-and-home affair. It is a view that local officials are keen to dismiss, but one that worries long-time observers as they feel this could be the vanguard of domination by former mainland athletes. 'Pressure could build for the International Olympic Committee to withdraw recognition of the Hong Kong National Olympic Committee,' says Wilson. 'Withdrawal of NOC recognition would mean no more Hong Kong teams in the Olympic Games, Asian Games, and in all world and Asian championships.' When Hong Kong golden girl Lee Lai-shan looks back over her illustrious career, she might regret she was unable to become the first homegrown athlete to win an Olympic medal after the handover. 'San San' won Hong Kong's first Olympic medal - and it was golden - when she swept to the windsurfing title at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She tried to repeat the feat in Sydney in 2000 and Athens 2004, but failed at both attempts, finishing sixth and fourth respectively. 'She came close in 2004 but could not quite become the first local athlete to win Hong Kong a medal after the handover,' says Cowen Chiu But-kau, president of the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association. Instead, the accolade of winning the first Olympic medal for 'Hong Kong, China' after the handover was achieved by Ko and Li, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2001. While they were by no means the first athletes from the mainland to see if the streets of this town were truly paved with gold, they were among the most high profile. Success in Athens ensured this. Such success helps to cement Hong Kong's unique identity, according to Tony Yue Kwok-leung, president of the Hong Kong Table Tennis Association, who also says it helps to promote the sport at grass-roots level. 'Athletes going from one country to another is not something unique to Hong Kong. It is happening all the time. We have had such famous cases like Zola Budd and Ivan Lendl winning recognition for their adopted countries,' Yue said. 'By winning an Olympic medal, Ko and Li not only helped raise the profile of Hong Kong internationally, but at home as well. More parents want to send their children to play sport now.' But the spectre of mainland athletes dominating the local scene lingers on. Badminton's top ace Wang Chen - a former mainland star who had to get special IOC dispensation to take part in Athens - has been joined by Zhou Mi, who won the women's singles bronze medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics for China. Zhou is one of the most recent acquisitions under the Hong Kong Government's mainland talent migration scheme. She was dropped from the national squad due to a nagging knee injury. Soon after arriving in Hong Kong, the 28-year-old Zhou said: 'Of course my target is to compete in Beijing next year.' For the time being, it seems Hong Kong will have to rely on former mainland athletes to bring home the bacon at the highest level - the Olympics. But when it comes to the rung below - the Asian Games - Hong Kong sport does seem capable of producing enough local talent to win kudos, as evidenced by the record haul of 28 medals, including six golds, at the Doha Asian Games last December. Before 1997, Hong Kong had won only one gold medal at the Asian Games - Catherine Che winning in tenpin bowling in 1986. 'We are getting better in terms of both quality and quantity and this is helping to raise our international profile as an Olympic committee separate from that of China,' says Pang Chung, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee. 'We are sending more athletes to international games, which is quantity, while winning more medals equates quality. I have no worries that our identity is in danger. We have been a member of the IOC since 1952 and we are on solid ground.' Malina Ngai Man-ling, vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Elite Athletes' Association, said: 'Co-hosting the 2008 Olympic equestrian events will bring us more opportunities, not only from overseas but more importantly at home, with more government attention and investment in elite sports. It was very encouraging to see sport get a real mention in the chief executive's policy address this year. 'I remember the uncertainty we faced before 1997. Many local athletes wondered if we would be able to maintain our independent identity when it came to taking part in international sports competitions. We were worried Hong Kong athletes would fall under the same pool with mainland athletes in selection, which could mean a lot less chance for us,' said Ngai, a former Hong Kong rower. While that has not quite happened, local athletes will have to look over their shoulders as they go up against an increasing number of former mainlanders who are looking at continuing the dream under the Bauhinia flag. But it is all no matter as long as the Bauhinia flag flutters, say the movers and shakers. 'Nothing has changed since the handover. Before 1997, we had a different flag and different anthem. Now we have the Bauhinia flag and national anthem. Through all this we have maintained our own identity,' Mr Pang says. 'The only problem the name change - Hong Kong, China - has brought about is that sometimes, some of our mail goes to Beijing, and their mail comes here.'