Another year gone and we are all that little bit older. But despite approaching dementia, it won't take long to recall the images that defined sport in Hong Kong in 2008, for they have been sparse. In this Olympic year, it has been the politicians who have hogged the limelight from the men and women that matter - the athletes. It was to be expected once Beijing handed Hong Kong the responsibility of providing the facilities to stage the Olympic equestrian events which have dominated the pages, both sports and news, throughout the year. Giving Hong Kong a role to play was a political decision. The excuse that Beijing Olympic organisers couldn't guarantee an equine disease-free zone was bunkum. If the Chinese wanted to, they would have moved a mountain. They could easily have built an equestrian facility, sanitised it and had it ready for the Olympics before you could say Ni Hao Ma. Of course it would have cost them a couple of billion yuan. But they were ready to spend it. When Beijing won the right to host the Olympics back in 2001, Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, suggested that Hong Kong could host a few events like football, windsurfing and equestrianism. His idea was shot down immediately. But thinking changed after the Sars outbreak in 2003. With the Tung Chee-hwa administration's popularity at an all-time low, Beijing decided to give this city a boost and said Hong Kong could be the venue for the Olympic equestrian events. The Jockey Club jumped at the chance and said they would provide the funds (HK$1.2 billion) to build the facilities. In the short term, the Jockey Club benefits by getting 200 new stables. But it is the long-term goal that is really juicy - the prospect of one day holding the monopoly for horse racing on the mainland. So is this politics or what? Of course we have had our few moments when the athletes attracted attention, like Patrick Lam's unexpected clear round on the opening day of the Olympic showjumping which gave Hong Kong a great Kodak moment. But by and large, it has been a struggle this year to keep the politicians out of the picture regarding Olympic-related activities. The torch relay was a good example. There was a note of discord surrounding reports that Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen would be the first of the 120 torch-bearers when the Olympic flame arrived in the city on May 2. Luckily sanity prevailed and it was golden girl Lee Lai-shan who got the honour - but she still received the torch from Tsang. Tsang and the rest of government house who had any slender connections to sport were again in the limelight after the Olympics. From the time the Chinese Olympic gold medallists landed in Hong Kong soon after the Games, we had endless footage of our chief executive basking in the reflected glory of the mainland heroes and heroines. He needed all the good publicity he could get as his stock was low too. What better way to boost it than use the feel-good mood generated by the Olympics. Perhaps we are being too harsh on Donald. After all, he has given sport more of his attention than his predecessor ever did. He even makes it a point to mention it in his annual policy addresses these days. And then there is the backing the government has given for the East Asian Games Hong Kong hosts next December. True, they could have done more than give HK$1 billion to spruce up sporting facilities and build a couple of new venues, but, hey, something is better than nothing. While local sporting successes have been few and far between - especially if you use the Olympics as the yardstick - what this year has done is raise the awareness of sport in a place which normally gets it buzz from anything to do with making money. That has mainly been due to Hong Kong's hands-on involvement with the Olympics and Paralympics, and the upcoming East Asian Games. Individual sporting bodies also do more than their bit to make Hong Kong a sporting hub by helping bring major events to town. From rugby (Sevens, Bledisloe Cup) and cricket (Sixes) to athletics (Hong Kong Marathon) squash and badminton (Opens) etc, we have proud events which annually lure the stars to town. And leading the lot is the Hong Kong Golf Open which celebrated its 50th edition this year. But it has been a struggle. Sponsors have been hard to find and it will only get worse in the new year when the full impact of the financial meltdown starts hitting home. Already we have seen the Hong Kong Cricket Association being forced to go it alone this year with the Sixes after they lost both their title sponsors, Cathay Pacific and Standard Chartered. UBS have extended their backing for the Hong Kong Open (golf) by just one year - 2009. The East Asian Games has a HK$60 million shortfall in its operating budget. This money was supposed to be raised from private sponsorship, but the corporate world has not been too enthusiastic in its support so far. Tough times lie ahead. There is only one way for Hong Kong sport to hold its head above water - through increased government backing. Surely the benefits of holding the Olympic equestrian competition, or the Bledisloe Cup, will have had a monetary payback to the economy as a whole. The government must realise that high-profile events like these will only burnish Hong Kong's image overseas and bring more visitors to town. More tourists, more hotel rooms filled, more money for everyone. If the government can take all the kudos and bask in the limelight that 2008 offered them, then they should also be prepared to step in and give a helping hand when it matters.