Pang comes under fire over cash bonuses

THE head of Hong Kong's Asian Games delegation Pang Chung yesterday came under fire from the territory's top stars and coaches for his views on cash bonuses.

Pang, who is also the chief secretary of the Hong Kong Amateur Sports Federation and Olympic Committee (ASF & OC), said he did not support the idea of awarding bonuses to individual athletes.

'If you look into the Olympic spirit,' said Pang. 'Money is not included. We participate in sports for sports, not money.' According to the cash bonus system for the Asian Games in Hiroshima, gold medallists would be awarded $15,000, while silver medallists received $12,000 and bronze medallists $9,000.

But the money will go to the sporting associations the medallists belong to - and not directly to the individual athletes.

Another sports body, the Sports Development Board, offered more with medallists awarded between $20,000 and $200,000.

Pang added that the local sports governing body is considering changing its policy on the sports development programme.

'We are concentrating too much on the few top athletes or the sports which produce good results in international events,' said Pang. 'But we can't ignore other sports.

'We have to put more effort into the less popular sports in order to achieve a balance.' But Pang's views were not shared by the territory's top athletes and coaches.

Local table tennis star Chai Po-wa, who returned from Hiroshima with silver and bronze medals, said money was as important as the Olympic spirit.

'Athletes have to eat also,' said Chai. 'How can we continue to compete if we have no money to support our lives? 'I'm lucky because my husband gives me financial support so I can concentrate on playing table tennis. But not all athletes have that luck.' Kung Fu queen Ng Siu-ching, who won a bronze medal in nanquan (wushu), said the Olympic spirit had to be supported by money. 'No money, no results,' said Ng. 'This sounds cruel but it's true.' Ng added there would be more talented athletes if the financial rewards were better.

'Some of the talented athletes have decided to quit sport and continue their academic studies because they feel that the prospects for athletes are not good.' Both Chai and Ng said they were embarrassed in Hiroshima when athletes from other countries asked them how much money they could get for their medals.

National table tennis coach Cheng Chung-yin said the cash bonuses had improved but said there was still a big gap when compared to other countries.