Three-way battle to control new Olympic sport

Moves by the Hong Kong Windsurfing Association to include the newly formed kiteboarding federation under its umbrella would have been "politically" damaging for the new Olympic discipline, says the world body.

Top International Kiteboarding Association (IKA) official Markus Schwendtner has thrown his support behind the Hong Kong Kiteboarding Federation (HKKF), which last week snubbed offers by the windsurfing association to include kiteboarding under its own class. Kiteboarding will replace windsurfing at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

"Taking into account the current situation between windsurfing and kiteboarding, especially in Asian countries, we believe this is the right step at the moment, otherwise this would have been used politically against kiteboarding," said IKA executive secretary Schwendtner.

Despite the windsurfing association receiving millions of dollars annually from the government through being an elite sport at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, the focus has shifted to kiteboarding after the International Sailing Federation replaced windsurfing with kiteboarding for the next Olympics.

"I heard about the attempt by Hong Kong Windsurfing Association to take over the HKKF, or at least to group kiteboarding under the umbrella of windsurfing and that it had been knocked back by the HKKF. This was the correct decision," Schwendtner said.

He also decried the chaotic situation in Hong Kong with three bodies, including the Kiteboarding Hong Kong Association (KHKA) which has five of its officials banned worldwide by the IKA, all vying for official recognition. "HKKF is our partner and valued member for Hong Kong and we hope all disputes can be overcome for the good of the sport," Schwendtner said.

"I also hope the Hong Kong authorities recognise the new Olympic event of kiteboarding in the same way as they had done with windsurfing and give support and funding in the same way, instead of furthering a political power struggle."

Schwendtner offered an olive branch to the KHKA, which in 2009 organised a Kiteboard Tour Asia (KTA) event in Hong Kong. The outcome was a financial dispute, with the KTA saying it was owed more money by the local organisers. This disputed sum has still not been paid, resulting in five KHKA officials - David Lai, Kevin Leung, Lau Chi-wai, Liu Cheung-foon and Owen Ko - all being banned worldwide.

"We have tried to mediate. We discovered the KHKA owed money to the KTA, but the KHKA sued our sanctioned tour operator, the KTA, for no apparent reason and this has led to the ban of the five directors from any IKA-sanctioned events.

"We have offered to lift that ban on more than one occasion if they would come to an agreement with KTA within reason, and that the outstanding money would not be paid to KTA but used for local training of youth or race officers. But they [KHKA] have still refused to co-operate," Schwendtner said. "If we can help the process of getting everybody together we are happy to do that - and also to take up talks with the KHKA again to resolve the problem and finally lift the ban on their officers."

KHKA official Kevin Leung, who disclosed that the disputed sum was HK$10,000, said he and his fellow officials were not concerned about the ban. "We just want to promote the sport in Hong Kong. We are not interested in spending more time in trying to lift our ban. It doesn't affect us really," Leung said.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Three-way battle to control new Olympic sport