The 395 athletes representing Hong Kong at the Asian Games in Guangzhou carry a huge responsibility on their shoulders. They can swing the mood of a recalcitrant public if they return home with a fistful of medals, especially gold. Winning always carries with it a feel-good factor. We saw that last year at the East Asian Games, especially when the soccer team clinched gold with a surprise win over Japan. The public were united as one, and sports was in the forefront for once in a town obsessed with making money. It is this feel-good factor which the government is banking on to swing the scales back in favour of a bid to host the 2023 Asian Games. It is perhaps no coincidence the deadline for the public consultation was pushed back six weeks until December 1. That will be after the Guangzhou Games end. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen showed his hand at the flag presentation ceremony for the squad last month when he said winning medals would unite Hong Kong for a 2023 bid. 'He said for some reason, the [feel-good] factor following the East Asian Games had eroded over time and reminded the athletes the Guangzhou Games was another opportunity to unite the people behind sports,' said Con Conway, deputy chef de mission of the Guangzhou Games squad. Timothy Fok Tsun-ting deciphered Tsang's address as tacit support of the government - come what may from the public consultation - for a 2023 bid. 'That speech was a show of support for us,' said Fok, president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee. So everyone has their take on that impromptu address by Tsang. Yes, it was surprising from a lame-duck inhabitant of Government House. His term as chief executive ends in 2012. There was no need for him to come out so forcefully in favour of a 2023 bid. Yet he took pains to do it. So there is hope for the sports community the government will look kindly on a bid for 2023, even if the majority of the public say no. The are many in Hong Kong who feel the HK$40 billion budget to host the Games could be better spent on other projects. But not all are opposed. A survey of young people, between 18 and 45, last month revealed that almost half were in favour of a bid. Of 483 people canvassed by the Hong Kong Youth Association, 48 per cent said a bid was worthwhile, while 38 per cent said no. Also, 64 per cent said having the Games in 2023 would raise living standards. The biggest bugbear is money. Most people say it could be put to better use. But come on, if the government is willing to spend HK$66.9 billion in building the Hong Kong to Guangzhou express railway, why not pump some money into a project which might actually benefit us. I have travelled on the through train to Guangzhou twice this week. The first time I was turned back by immigration officers as my Asian Games accreditation card was not a substitute for a visa - at six previous Games, from Seoul (1986) to Doha (2006) it was. Subsequently, I got a visa, back in Hong Kong, and did the journey again. Both times, going from Hong Kong, the coach had fewer than 15 people. Each coach holds 80 seats and there are 12 coaches. So each through train could take nearly 1,000 passengers, maybe more. Both times I travelled, there was fewer than 200 people. There are 11 trains to Guangzhou daily, and one each to Zhaoqing, Beijing and Shanghai on week days. The only time the train is packed is on weekends, during the Lunar New Year and on National Day when the hordes cross the border. I presume for the rest of the year, the train is mostly empty. By spending HK$67 billion, the one-hour, 45-minute trip will be cut to 48 minutes when the express rail link is ready in 2015. It is being done to boost economic links with the mainland and businessmen will benefit. Or that is the theory. But the multi-billion-dollar question is why should Hong Kong foot the bill to link into the mainland's express rail grid in Guangzhou? Shouldn't at least half of it be borne by Guangzhou authorities, or even Beijing? For a country the size of China, it makes sense to improve its railway network. The transport of goods and people will become faster and easier. However, I would have thought we already have sufficient rail - and road - links with the mainland, ones which don't justify spending HK$67 billion on a new one. Wouldn't spending HK$40 billion on bringing home a sporting event, which will raise the stock of Hong Kong worldwide, be a better bet? It isn't even HK$40 billion, as most of this sum has already been pencilled in for building sports facilities whether we go for the 2023 Asian Games or not. In fact, the government has cut the direct cost of hosting the Games to just HK$6 billion from an original estimate of almost HK$14 billion. At the end of the day, Hong Kong has the money. It is how it is perceived to be spent that is the issue. If the 395 athletes, over the next fortnight, manage to win medals, the public is bound to jump on the sporting bandwagon again. The athletes have a huge onus to prove that Hong Kong will be worthy of hosting the Games in 13 years' time. Tsang is gambling on this. But he shouldn't. Despite all the opposition to the express rail line from the public, the government still went ahead with it. Why not the Asian Games, too?